1993 Contemporary Christmas
- Block of 4
- Issued for the 1993 Holiday season
- Among the first self-adhesive Christmas stamps
Category of Stamp: Commemorative
Set: Contemporary Christmas
Value: 29¢, First-Class mail rate
First Day of Issue: October 21, 1993
First Day City: New York, New York
Quantity Issued: 120,000,000
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method/Format: Photogravure, Booklet panes of 12 (6 across, 2 down) from printing cylinders of 480 subjects (20 across, 24 down)
Perforations: Die Cut
Reason the stamp was issued: The set of four issued for mail sent during the 1993 holiday season.
About the stamp design: Artist Peter Good began with cut paper renditions of a snowman, toy soldier, reindeer, and jack-in-the-box. These images were then recreated on a computer.
Dots on each stamp tie the four designs together. The snowman has 18 dots representing snowflakes. The Jack-in -the Box stamp includes 20 colored dots adding a festive flair to the toy’s image. The reindeer is surrounded by 10 snowflakes, and yellow squares represent lighted windows. Like the jack-in-the-box, the toy soldier is surrounded by colored dots, reminiscent of confetti.
Special designed details: The booklet stamps were produced in standard definitive size, while the sheet stamps are somewhat larger.
These self-adhesive booklet stamps were also produced as coils. The USPS used these to create First Day covers. Collectors could also buy strips of 12 from the coils.
About the Printing Process: During the previous year, self-adhesive stamps were produced for use at ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines). In 1993, stamps for ATMs were produced, along with these self-adhesive booklet stamps for sale over the counter and in post office vending machines.
First Day City: The stamps had their first day of sale in New York city, but there was no official ceremony.
Unusual thing about this stamp: Stamps from this set were used before the official first day of issue. Canceled stamps have been found with an October 13 postmark.
About the Christmas Stamps: By the early 1960s, the US Post Office was receiving 1,000 letters a year (for several years) asking for a Christmas-themed stamp to frank their holiday mail. The idea was approved and the US issued its first Christmas stamp on November 1, 1962.
The stamp was wildly popular, featuring popular holiday decorations of a wreath and candles. The Post Office Department had expected there would be a great demand for the issue, so they printed 350 million stamps – the largest print run for a special stamp up to that time. Those 350 million stamps sold out quickly, leading the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to produce more stamps – reaching over 860 million by the end of the year.
While the Christmas stamp was very popular, it wasn’t without its detractors. Some didn’t agree with the idea of the post office issuing a stamp honoring a religious holiday. Others wanted Christmas stamps that were more religious. The Post Office would continue to issue Christmas stamps in the coming years that featured the National Christmas Tree, seasonal plants, and an angel in 1965. The angel was considered less controversial because angels are included in many religions, not just Christianity.
In 1966, the Post Office came up with a plan to produce Christmas stamps utilizing classic paintings of the Madonna and Child. These stamps wouldn’t violate the separation of church and state because they were a celebration of culture. On November 1, 1966, they issued the first US Madonna and Child stamp in Christmas, Michigan. The stamp featured the 15th century painting, Madonna and Child with Angels, by Flemish painter Hans Memling.
That stamp was very popular and over 1.1 billion were printed. The same design was used again the following year, however, the 1967 stamp was larger and showed more of the painting. The stamp’s continued popularity led the Post Office to issue another traditional Christmas stamp in 1968, this time picturing the Angel Gabriel. For the 1969 issue, they reverted back to the non-religious theme, with a stamp picturing a painting called Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine.
The Post Office made a big change in 1970. To keep people in both camps happy, they issued one traditional Christmas stamp, picturing a classic painting of the Nativity, plus a block of four picturing Christmas toys. That decision proved popular and they have continued to issue stamps with both traditional and contemporary Christmas themes ever since.