2014 49¢ Soft Shield
The Soft Shield is one of five Ferns stamps issued in coils of 10,000 for business users. This was the first time large coils were issued as forever stamps. Coils with the same fern design were released in January 2014 with a 49¢ denomination.
The soft shield fern, with its feathery, dark-green fronds, flourishes in cool, temperate climates. It is common in Ireland and southwestern Britain.
Prior to the 19th century, fascination with ferns was uncommon in the British Isles. Exotic ferns brought from afar could not survive to be reproduced until the introduction of portable greenhouses, known as Wardian cases. This invention safely transported and introduced many foreign ferns to Britain, creating new interest in the plants. This, along with the publication of A History of British Ferns by Edward Newman, provoked a fern craze that lasted 50 years.
Pteridomania, or “fern fever,” gripped much of Great Britain during the Victorian era. The fad was not just among botanists, but reached the common household as well. Ferns, including the locally abundant soft shield fern, were available in nature and easy to grow at home, making them a feasible hobby for everyone.
Fern nurseries sprang up around the country and “hunting” ferns became a common leisure activity. Leafy designs invaded art and architecture, adorning everything from pottery to paper. A fernery, or fern garden, was even planted in the orchestra pit at the London Prince of Wales Theatre.
There are five species pictured on the fern stamps – autumn, Goldie’s wood, soft shield, Fortune’s holly, and painted ferns. Photographer Cindy Dyer captured the images at Green Spring Gardens in Lincolnia, Virginia, and Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. The white background on the stamps highlights the details of each fern.
49¢ Fern, issued to satisfy the first-class mail rate
Issue Date: March 6, 2014
City: Kansas City, MO (no First Day of Issue ceremony)
Printed By: CCL Label Inc.
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut 11 Vertical