2018 $1.15 Global Forever Poinsettia
Value: $1.15 International Letter Rate (Forever)
Issue Date: August 26, 2018
First Day City: Kansas City, Missouri
Type of Stamp: Definitive
Printed by: Banknote Corporation of America
Printing Method: Offset, Microprint
Format: Pane of 10
Quantity Printed: 100,000,000
Native to Mexico, the Aztecs called poinsettias Cuetlaxochitl, which means “flower that withers, mortal flower that perishes like all that is pure.” According to Aztec tradition, these plants were a gift from the gods and their blood red coloring was to be a reminder of the sacrifices the gods made to create the universe.
Poinsettias were first associated with Christmas in the 16th century. Legend tells of a young girl too poor to buy a gift for Jesus’s birthday. An angel saw her crying and told her to collect weeds as a gift, and miraculously, her tears transformed those weeds into lush red blossoms. The people of Mexico called these plants Flor de Noche Buena, meaning Christmas Eve Flower.
In another legend, Franciscan friars decorated a nativity scene for Christmas. During their mass, the Star of Bethlehem passed overhead and the plants changed from green to red. From then on, the red plants became a symbol of the blood of Christ and were closely associated with Christmas.
Up until the 1800s, poinsettias weren’t found in the US. The man responsible for bringing these plants to America was Joel Roberts Poinsett (1799-1851). Although he had graduated from medical school, Poinsett’s true love was botany and traveling to exotic locations. Poinsett toured Europe extensively, as well as the most remote regions of Russia. Upon his return to the US, Poinsett was appointed to serve as the nation’s first ambassador to Mexico.
While in Mexico in 1828, Poinsett discovered a tree-like plant with brilliant red leaves. He sent some plants to his home in South Carolina, where they were propagated and given to friends and local botanical gardens. Before long, the plant became widely known by a new name – “poinsettia.”
While Poinsett had introduced the plant to America, it was another family who would help make poinsettias a Christmas season staple – the Ecke family. After emigrating from Germany in 1900, Albert Ecke opened a dairy and orchard before becoming interested in poinsettias. He started selling them on a street stand and instilled an interest in the plant in his son Paul.
When he grew older, Paul developed a grafting technique that produced a fuller plant (poinsettias in the wild look more like weeds). In turn, his son, Paul, Jr., also took an interest in the plant. Paul Jr. changed how the plants were sent – instead of sending mature plants by train, he sent cuttings by plane. He also gave free plants to TV stations to decorate their sets between Thanksgiving and Christmas, helping to promote them in the eyes of the public. Paul Jr. even appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show and other programs to talk about poinsettias.
For decades, the Ecke family dominated the poinsettia market because their grafting technique produced the most attractive plants. Then in the late 1980s, a botanist discovered their technique and published it, so many other companies could grow comparable plants. But the Ecke family remained one of the largest sellers of poinsettias into the 2000s. Over the years, botanists have also found ways to grow poinsettias in over 100 colors. The red blooms of the plants are actually leaves and the flowers are the small knobs of yellow, red and green in the center.
In 2002, the US House of Representatives passed a bill establishing December 12 as National Poinsettia Day. The day was selected because it’s the date of Joel Roberts Poinsett’s death. December 12 is also the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico.
Global Forever Series
On January 28, 2013, the USPS issued the first stamp in its Global Forever Series. These stamps are used on international mail.
Up until the mid-to-late 1800s, mail sent to other countries was regulated by a number of different agreements that were binding only to signing members. Then in 1874, representatives from 22 nations met in Bern, Switzerland to discuss a better system, and to found the General Postal Union (later called the Universal Postal Union).
The Universal Postal Union revolutionized how mail was sent between countries. They decided that there should be a uniform rate to mail a letter anywhere in the world, that domestic and international mail should be treated equally, and that each country should keep all money collected for international postage. It also made sending international mail easier in another important way. Previously, people had to attach a stamp from each country their mail would pass through. This no longer was necessary. Participating countries also standardized postal rates and units of weight.
Another major development in the delivery of international mail came in 1920, with the establishment of international airmail. In the early years, airmail was flown between the US and Canada and Cuba. By late 1930, the US was delivering airmail to nearly every country in the Western Hemisphere. Service continued to expand to Europe and other parts of the world in the coming years.
In May 1977, airmail as a separate class of domestic mail ended when the USPS announced that First Class postage would provide the same or better service. And 30 years later, international airmail ended on May 14, 2007, though airmail stamps continued to be issued into 2012.
In October 2012, the USPS filed to change international mailing prices. Additionally, following the popularity of the domestic Forever stamps, first issued in 2007, they decided to start issuing Global Forever stamps. These new stamps would simplify international mail, by offering a single stamp for all international destinations.
Issued on January 28, 2013, the first Global Forever stamp had a face value of $1.10. The international rate stamp could be used on one-ounce letters sent overseas and two-ounce letters to Canada. Fittingly, this first stamp pictured a three-dimensional image of the Earth. The image was created by using satellite data and centers over the blue of the Atlantic Ocean, South America, and West Africa. To differentiate the classes of Forever stamps, the Global Series is a round stamp and has the word “GLOBAL” printed right on it. At least one Global Forever stamp has been issued every year since, except for 2015.