World War II was the most significant event of the 20th century. The U.S. Postal Service began planning for the war’s 50th anniversary in 1985. It wanted to honor the key events of the war effort as well as the various aspects of national endeavor that contributed to Allied victory. But how to do that without producing a thousand stamps?
The answer was a series of sheetlets, one for each year of the war, that consisted of a large center map framed by five stamps on the top and five on the bottom. Five years of commemorating World War II would yield five sheets, for a total of 50 stamps – enough for an honorable tribute and enough to accomplish Postal Service goals.
The world maps are masterpieces of thumbnail summaries. They call attention to the major military and political developments of the year and include events not featured on the individual stamps. Color coded for easy identification of friend and foe, they’re a year in summary at a glance. Click on any enlarged stamp (pictured beneath each sheet) to learn more about the stamp subject. Continue reading
The popular Great Americans Series honors special Americans from all walks of life and honors them for their contributions to society and their fellow man. Sixty-four different stamps make up the complete set to pay tribute to important individuals who were leaders in education, the military, literature, the arts, and human and civil rights.
The Prominent Americans Series of definitive stamps replaced the Liberty Series. Rather than focus primarily on political figures as its predecessor had, the Prominent Americans Series reflects the growing diversity of its era. Two women and an African American were commemorated in a U.S. stamp series for the first time. But the series is also known for the $1 Eugene O’Neill stamp, which was used habitually by Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber” who terrorized the nation from 1978 to 1995 by mailing bombs in packages to people involved with modern technology.
Thomas Jefferson was a Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence and our nation’s third President. Gallatin was an effective Secretary of the Treasury, playing a key role in the financial details of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and planning the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Frank Lloyd Wright was one of America’s most innovative architects. His designs influenced architects all over the world. One of his most famous creations is the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The 3¢ denomination features historian Francis Parkman as its subject. Parkman was one of America’s greatest historians. His best works include, “The Oregon Trail,” “History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac,” and “France and England in the New World.”
The Liberty Series was issued from 1954-61. It included definitive stamps with denominations ranging from 1/2¢ to $5. (It would be the last 1/2¢ definitive stamp issued by the U.S.) The Liberty Series was generally replaced by the Prominent Americans series beginning in 1965. However, the 2¢ Jefferson and 25¢ Revere coil stamps were reprinted many times and sold well into the ’80s.
The Distinguished Servicemen series honors our nation’s military heroes.
A ground-breaking stamp was quietly issued on May 18, 1981. For the first time in U.S. history, a coil stamp featured its own unique design rather than simply copying that of the current definitive stamp. Fifty more coil stamps would be issued over the course of the next 15 years, each picturing a different mode of transportation.
The various denominations provided face values to exactly match the rates for several categories of Third Class mail (bulk rate and quanity-discounted mail). As the rates changed, new stamps with new values were added. Never before had a stamp series included so many fractional cent values.
Most of the stamps in the Transportation Series were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, although a few were printed by private contractors. All but a few of the later stamps were produced by engraved intaglio. Differences in precancels, tagging, paper and gum provide a large number of varieties.