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Philatelic Pets PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
July 2017

CPix_1_PetTalk_7-17ommemorative stamps honor our furry, feathered, and scaly companions

What’s more American than celebrating what we love in the form of postage stamps? They’re even made in the USA.

The first U.S. postage stamp was issued in 1847, and more than 4000 stamps have been issued since. Early stamps depicted images of presidents and other important people in history, and when occasional images of other subjects were used, they were often scorned by the buying public.

Among U.S. stamp honorees are our cultural icons; Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Neil Armstrong, Vince Lombardi, Lucille Ball, Wonder Woman, Mickey Mantle, Oscar de la Renta, Count Basie, Shirley Temple, Amelia Earhart, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King Jr., and Maya Angelou are a few of the 800 people whose images have been printed on our stamps.

Modern-day subjects have also included sports, hobbies, holidays, and special events. In a 2016 press release, Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner perhaps best explains why stamp images are important: “Our stamps articulate the American experience through miniature works of art.” In short, they tell our story. And a big part of that American experience is pet ownership.

In the past five decades, pets have often been celebrated as subjects of postage stamps. In 1979, the U.S. Postal Service released a 15-cent stamp memorializing guide dogs for the blind, “Seeing for Me.” A 13-cent “Puppy and Kitten” stamp was issued in 1982, followed by a 20-cent “American Dogs” stamp in 1984 and a 22-cent “American Cats” stamp in 1988. “Bright Eyes,” issued in 1998, were 32-cent stamps that featured colorful cartoon renderings of five types of house pets with piercing stares. “Spay and Neuter” celebrated responsible pet ownership with a 37-cent stamp in 2002, and the 44-cent, 2010 series “Adopt a Shelter Pet” put focus on the community effort to find forever homes for animals in need.

In response to public requests, the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, which is responsible for stamp decisions, decided on “pets” as a subject for a new commemorative stamp series. On August 2, 2016, the “Pets” forever stamp booklet had its first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony at the SuperZoo National Pet Retailers Trade Show in Las Vegas. (Forever stamps cost 49 cents or the cost of current one-ounce, first-class postage.) According to the Postal Service, 20 million booklets (400 million individual stamps) were printed and are still in circulation -- a large initial print run, according to Linn’s Stamp News, a weekly philatelic magazine.

Linn’s notes that these new stamps are similar in subject matter and design to the 2010 “Adopt a Shelter Pet” stamps and that “that earlier set was so popular that the initial print run of 300 million stamps was bolstered by a second printing of 91.4 million stamps announced six months after the stamps were first issued.”

Pix_2_PetTalk_7-17Postal images of nature have proved to be best sellers as well. “Pets, flowers, trees, etc. have historically been very popular stamps,” explains Debra J. Fetterly, USPS spokesperson for Alabama and South Florida districts in an e-mail exchange with the BT. “For these types of stamps, we print a large quantity. This stamp was no exception.”

Within the “Pets” booklet are images of 20 different species of pets featured against a white background, taken from existing photographs by photographer Eric Isselee that were selected and licensed for reproduction. Derry Noyes, designer and art director for the USPS for 30 years, described her work on the project: “The goal was to capture the essence of each animal. There’s no need for special effects. The animals speak for themselves.”

Not one, but two species of dogs and cats are depicted in the booklet, as they top the latest American Pet Products Association list of most popular U.S. pets (78 million dogs are in 54 percent of American households; 86 million cats live in 43 percent of American homes). Other mammals featured are a horse, a rabbit, a guinea pig, a mouse, a chinchilla, a hamster, and a gerbil. Two species of fish -- a betta fish and a goldfish -- represent the 96 million freshwater fish in 12 percent of American homes.

Also depicted on the “Pets” postage series are parrots and parakeets (the APPA survey lists 14 million birds in 6 percent of U.S. homes), a hermit crab, and several reptiles: an iguana, a tortoise, a corn snake, and a gecko (Americans owned 9 million reptiles in 2016, which were in 5 percent of homes).

In total, the 2015-2016 APPA survey found that 65 percent of U.S. households, or approximately 79.7 million homes, owned at least one pet.

The “Pets” commemorative stamps are offered in booklets of 20 stamps and press sheets with die-cuts. Stamp collectors can also purchase individual first-day covers on envelopes and digital color postmark first-day covers.

 

Janet Goodman is a Miami Shores-based dog trainer, animal-talent wrangler, and principal of Good Dog Bad Dog Inc. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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