Wednesday, November 4, 2020

First US Self Adhesive Stamp

Each holiday season, the Postal Service hopes to make holiday mail processing easier. One way was to try a self-adhesive stamp. The first US Self Adhesive stamp was a 10-cent dove weathervane stamp issued in 1974. It was produced by Avery Dennison and due to the instability of the adhesive, it quickly became discolored. It wasn’t until 1989 before another self-adhesive stamp was issued by the US Postal Service.

This stamp was pre-canceled to eliminate the cancellation process which would speed up season mail processing. The Post Office hoped it would also make it easier for customers to send holiday cards. This stamp was tested during the Christmas season in the Allegheny, Boston, Salt Lake City, Chicago, and Tampa postal districts in 1974. Small quantities of the stamp were available to stamp collectors around the nation.

The adhesive was similar to labels used in the grocery stores or on bumper stickers. It was a complex process for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to make these because the laminated paper used had to specially prepared. The original release date set for the stamp was October 23, 1974, but they were unable to meet the deadline.

This stamp was finally issued in New York on November 15, 1974, as part of the Christmas series.

The weathervane on the stamp symbolizes the original one that was made by Joseph Wakestraw in Philadelphia. The design specifications came from George Washington for his Mount Vernon home because he was tired of war and wanted peace.

The stamp did have problems that made them impractical. The backings would come off easily and cause the stamp to get stuck on anything. Then the edges would often become frayed or rolled up and cause the cancellation and sorting machines to jam during processing.

Self-adhesive stamps are not easily removed from an envelope by soaking it in water. Some collectors use Bestine, benzine, or a natural-based citrus solvent containing d-limonene. It is suggested that the air freshener, Pure Citrus Orange works when doing this. 

Class Activities:
  • Have students design their own Christmas stamp. Have them present it and explain why they chose their design. 
  • Students need to research weather vanes and share the history of them. 
  • How do weathervanes work? Give a demonstration to the class.   

Original photo by Pat Hensley

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