By Michael Baadke
With bold and colorful graphic designs, the United States Postal Service is celebrating America’s summer harvest on four tasty new forever stamps.
The stamp designs feature watermelon, sweet corn, cantaloupes and tomatoes on almost square stamps that bring to mind classic produce crate labels of yesteryear.
The stamps are being issued in a flat double-sided pane of 20 that the Postal Service identifies as a booklet.
A noon first-day ceremony will take place at the California State Fair, 1600 Exposition Blvd., in Sacramento.
Collectors intending to attend the ceremony will need to purchase a ticket to enter the fair. Ticket prices are $8 for youngsters age 12 and under, $10 for seniors age 62 and older, and $12 for general admission. Children age 4 and under are admitted free. Parking is $10.
The Postal Service announced June 25 that a limited number of complimentary tickets to the fair are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a maximum of two complimentary tickets per person.
To receive complimentary tickets, send an RSVP email by July 1 to Nationalevents@usps.gov.
The illustrations on the Summer Harvest stamps were created by Michael Doret, working with USPS art director Antonio Alcala.
With a solid color palette of red, black, green and yellow orange, each design shows the name of the produce subject in white lettering across the top, with the word “forever” in an arching banner along the bottom, and “USA” in the lower-right corner.
An early concept for these stamps was developed by former USPS art director Richard Sheaff.
Doret is a graphic artist and lettering designer whose work has appeared on album covers by the legendary rock group Kiss, magazine covers including Time and TV Guide, and as the logo for the New York Knicks professional basketball team.
On his Alphabet Soup blog, Doret explains that he was contacted by Sheaff back in 2002 to create designs for a set of stamps celebrating American fruits and vegetables.
The stamp set was to contain six designs, with avocado, grapes, pineapple, strawberries and other fresh crops among the candidates.
“We decided that as a point of departure I would reference vintage seed packets, catalogs and fruit crate labels,” Doret wrote.
On his blog, Doret shows a selection of the illustrated items he reviewed.
“I was not trying so much to do faithful renditions of seed packets or fruit crate labels,” he added, “but to create graphics that might be seen as contemporary versions of their earlier cousins.”
Doret’s designs in various states of completion remained unused for a decade before he was contacted again, this time by Alcala, for another U.S. stamp project.
The artist brought up the subject of the unused Summer Harvest designs, and work on that project resumed — but with significant changes to the original subjects and illustrations.
The full story, accompanied by Doret’s beautiful artwork and working sketches illustrating the design process, can be found on Doret’s blog.
His only other illustration for the Postal Service to date has been the 34¢ Federal Eagle stamped envelope issued Jan. 7, 2001 (Scott U646). The design for that product was originally intended for use on variable-rate coil stamps, but it was shelved when variable-rate stamps evolved in a new direction, and was revived when then-USPS stamp development manager Terrence McCaffrey came across the preliminary designs and proposed their use for a new stamped envelope.
Doret also created typography for two 32¢ stamps in 1995: the Florida Statehood stamp (Scott 2950) and the Texas Statehood stamp (2968), both of which were designed and illustrated by Doret’s wife, Laura Smith.
The Postal Service is offering its standard two varieties of uncut press sheets of the Summer Harvest forever stamps: either with or without the die cuts that normally separate individual stamps. The cost is $78.40 for either sheet containing eight panes (160 stamps).
First-day covers sold by the Postal Service are canceled with a pictorial design resembling a horizontal farm sign that reads “Summer Harvest,” either in black, or in multicolor on USPS envelopes with no printed cachet.
Collectors preparing their own FDCs can process their requests using the information in the technical details for the Summer Harvest forever stamps that are presented here:
Four nondenominated (49¢) Summer Harvest forever stamps, double-sided pane of 20
FIRST DAY— July 11, 2015; city— Sacramento, Calif., and nationwide.
DESIGN: graphic design and art— Michael Doret, Hollywood, Calif.; art director— Antonio Alcala, Alexandria, Va., and Richard Sheaff, Scottsdale, Ariz.; modeler— Joseph Sheeran.
PRINTING: process— offset; printer and processor— Ashton Potter USA Ltd., Williamsville, N.Y.; press— Mueller Martini A76; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black; paper— nonphosphored, type III, block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 400 million stamps; format— double-sided pane of 20 with four designs, from 160-subject cylinders; size—0.73 inches by 0.84 inches (image); 0.87 inches by 0.98 inches (overall), 5.52 inches by 1.96 inches (booklet size); 22.46 inches by 3.92 inches (press sheet); plate numbers— “P” followed by four single digits; marginal markings— header “Summer Harvest,” “20 First-class Forever Stamps,” bar code (cover), “©2014 USPS,” plate numbers (peel strip area), USPS logo, promotional text; USPS item No.— 690000.
First-day cancel ordering information
Standard ordering instructions apply. Collectors requesting first-day cancels are encouraged to purchase their own stamps and affix them to envelopes. The first-day cover envelopes should be addressed for return (a removable label may be used), and mailed in a larger envelope addressed to Summer Harvest Stamps, Customer Relations Coordinator, 2000 Royal Oaks Drive, Sacramento, CA 95813-9998. Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by Sept. 9.
The Postal Service’s uncacheted first-day cover set of four for the Summer Harvest stamps is item No. 690016 at $3.72. USPS order numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2015 U.S. Stamp Program.