US Stamps

By Michael Baadke

USPS issued Flag stamps in multiple formats Jan. 29

February 04, 2016 09:11 AM

  • The new nondenominated (49¢) Flag forever stamp was issued Jan. 29 in five formats. At left, a single stamp from the pane of 10 printed by Banknote Corporation of America; at right, a very similar stamp from the Banknote Corporation of America; double-sided pane of 20.
  • The microprinted “USPS” appears near the flagpole on the Flag forever stamps printed by BCA.
  • A microprinted "USPS" appears on the second white stripe close to the right side of the flag on the Ashton Potter Flag forever stamps.
  • Single Flag forever coil stamps from Banknote Corporation of America (left) and Ashton Potter (right). Both stamps were issued in coils of 100.
  • BCA printed the 10-stamp Flag booklet pane for Sennett Security Products. The plate number on the top selvage strip (left) is an "S" followed by five single digits.
  • The double-sided pane of 20 Flag stamps BCA printed for Sennett is in a horizontal format, with 12 stamps on one side (top) and eight stamps on the other side.
  • Ashton Potter's double-sided pane of 20 Flag stamps is very similar to the BCA-printed double-sided pane of 20 shown in the previous illustration.

By Michael Baadke

New United States nondenominated (49¢) Flag definitive (regular-issue) forever stamps were issued Jan. 29.

Although no first-day ceremony was held, the stamps were officially issued in Washington, D.C.

The stamps are offered in five different formats, resulting in what appear to be four major varieties. Final determination of the Scott-listed major varieties will come from the Scott catalog editors after they have examined the individual stamps.

The stamps are being sold in a single-sided pane of 10, in two different double-sided panes of 20, and in two different coils of 100.

The pane varieties are identified as booklets by the U.S. Postal Service.

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The booklet of 10, one booklet of 20 and one coil of 100 were printed and processed by Banknote Corporation of America (BCA) on behalf of USPS contractor Sennett Security Products.

The remaining booklet of 20 and coil of 100 were printed and processed by USPS contractor Ashton Potter.

The Ashton Potter stamps carry a plate number beginning with the letter P followed by four single digits on the booklet, and five single digits on the coil.

Plate numbers on the BCA printings begin with the letter S followed by five single digits.

The stamps are all offset-printed with microprinted “USPS” in the central design.

When the new Flag stamps were first issued, and as of this writing, the Postal Service has not assigned distinct order numbers for the two varieties of booklets of 20, or for the two different coils of 100.

An inspection by Linn’s Stamp News of the details of individual stamps from the BCA-printed booklets of 10 and 20 revealed no significant printing differences.

However, individual stamps from those two formats can be distinguished from individual stamps from each of the other three formats.

The Ashton Potter coil has straight edges at top and bottom, and the “USPS” microprinting near the right edge of the flag, on the second white stripe from the top.

The Ashton Potter booklet stamp has the microprinting in the same position, but has either one straight edge and three edges with serpentine die cuts, or two adjoining straight edges and two adjoining edges with serpentine die cuts.

The BCA stamps all have microprinting reading up along the flagpole, ending at the lower left corner of the flag.

The BCA coil stamps have straight edges at top and bottom, and the booklet stamps have either one straight edge and three edges with serpentine die cuts, or two adjoining straight edges and two adjoining edges with serpentine die cuts.

Because the booklets of 20 are printed in a horizontal format and the booklet of 10 is printed in a vertical format, there are die-cut characteristics that make it possible to identify some of the individual BCA stamps as coming from the booklet of 10 or the booklet of 20.

Any of the new Flag forever stamps with a straight edge only at left or at right, and serpentine die cuts on the three other sides, comes from the booklet of 10.

Any with one straight edge only at top or at bottom, and serpentine die cuts on three other sides, comes from the booklet of 20.

Corner stamps with two adjoining straight edges and two adjoining edges with serpentine die cuts are found on both the booklet of 10 and the booklets of 20.

Technical details provided by the U.S. Postal Service state the BCA booklet of 10 has phosphor tagged paper with overall tagging, and the BCA booklet of 20 has phosphor tagged paper with block tagging. However, examples of stamps from these two booklets examined by Linn’s under ultraviolet light appear to be indistinguishable in this regard.

The booklet stamps from Ashton Potter have a more greenish cast and a stronger glow than the BCA stamps when viewed under shortwave UV light.

Adding up the printing quantities for Flag stamps in the five different formats, the Postal Service has 4.6 billion Flag stamps available following the initial printing.

In its stamp announcement No. 16-05 for the Flag forever stamp, the Postal Service states: “The American flag has long symbolized the strength and spirit of our nation. This U.S. Flag First-Class Mail Forever stamp features a detail of Emmanuel Faure’s vivid photograph of a flag waving against the background of the sky. Greg Breeding designed the stamp. Terrence W. McCaffrey was the art director.”

McCaffrey, the former manager of USPS Stamp Development, retired from the Postal Service in December 2010. In response to a question from Linn’s Stamp News, the Postal Service confirmed that this new Flag stamp was a project designed by McCaffrey prior to his retirement more than five years ago.

Technical details and first-day cancel ordering information for the Flag forever stamps are found below.

Nondenominated (49¢) Flag stamp, Banknote Corporation of America printing for Sennett Security Products;

booklet pane of 10, double-sided pane of 20

FIRST DAY— Jan. 29, 2016; city— Washington, D.C., and nationwide.

DESIGN: photographer— Emmanuel Faure; designer and typographer— Greg Breeding, Charlottesville, Va.; art director— Terrence W. McCaffrey; modelers— Michelle Finn and Sandra Lane.

PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting “USPS”; printer and processor— Banknote Corporation of America, Browns Summit, N.C., for Sennett Security Products; press— Alprinta 74; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone Matching System 5405 dark blue; paper— prephosphored, overall tagging (pane of 10); prephosphored with block tagging (double-sided pane of 20); gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 100 million stamps (pane of 10); 1.25 billion stamps (double-sided pane of 20); format— pane of 10 from 560-subject cylinder; double-sided pane of 20 from 960-subject cylinder; size (pane of 10)— 0.73 inches by 0.84 inches (image); 0.87 inches by 0.98 inches (overall), 1.74 inches by 5.31 inches (pane size); size (double sided pane of 20)— 0.71 inches by 0.82 inches (image); 0.87 inches by 0.98 inches (overall), 5.52 inches by 1.96 inches (pane size); plate numbers— “S” followed by five single digits; marginal markings— “©2015 USPS,” plate numbers, promotional text, “U.S. FLAG,” “20 First-class Forever Stamps,” bar code; USPS item Nos.— 679100 (pane of 10); 680500 (double-sided pane of 20).

Nondenominated (49¢) Flag stamp, Ashton Potter printing, double-sided pane of 20

FIRST DAY— Jan. 29, 2016; city— Washington, D.C., and nationwide.

DESIGN: photographer— Emmanuel Faure; designer and typographer— Greg Breeding, Charlottesville, Va.; art director— Terrence W. McCaffrey; modeler— Joseph Sheeran.

PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting “USPS”; printer and processor— Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd., Williamsville, N.Y.; press— Muller A76; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black; paper— nonphosphored Type III, block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 1.25 billion stamps; format— double-sided pane of 20 from 1,040-subject cylinder; size— 0.73 inches by 0.84 inches (image); 0.87 inches by 0.98 inches (overall), 5.52 inches by 1.96 inches (pane); plate numbers— “P” followed by four single digits; marginal markings— “©2015 USPS,” plate numbers, promotional text, “U.S. FLAG,” “20 First-class Forever Stamps,” bar code; USPS item No.— 680500.

Nondenominated (49¢) Flag stamp, Ashton Potter printing, coil of 100

FIRST DAY— Jan. 29, 2016; city— Washington, D.C., and nationwide.

DESIGN: photographer— Emmanuel Faure; designer and typographer— Greg Breeding, Charlottesville, Va.; art director— Terrence W. McCaffrey; modeler— Joseph Sheeran.

PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting “USPS”; printer and processor— Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd., Williamsville, N.Y.; press— Muller A76; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone Matching System 5405 dark blue; paper— nonphosphored Type III, block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 1 billion stamps; format— coil of 100 from 744-subject cylinder; size— 0.73 inches by 0.84 inches (image); 0.87 inches by 0.98 inches (overall); plate numbers— “P” followed by five single digits, appearing on every 31st stamp below stamp image; USPS item No.— 787300.

Nondenominated (49¢) Flag stamp, Banknote Corporation of America printing, coil of 100

FIRST DAY— Jan. 29, 2016; city— Washington, D.C., and nationwide.

DESIGN: photographer— Emmanuel Faure; designer and typographer— Greg Breeding, Charlottesville, Va.; art director— Terrence W. McCaffrey; modelers— Michelle Finn and Sandra Lane.

PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting “USPS”; printer and processor— Banknote Corporation of America, Browns Summit, N.C.; press— Alprinta 74; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone Matching System 5405 dark blue; paper— prephosphored, block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 1 billion stamps; format— coil of 100 from 744-subject cylinder; size— 0.73 inches by 0.84 inches (image); 0.87 inches by 0.98 inches (overall); plate numbers— “S” followed by five single digits, appearing on every 31st stamp below stamp image; USPS item No.— 787300.

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 U.S. Flag Stamp, Special Events, Box 92282, Washington, DC 20090-2282.

Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by March 29.

The Postal Service’s uncacheted first-day cover for the booklet of 20 Flag stamp is item No. 680516 at 93¢; for the coil of 100 Flag stamp is item No. 787316 at 93¢.