By Michael Baadke
The United States Postal Service will welcome in the Year of the Monkey with a new nondenominated (49¢) forever stamp that features red-orange peonies from artist Kam Mak, and a small cut-paper image of a monkey based on a previously used design by artist Clarence Lee.
The Lunar New Year stamp for the Year of the Monkey has an issue date of Feb. 5.
The self-adhesive stamps are offered in panes of 12 with decorative selvage that includes each of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac as small cut-paper illustrations. An enlargement of the monkey figure, partially obscured, peeks out above the block of 12 stamps on the pane.
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A first-day ceremony is scheduled to begin Friday at 11 a.m. at St. John’s University’s D’Angelo Center, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Jamaica, N.Y.
The dedicating official scheduled to represent the U.S. Postal Service is Richard P. Uluski, area vice president for the Northeast area.
The peony depicted on the stamp is the national flower of China, and can be used to symbolize prosperity, beauty, and peace — appropriate sentiments for the approach of a new year. It also appears as a decoration on drums played during holiday festivities, according to the Postal Service.
The small gold monkey adorns the upper left corner of the stamp illustration.
The stamp’s issue date is just three days before the Year of the Monkey is welcomed by those who follow the traditional Chinese calendar. The Year of the Monkey will run from Feb. 8 until Jan. 27, 2017.
“As the most important holiday of the year for many Asian communities around the world, the Lunar New Year is celebrated primarily by people of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Mongolian heritage,” the Postal Service reports. “Images associated with some of these widespread customs are depicted in the Celebrating Lunar New Year series.”
The current Lunar New Year stamp series is the second for the Postal Service. The first, featuring larger examples of the cut-paper animal illustrations by Clarence Lee against a variety of colorful backgrounds, began in 1992 and ended in 2006.
Each stamp in the second series (since 2008) shows a celebratory design emblematic of Asian culture, but also includes a smaller image of the cut-paper animal figures that featured prominently in the first series.
The painting of peonies used for the illustration on the new Year of the Monkey forever stamp, the ninth in the second series, was created by Kam Mak, who has prepared all of the illustrations for the second series. Born in Hong Kong, Mak grew up in New York City’s Chinatown after his family moved to the United States in 1971.
The painting shows two peony blossoms in shades of orange-red, with green leaves and a glimpse of the stems from which they have grown.
The illustration has a background of pale purple.
Clarence Lee’s cut-paper monkey is positioned at upper left in gold, and gold ink is also used for the grass-style calligraphy by Lau Bun, which shows the Chinese character for “monkey”; for the “USA” imprint at lower left; and for the text “Lunar New Year” reading up the right edge.
The Postal Service’s advance image of the stamp pictured here also includes the word “forever” in white dropout lettering at lower right.
Gold trim frames the design at top and bottom.
Ethel Kessler served as the U.S. Postal Service art director for the Year of the Monkey stamp, and as designer and typographer.
Press sheets for the Year of the Monkey stamp are also being issued. The Postal Service is offering 500 press sheets with die cuts, and 1,000 press sheets without die cuts. The sheets consist of six panes (72 stamps) and sell for the face value of $35.28.
USPS first-day covers for this issue use a black four-bar first-day cancel; or a pictorial digital color postmark in black, purple and red showing Lee’s cut-paper monkey illustration.
Technical details and first-day postmark information for the Year of the Monkey forever stamp are provided below.
Nondenominated (49¢) Year of the Monkey stamp
FIRST DAY— Feb. 5, 2016; city— Jamaica, N.Y., and nationwide.
DESIGN: illustrator— Kam Mak, Brooklyn, N.Y.; additional elements by Clarence Lee and Lau Bun; designer, art director and typographer— Ethel Kessler, Bethesda, Md.; modelers— Michelle Finn and Sandra Lane; series— Lunar New Year.
PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting; printer and processor— Banknote Corporation of America, Browns Summit, N.C.; press— Alprinta 74; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black; paper— phosphor tagged, block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 15 million stamps; format— pane of 12, from 144-subject cylinders; size— 1.42 inches by 0.84 inches (image); 1.56 inches by 0.98 inches (overall); 7.24 inches by 5.92 inches (full pane); 21.97 inches by 11.97 inches; plate numbers— none; marginal markings— “Celebrating Lunar New Year” (stamp side); “©2015 USPS,” USPS logo, bar code 586500, promotional text (back side); USPS item No.— 586500.
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 Lunar New Year: Year of the Monkey Stamp, Jamaica MPO, 8840 164th St., Jamaica, NY 11432-9998.
Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by April 5.
The Postal Service’s uncacheted first-day cover for the Year of the Monkey stamp is item 586516 at 93¢. USPS order numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2016 U.S. Stamp Program.