US Stamps

By Michael Baadke

Two U.S. stamp sets May 31: Views of Our Planets, Pluto — Explored!

May 12, 2016 01:30 PM

  • Eight planets (including Earth) are pictured on United States forever stamps in a single 16-stamp pane titled Views of Our Planets. The stamps will be issued May 31 at World Stamp Show-NY 2016.
  • A pane of four forever stamps with two different designs will be issued May 31 at World Stamp Show-NY 2016 celebrating the 2015 reconnaissance of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft.
  • A 10-stamp set issued by the United States Postal Service in 1991 included a 29¢ commemorative stamp for each planet in our solar system, plus Earth’s moon, and Pluto, which was depicted with an inscription reading “Not Yet Explored.” The new Pluto stamp pane that will be issued May 31 updates that description.
  • A nondenominated ($1.15) global forever stamp for international letter mail picturing Earth’s moon (Scott 5058) was issued earlier this year on Feb. 22. The round stamp with die-cut simulated perforations complements the two new sets.

By Michael Baadke

The United States Postal Service has plans to issue two different stamp sets on May 31 showing subjects that are out of this world.

A set of eight nondenominated (47¢) forever stamps titled Views of Our Planets will show the eight official planets of our solar system —Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — on individual stamps.

The Postal Service calls them “some of the more visually compelling full-disk images of the planets obtained during this era.” The set will be issued in a pane of 16.

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The forever stamps in the second set are clearly related to those of the first, but offer only two designs in a smaller four-stamp pane. One stamp pictures the former planet Pluto, which was demoted to dwarf planet status 10 years ago by the International Astronomical Union. The second stamp shows the New Horizons space probe that flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, collecting data and taking photos like the interplanetary tourist it is.

A banner across the top of this pane gives the name “Pluto — Explored!,” a less-than-subtle reference going back some 25 years to a set of 10 stamps issued Oct. 1, 1991. That Space Exploration set of booklet stamps showed the eight planets and Earth’s moon, all depicted with space probes that had, at some time, approached the planetary body shown.

The 10th stamp showed Pluto alone in space and carried the rather dismal inscription “Not Yet Explored.”

NASA calls the new Pluto stamp “a do-over.”

“The Pluto stamps are of special significance to NASA and the New Horizons team, which placed a 29¢ 1991 Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp on board the spacecraft,” NASA reported late last year. “On July 14, New Horizons carried the tiny postage stamp on its history-making journey to Pluto and beyond.”

According to the Postal Service, text on the reverse of the Views of Our Planets pane explains more about the individual images and identifies the spacecraft and telescopes used to obtain them.

Some show the planet’s true color,” the Postal Service stated, “what we might see with our own eyes if traveling through space.

“Others use colors to represent and visualize certain features of a planet based on imaging data.

“Still others use the near-infrared spectrum to show things that cannot be seen by the human eye in visible light.

The Pluto forever stamp is color-enhanced to highlight surface texture and composition, according to the Postal Service, which notes that its central design is a composite of four images from the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, combined with color data from a spectral imaging instrument named Ralph that is mounted to the spacecraft’s exterior.

“It clearly reveals the now-famous heart-shaped feature,” the Postal Service said, referring to the pale area visible in the bottom part of the Pluto image.

Some have suggested the shape of that image mimics a silhouette of Pluto the Disney cartoon dog.

NASA explains that the area is informally known as Tombaugh Regio, named after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.

The New Horizons stamp design is an artist’s rendering of the spacecraft.

A nondenominated ($1.15) global forever stamp for international letter mail picturing Earth’s moon (Scott 5058) was issued earlier this year on Feb. 22. The round stamp with die-cut simulated perforations complements the two new sets.

The new stamps are all being issued May 31 during World Stamp Show-NY 2016, in Room 1E12-1E14 at the Javits Center in New York City. USPS Chief Operating Vice President David E. Williams is the dedicating official for the 11 a.m. ceremony. The ceremony and the stamp show are free to attend and open to the public.

The stamps were designed by USPS art director Antonio Alcala and offset-printed by Ashton Potter USA of Williamsville, N.Y.

The Postal Service notes that the two stamp panes may not be split by postal clerks, so individual stamps may not be sold from the panes.

The Postal Service has also created a limited number of 3,000 press sheets for each set, all with die cuts. The Views of Our Planets press sheets contain eight 16-stamp panes and sell for $60.16. The Pluto — Explored! press sheets contain 14 four-stamp panes and sell for $26.32.

Technical details and first-day cancel ordering information for the Views of Our Planets and Pluto — Explored! stamps are presented below.

Nondenominated (47¢) Pluto — Explored! forever stamps

FIRST DAY— May 31, 2016; city— New York, N.Y., and nationwide.

DESIGN: designer, art director and typographer— Antonio Alcala, Alexandria, Va.; modeler— Joseph Sheeran.

PRINTING: process— offset; printer and processor— Ashton Potter USA Ltd., Williamsville, N.Y.; press— Muller A76; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone Matching System 422C gray; paper— nonphosphored type III, spot tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 15 million stamps; format— pane of four, from 196-subject cylinders; size— 1.09 inches by 1.09 inches (image); 1.23 inches by 1.23 inches (overall); 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches (full pane); 24.5 inches by 7 inches (press sheet); plate numbers— none; marginal markings— “Pluto — Explored!” (front); “©2015 USPS,” USPS logo, bar code 586600, promotional text, verso text (back); USPS item No.— 586604.

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 Pluto — Explored! Stamps, Special Events Coordinator, 380 W. 33rd St., New York, NY 10199-9998. Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by July 31.

The Postal Service’s set of two uncacheted first-day covers for the Pluto — Explored! stamps is item No. 586616 at $1.82. USPS item numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2016 U.S. Stamp Program.

Nondenominated (47¢) Views of Our Planets forever stamps

FIRST DAY— May 31, 2016; city— New York, N.Y., and nationwide.

DESIGN: designer, art director and typographer— Antonio Alcala, Alexandria, Va.; modeler— Joseph Sheeran.

PRINTING: process— offset; printer and processor— Ashton Potter USA Ltd., Williamsville, N.Y.; press— Muller A76; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone Matching System 422C gray; paper— nonphosphored type III, spot tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 40 million stamps; format— pane of 16, from 256-subject cylinders; size— 1.085 inches by 1.085 inches (image); 1.225 inches by 1.225 inches (overall); 6 inches by 6 inches (full pane); 12.125 inches by 24 inches (press sheet); plate numbers— none; marginal markings— “Views of Our Planets” (front); “©2015 USPS,” USPS logo, plate position diagram, bar code 473600, promotional text, verso text (back); USPS item No.— 473604.

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 Views of Our Planets Stamps, Special Events Coordinator, 380 W. 33rd St., New York, NY 10199-9998. Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by July 31.

The Postal Service’s set of eight uncacheted first-day covers for the Views of Our Planets stamps is item No. 473616 at $7.28. USPS item numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2016 U.S. Stamp Program.

Related articles:

USPS reveals new stamps planned for May and June

USPS promises the moon with global forever stamp

Second set of stamps celebrating World Stamp Show-NY 2016 in 24-stamp pane