By Michael Baadke
The Nativity forever stamp scheduled for release Nov. 3 is the second United States Christmas stamp with a religious theme issued within a period of three weeks, and the second to depict Mary with the infant Jesus.
Unlike the Florentine Madonna and Child forever stamp issued Oct. 19, the new Nativity stamp also shows Joseph, the husband of Mary. He is holding a lantern in an outdoor setting at dawn, with Jesus lying in a straw-filled manger, and the star of Bethlehem shining above.
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The original artwork by Nancy Stahl pays tribute to traditional portrayals of the Nativity, with familiar design elements such as Mary kneeling and the style of Joseph’s lantern. Her illustration conveys the scene of the Holy Family with deep blue details creating an attractive silhouette effect.
The word “Christmas” is printed in uppercase lettering along the bottom of the stamp design.
In the Sept. 29 Postal Bulletin, the U.S. Postal Service provides this background to the Nativity story: “The Gospel of Luke relates how Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to register for the census decreed by the Roman emperor. The Gospel says: ‘And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.’ ”
The new stamp will be issued with a 12:15 p.m. first-day ceremony in Washington, D.C., at St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square, 1525 H St. NW, near the White House.
The ceremony is open to the public.
The Nativity forever stamp, designed by Greg Breeding, is the fourth Christmas stamp (three different designs) that uses new original artwork by Stahl.
The Holy Family Christmas forever stamp was first issued Oct. 10, 2012, in a double-sided booklet of 20 (Scott 4711). A new variety of the Holy Family stamp with a 2013 year date was issued Oct. 11, 2013, in a pane of 20 (4813).
On Nov. 19, 2014, a Magi forever stamp was issued in a double-sided booklet of 20 (Scott 4945). Stahl has also created illustrations for numerous other U.S. stamps.
The Postal Service is offering an unspecified number of press sheets containing 160 die-cut Nativity forever stamps (eight double-sided panes).
Technical details and first-day cancel ordering information for the Nativity forever stamp can be found below.
FIRST DAY— Nov. 3, 2016; city— Washington, D.C. and nationwide.
DESIGN: artist— Nancy Stahl, New York, N.Y.; designer, typographer and art director— Greg Breeding, Charlottesville, Va.; modeler— Joseph Sheeran.
PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting; printer and processor— Ashton Potter USA Ltd., Williamsville, N.Y.; press— Muller A76; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone Matching System 8520 gold; paper— nonphosphored Type III with block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 400 million stamps; format— double-sided pane of 20 from 880-subject cylinder; size— 0.77 inches by 1.05 inches (image); 0.91 inches by 1.19 inches (overall), 5.76 inches by 2.38 inches (pane size); 23.29 inches by 4.76 inches (press sheet); plate numbers— “P” followed by five single digits; marginal markings— Header “Nativity,“ “©2015 USPS,” plate numbers, promotional text, “Twenty First-class Forever Stamps,” bar code; USPS item No.— 681204.
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 Nativity Stamp, Stamp Fulfillment Services, Cancellation Services, 8300 NE Underground Drive, Pillar 210, Kansas City, MO 64144-9998.
Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by Jan. 3, 2017.
The Postal Service’s uncacheted first-day cover for the Nativity stamp is item 681216 at 91¢. USPS item numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2016 U.S. Stamp Program.