Love is in the air and on postage stamps used on the mail

Jan 26, 2015, 12 PM

In January 1973, the United States Postal Service issued the first U.S. Love stamp. The 8¢ stamp (Scott 1475) features what has become an iconic image of the Robert Indiana graphic painting "LOVE."

Love stamps became an annual event beginning in 1984. Since then, U.S. Love stamps have varied widely, from colorful graphics, an infatuated doe-eyed puppy, candy hearts, lacy valentines, lovebirds and loads of flowers.The Love stamp was popular, but it wasn't until 1982 that a second Love stamp was issued. The 20¢ stamp (Scott 1951) shows the word "LOVE" spelled out in flowers.

It is not easy to come up with clever new ideas for Love stamps that find their way onto valentines, wedding invitations, greeting cards and love letters.

Other nations have latched on to the Love stamp idea, too.

Ireland issued two stamps in 1985 using a heart-shaped balloon on one and a bouquet of flowers on the other (Scott 606-607), but the Love stamp that is most uniquely Irish is a 24-penny stamp issued in 1989 (Scott 734). It features the Gaelic word for love, "GRA," spelled out in flowers.

Some countries issue Love stamps as a part of a set of Greetings stamps. In 2005 Belgium issued a booklet of six different stamps, one of which shows a pair of hearts overlapping (Scott 2091).

Finland issued an innovative first-class "Valentine's Day Surprise" Love stamp in 1998 that includes a scratch-off heart (Scott 1072). When the heart is scratched off, one of six different images appears.

The images hidden by the overlaid heart, according to Vol. 2 of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, are musical notes with two dogs, an elephant with a mouse and flowers, a puppy with a sealed envelope, kittens hugging, a dog with flowers and rodents with flowers.

The Scott catalog also notes that if the heart is scratched off the stamp, the value of the stamp goes down by 20 percent.

In 1999 France began issuing heart-shaped stamps for Valentine's Day, a tradition that continues. The set of two 3-franc stamps features stars in the center of one (Scott 2696), and a rose in the center of the other (2697).

The following year the heart stamps were the work of French designer Yves Saint Laurent, whose signature is shown on the 3fr stamp (Scott 2750).

Over the years, many designers have contributed subjects for France's heart-shaped Love stamps. Most recently, the center of the heart on the 2014 E0.65 Love stamp shows Baccarat crystal.

Although not technically Love stamps, Japan issued a souvenir sheet of 10 stamps (Scott 3206) showing Charlie Brown, Snoopy and a cast of other Peanuts characters who are encouraging letter writing. Two of the Snoopy stamps show a heart coming from Snoopy as he reads a letter, and another Snoopy stamp pictures him handing a letter to Woodstock. The letter is sealed with a heart.

Sweden issued stamps featuring beautiful hearts made from three roses for its first Love stamps in 1997 (Scott 2217-2218).

Several years later, Sweden issued a block of four Love stamps, each of which shows a heart in a different form: a tattoo heart, followed by a cut paper heart, a heart–shaped leaf and a heart carved into a tree (Scott 2526).

Collecting Love stamps is made easy with the album pages provided for free by the American Philatelic Society. All you need to do is go to the APS website, download the pages and print them. Download here:

While you are on the website, check out the dozens of other stamp album pages you can download for free.

Collecting Love stamps from around the world is a great way to learn how love is conveyed globally, but don't forget to buy Love stamps at your local post office. Use them to send a real letter to say "I love you" to someone you care about.