By Michael Baadke
Elvis Presley is making an encore appearance on a new United States forever stamp that will be issued Aug. 12.
It’s the second U.S. postal tribute to the performer who was long ago dubbed “the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
The first, in 1993, caught the attention of almost everyone with a highly publicized public vote to select the design of a stamp that would honor the worldwide music legend.
The choice between “young Elvis” and “old Elvis” was no contest, and Mark Stutzman’s portrait of the rising young star was used to print the 29¢ commemorative (Scott 2721).
Sensing the groundswell of public interest, the Postal Service in 1993 sent the Bureau of Engraving and Printing an order for an additional printing before the stamp was ever issued, creating a total of 517 million stamps of this initial version alone; two major Elvis Presley stamp varieties would follow in June of the same year.
The Postal Service has ordered just 100 million stamps for this new issue, though that’s considerably more than the standard U.S. commemorative stamp order these days.
The new stamp is the latest entry into the Music Icons commemorative series that has already provided forever stamps for musicians Lydia Mendoza (Scott 4786), Johnny Cash (4789), Ray Charles (4807), Jimi Hendrix (4880) and Janis Joplin (4916).
Like all the stamps in this series, the Elvis Presley stamps will be issued in panes of 16 that resemble the paper picture sleeve of a 45-rpm record.
The new stamp features a black and white photo of Presley taken in 1954 or 1955 by William Speer when the young singer was just 19 or 20 years old.
“Forever” reads down the left edge of the design to the lower left corner, meeting a gold crown that rests there. Presley’s signature is reproduced in gold reading up the right margin.
Surrounding the stamps on the front of the pane is a listing of Presley’s 18 No. 1 singles, including Heartbreak Hotel, All Shook Up and Jailhouse Rock.
Below the stamps is a brief biography that reads, “Elvis Presley (1935-1977) was one of the first true stars of rock and roll. The singer, guitarist, musician, and actor combined country, gospel, and rhythm and blues to create a unique sound that lives on today. Through his music, The King of Rock and Roll helped break down social barriers in the 1950s, and in the process changed American pop culture forever.”
Elvis Aaron Presley was born Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Miss., but moved with his family to Memphis when he was 13 years old.
Still in his teens when he began recording, Presley, with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, produced a sound that coupled rhythm and blues with a lively and distinctive beat and Presley’s charismatic style.
After a year with Sun Records, Presley signed with RCA in 1955 and produced an unmatched string of 104 Top 40 hits.
He made a series of popular films, beginning with Love Me Tender in 1957. Drafted the following year, Presley served in the U.S. Army for two years in Germany.
He married Priscilla Beaulieu in 1967, and they had one daughter together, Lisa Marie, before divorcing in 1973.
Presley died from a heart attack at age 42 in 1977. Over the course of six decades his legend has endured and grown as one of the unmatched pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll.
The first-day ceremony for the new stamp will take place on the front lawn of Presley’s Graceland Mansion, a Memphis tourist stop and a shrine for Presley’s many ardent fans.
Priscilla Presley will join Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan for the Wednesday morning event, which is open to the public.
Two pictorial first-day cancels have been prepared for the Elvis Presley stamp, in black and in color, both featuring Presley’s signature and an ornamental crown.
Technical details and ordering information for the black first-day cancel are given below.
Nondenominated (49¢) Elvis Presley forever stamp
FIRST DAY— Aug. 12, 2015; city— Memphis, Tenn., and nationwide.
DESIGN: designer, art director and typographer— Antonio Alcala, Alexandria, Va.; existing photograph— William Speer; modeler— Joseph Sheeran; series— Music Icons.
PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting; printer and processor— Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd., Williamsville, N.Y.; press— Muller A76; inks— black, Pantone Matching System 7 cool gray, PMS 8383 gold; paper— nonphosphored, type III, block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; issue quantity— 100 million stamps; format— pane of 16, from 144-subject cylinders; size— 1.09 inches by 1.09 inches (image); 1.23 inches by 1.23 inches (overall); 7 inches by 7 inches (full pane); 21.25 inches by 21.25 inches (press sheet); plate numbers— none; marginal markings— “©2015 USPS,” USPS logo, verso text, proprietary text, promotional text, barcode 589000 (front); photo, “ELVIS” (back); USPS item No.— 589000.
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 Elvis Presley Stamp, Postmaster, 555 S. Third St., Memphis, TN 38101-9998. Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by Oct. 11.
The Postal Service’s uncacheted first-day cover for the Elvis Presley stamp is item No. 589016 at 93¢.
USPS order numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2015 U.S. Stamp Program.