US Stamps

Breaking down the newly revealed 2017 U.S. stamps, from Kennedy to the queen conch

Sep 24, 2016, 3 PM

By Michael Baadke

The United States Postal Service quietly revealed in a Sept. 20 press release designs for more than a dozen U.S. stamp products that will be issued in 2017.

Headlining the group of 13 products is a forever stamp honoring President John F. Kennedy 100 years after his birth, though it is certainly not the only eye-catcher. 

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Linn's Stamp News has had time to look over each of the products and below is an item-by-item breakdown of the 2017 lineup.

The Postal Service provided no information about issue dates or locations for the stamp subjects revealed.

John F. Kennedy

The monochrome John F. Kennedy commemoration is designed by USPS art director Derry Noyes and features a photograph taken by Ted Spiegel in 1960. 

Kennedy was born May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Mass.

On Jan. 20, 1961, he was sworn in as the youngest president elected to the office; only Theodore Roosevelt was younger when he became president following the 1901 assassination of William McKinley.

The Kennedy stamp will be the fourth United States stamp to pay tribute to the nation’s 35th president, who was assassinated in 1963. It follows the 5¢ memorial stamp issued May 29, 1964 (Scott 1246), the 13¢ definitive issued May 29, 1967 (1287), and the 22¢ commemorative issued May 22, 1986, as part of the Ameripex Presidential set (2219h).

Love Skywriting

The 2016 Love stamp shows the word Love spelled out in cursive as skywriting against a blue background dotted with clouds. 

A small airplane spelling out the message underscores the word with decorative smoke swirls.

The stamp was illustrated by Jessica Hische and designed by Louise Fili.

Hische and Fili collaborated previously on the 2013 Sealed With Love forever stamp (Scott 4741).

Year of the Rooster

The current Lunar New Year stamp series continues with a new forever stamp illustrated by Kam Mak, who also created the designs for the nine previous stamps in the series.

A rooster appears twice on this new stamp commemorating the Year of the Rooster. At upper left the rooster is represented in a gold cut paper design originally created by artist Clarence Lee. In the vignette, or central design, is a red envelope decorated with a full-color portrait of a rooster surrounded with flower blossoms.

Each design in the current series has showcased elements of celebration in Asian cultures that are associated with the coming new year, such as firecrackers on the 2013 stamp (Scott 4726) and drums on the 2014 stamp (4846).

The red envelope, which is used to give gifts of money to children at the beginning of the new year, signifies good luck.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Celebrations for the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture were underway as news of this planned forever stamp was revealed. The museum, on the National Mall, opened to the public with a dedication ceremony on the morning of Sept. 24 

Established by an Act of Congress in 2003, the museum is described as the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, history, and culture.

“The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation,” the museum notes.

The stamp is based on a photograph of the museum by Alan Karchmer showing a view of the northwest corner of the building. USPS art director Antonio Alcala designed the stamp.

WPA Posters

The Work Projects Administration (originally the Works Progress Administration) provided millions of jobs for Americans during the Great Depression, beginning in 1935.

Some artists participating in the WPA Federal Art Project were involved in developing posters for public display, and 10 of these posters, from the large collection of the Library of Congress, are featured on this planned set of stamps.

“The posters were designed to publicize exhibits, community activities, theatrical productions, and health and educational programs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, with the strongest representation from California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania,” according to the Library of Congress.

Topical subjects on these stamps include ships, planes, shore birds, tennis, hiking, and national parks.

The stamps are designed by Antonio Alcala and Maribel O. Gray.


The United States Postal Service states: “This issuance celebrates the wonder of sharks with a pane of 20 stamps featuring realistic images of five species that inhabit American waters: mako shark, represented here by a shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus); thresher shark, here a pelagic thresher (Alopias pelagicus); great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias); whale shark (Rhincodon typus); and hammerhead shark, this one a scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini).”

Derry Noyes used artwork by Sam Weber to create the five stamp designs.


One of the most familiar U.S. stamp subjects, the U.S. flag, will be featured on a new definitive stamp in 2017.

The closely cropped image of the flag is from an existing photograph of a waving flag taken by Tom Grill.

The stamp was designed by Greg Breeding. Terrence W. McCaffrey, the former manager of USPS Stamp Development, is credited as the stamp’s art director. McCaffrey retired from the Postal Service in December 2010, but was also named as the art director for the Flag forever stamp issued in 2016.

Father Ted Hesburgh

Theodore M. Hesburgh (1917-2015) was the president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987.

Father Hesburgh was involved in several important social issues, including campus unrest, Third World development, and immigration reform. He was the Vatican City representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins said: “It’s fitting that the United States recognizes Father Hesburgh’s contributions to our nation and the world in a medium that will literally transport his legacy to households across America and around the world.”

The original artwork by Tim O’Brien is an oil-on-panel painting of Father Hesburgh standing on the Notre Dame campus. The stamp was designed by USPS art director Ethel Kessler.

Garden Flowers

Four varieties of flowers typically found in American gardens are showcased in a new set of stamps to be issued in 2017.

The Postal Service identifies the blooms as red camellias and yellow forsythia in a yellow pitcher; white peonies and pink tree peonies in a clear vase; white hydrangeas, white and pink roses, green hypericum berries, and purple lisianthus in a white vase; and blue hydrangeas in a blue pot. Derry Noyes designed the stamps using existing art by Elizabeth Brandon.


“With the release of the new Delicioso Forever stamps, the Postal Service celebrates the influence of Central and South American, Mexican and Caribbean foods on American cuisine,” the Postal Service notes in its press release.

“This booklet of 20 stamps features six dishes from an array of Latin American culinary traditions that have found new life and variations in the United States. Each stamp showcases a bright and playful illustration of one of the following dishes: tamales, flan, sancocho, empanadas, chile relleno and ceviche.”

The stamps are designed by artist John Parra.

Uncle Sam’s Hat

The additional-ounce rate stamp is the stamp you’ll add to a letter weighing more than 1 ounce if you’ve already applied a forever stamp. Right now that rate is 21¢ and the 2015 stamp fulfilling it shows a pair of penguins (Scott 4989).

In 2017, a new stamp will be issued for the additional-ounce rate, and the design features oval shapes representing faces, each topped off with a stovepipe version of Uncle Sam’s stars-and-stripes hat.

The faces are all different shades and colors, suggesting the ethnic and racial diversity of the United States, according to the Postal Service.

Antonio Alcala designed the stamp.


Stylized art is used again on a set of four postcard-rate stamps depicting seashells.

The shells shown are native to North American waters, and are identified as the alphabet cone, the Pacific calico scallop, the zebra nerite, and the queen conch (also known as the pink conch for the shell’s glossy pink interior).

The background of white and blue is intended to suggest waves washing the shells onto a beach.

USPS art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps using Sergio Baradat’s artwork.

California Dogface Butterfly

Another design described as highly stylized by the Postal Service is the “simplified image” of a California dogface butterfly that will be featured on the seventh stamp in the ongoing Butterfly series of stamps fulfilling the nonmachinable surcharge rate.

That’s the rate that includes a surcharge for mail under 1 ounce for square envelopes and other shapes and sizes that fall outside the Postal Service’s standard envelope guidelines.

The California dogface (Zerene eurydice) is named for markings on the male butterfly that resemble a poodle head in profile.

The artwork is by Tom Engeman, who has illustrated all of the stamps in the series to date. Derry Noyes is the designer.

Barn Swallow

A new forever stamped envelope will continue the series depicting wild birds that began in 2012 with the Purple Martin envelope (Scott U677-U678) and continued in 2013 with the Bank Swallow envelope (U680-U681).

The next subject is the barn swallow, shown in a style similar to the earlier issues, with a large image of the bird perching, and a smaller picture of the bird in flight.

The original art by Matthew Frey was adapted by USPS art director William J. Gicker.

Additional stamps to come

The stamp preview reveals just a few of the subjects that will be represented on stamps in 2017, the Postal Service notes.

“This is only the beginning, as we will announce more subjects going forward,” said USPS Stamp Services Executive Director Mary-Anne Penner.