By Michael Baadke
Shark encounters in Kentucky are a little more commonplace than you might think, and on July 26, that state will celebrate a new set of five Sharks forever stamps.
The 121,200-square-foot Newport Aquarium in Newport, Ky., will host the first-day ceremony for the nondenominated (49¢) Sharks stamps.
The aquarium is situated on the Ohio River levee just south of Cincinnati, Ohio. Its salt and fresh water tanks hold 1 million gallons and include multiple shark exhibits such as Shark Tank Overlook, extending above an open-air tank display, and an acrylic tunnel exhibit called Surrounded by Sharks.
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“This is a ticketed event,” the Postal Service notes. “Tickets are limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Please RSVP to usps.com/sharks for free tickets.”
The first-day ceremony is scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday in the aquarium’s Shark Ray Bay Theater. Additional information about the aquarium can be found at www.newportaquarium.com, or by calling 800-406-3474.
The five Sharks forever stamps depict formidable examples of five different species: shortfin mako shark, whale shark, pelagic thresher shark, scalloped hammerhead shark, and great white shark.
The sharks, in artwork by Sam Weber of Brooklyn N.Y., are shown swimming.
This is Weber’s second U.S. stamp issue of 2017; he also created the portrait of Henry David Thoreau on the commemorative stamp issued May 23 to honor the author on his birth bicentennial (Scott 5202).
The pane of 20 Sharks stamps has a selvage design that extends across the top of the pane with an enlargement of the great white shark image that appears on the stamp, and the word “SHARKS” printed in blue letters.
Although each shark is identified on the stamp only by its common species name, the Postal Service provided additional details about each creature, noting that all are from America’s coastal and open-ocean waters.
“An athlete of the shark world is the swift, streamlined mako shark. The stamp image depicts a shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) knifing through the water near the surface.
“The most distinctive feature of the pelagic thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) is its unique, whip-like tail fin, seen trailing in the distance of the stamp image.
“The world’s largest fish is the sluggish, filter-feeding, school bus-sized whale shark (Rhincodon typus).
“The scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), featured in the hammerhead shark stamp, is one of three large hammerhead species.
“The great white (Carcharodon carcharias) epitomizes sharks in many peoples’ minds.”
The reason for that might be the fearsome great white shark that features prominently in the 1975 hit adventure film Jaws directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the novel by Peter Benchley.
The website of National Geographic points out that sharks have remained essentially unchanged for 400 million years. While they can be dangerous apex predators, they are also a key element of the oceanic food chain.
The National Aquarium, citing statistics from the International Shark Attack File, notes that there were only 10 shark-related human fatalities worldwide in 2013, but compares that figure with an estimated 100 million sharks that are killed annually.
Sharks have rarely appeared on United States stamps, and the most prominent depiction shows a reef blacktip shark. However, that shark appears only as part of the selvage design on the 2004 Pacific Coral Reef pane of 10 (Scott 3831), and not on an actual stamp.
For an actual shark encounter on a U.S. stamp, we have to look to the 2006 39¢ stamp showing the cover of an Aquaman comic book (Scott 4084r). Those dark figures in the distance look like sharks backing up the King of the Seven Seas.
The lack of sharks on past U.S. stamps is compensated by many other countries worldwide that have featured sharks with gusto.
Canada, for example, chose the great white shark to lead off its Salt Water Fish set of four 45¢ stamps issued May 30, 1997 (Scott 1641).
Along with the post office panes of 20, the U.S. Sharks set will be offered in press sheets of nine unsevered panes (180 stamps) sold at face value for $88.20.
The Postal Service has developed two pictorial postmarks for the Sharks stamps first day of issue. Both feature a right-facing shark in profile with the word “SHARKS” in prominent lettering. The color postmark is in shades of blue, and a black postmark also is offered.
Technical details and first-day cancel ordering information for the Sharks forever stamps are shown below.
FIRST DAY— July 26, 2017; city— Newport, Ky., and nationwide.
DESIGN: artist— Sam Weber, Brooklyn, N.Y.; designer, typographer, and art director— Derry Noyes, Washington, D.C.; modelers— Sandra Lane and Michelle Finn.
PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting; printer and processor— Banknote Corporation of America, Browns Summit, N.C.; press— Alprinta 74; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black; paper— phosphor tagged, block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; print quantity— 40 million stamps; format— panes of 20, from 180-subject cylinders; size— 1.42 inches by 0.84 inches (image); 1.56 inches by 0.98 inches (overall); 7.24 inches by 8 inches (full pane); 21.97 inches by 24.25 inches (press sheet); plate numbers— “B” followed by four single digits; marginal markings— plate numbers in two corners of pane (front); “©2016 USPS,” USPS logo, pane position diagram, bar code 474500 in two corners, promotional text (back); USPS item No.— 474504.
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 FDOI-Sharks Stamps, USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services, 8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300, Kansas City, MO 64144-9900.
Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by Sept. 26.
The Postal Service’s set of five uncacheted Sharks first-day covers is item 474516 at $4.65. USPS item numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2017 U.S. Stamp Program.