By Michael Baadke
The United States Postal Service is issuing a new nondenominated (50¢) U.S. Flag forever stamp Feb. 9.
The offset-printed stamp features a digital illustration by Kit Hinrichs that shows a “graphic design of a flag with two crisp folds,” according to the Postal Service.
The issue date is also the first day of the American Stamp Dealers Association’s Winter Postage Stamp Show taking place Feb. 9-11 at War Memorial Auditorium, 800 N.E. Eighth St. in Fort Lauderdale.
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The first-day ceremony for the new stamp will take place at the show on Friday at 11 a.m. Admission is free to the show and the ceremony.
The new stamp will be offered in four major varieties.
The Postal Service’s two contract security printers, Ashton Potter of Williamsville, N.Y., and Banknote Corporation of America in Browns Summit, N.C., are each printing a double-sided pane of 20 (which the Postal Service identifies as a booklet) and a coil roll of 100.
The Postal Service is not offering smaller stamp quantities for either format.
Only one USPS item number has been assigned for the coil roll, regardless of the printer, and only one USPS item number has been assigned for the double-sided pane of 20, also regardless of printer.
To obtain all four varieties of the new U.S. Flag stamp, collectors can inquire at local post offices after the stamps are issued Feb. 9.
The stamps on the double-sided pane of 20 can be distinguished by the multicolor plate number printed on a thin strip separating two blocks of stamps.
Stamps printed by Ashton Potter will show a plate number beginning with the letter P followed by three digits. The plate number on the pane from Banknote Corp. will begin with the letter B followed by three digits.
Coils of stamps are usually wrapped with a leader strip that might identify the printer as either APU or BCA.
The coil stamps show the same letter-number combinations as plate numbers, printed near the lower edge of every 31st stamp in the roll.
Collectors should make certain the U.S. Flag stamp they are buying is the new variety they are seeking.
Although the new U.S. Flag stamp is effectively replacing the previous U.S. Flag forever stamp issued Jan. 27, 2017 (Scott 5158-5162), some post offices will continue to sell the older U.S. Flag stamps well after the issue date of the new stamp.
As an alternative, collectors can order stamps from specific printers directly from USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services as a custom order, which incurs an additional $2 fee in addition to the cost of the item ordered and the standard shipping and handling fees. For mail orders, the name of the specific printer preferred should be included in the comments section on the order form.
The stamp is being issued about three weeks after the implementation of a new U.S. postage rate for domestic letters. The new fee is 50¢, an increase of 1¢ over the previous cost of 49¢.
Forever stamps purchased for the lower price before the rate change continue to be valid for letter-rate mail after the date of the rate change.
Kit Hinrichs, the graphic artist who designed and illustrated the new Flag stamp, is also a collector of U.S. flag and related patriotic memorabilia, with some 5,000 objects in his collection.
Hinrichs has been involved in writing or designing four books about the flag: Stars and Stripes, Long May She Wave, 100 American Icons, and The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict.
The new forever stamp is the first of two flag designs by Hinrich that will appear on U.S. stamps this year.
The Postal Service has announced that a commemorative stamp marking the bicentennial of the 1818 Flag Act will be issued later this year; the issue date has not yet been announced.
The Flag Act of 1818 commemorative features a flag illustration similar to the new definitive, but based on the 20-star flag that flew over the nation 200 years ago.
Hinrichs has been active in design for decades. He opened the independent San Francisco design firm Studio Hinrichs in 2009.
USPS art direct Ethel Kessler was also involved in the new definitive stamp project.