By Michael Baadke
The United States Postal Service is about to unveil its first-ever set of scratch-and-sniff postage stamps.
The set of 10 Frozen Treats forever stamps will be issued June 20 in a double-sided pane of 20, which the Postal Service describes as a booklet.
The nondenominated (50¢) stamps will have a scratch-and-sniff component according to the USPS.
“The stamps are printed with a coating that evokes a sweet summer scent,” the Postal Service noted in its Stamp Announcement 18-16 published May 24.
The new stamps “will add the sweet scent of summer to letters of love, friendship, party invitations and other mailings,” according to the Postal Service.
No additional details were provided about the scent that the stamps will carry. Linn’s Stamp News requested information from the Postal Service about the material and the process used to create the scratch-and-sniff component, but the inquiry had not been answered as this issue was going to press.
Technical details for this issue show that both offset lithography and flexography were used to manufacture the stamps, so it is likely that the scented material is added during the flexographic process.
Flexographic printing, which employs a flexible relief plate in a rotary printing process, has been used previously by the Postal Service; for example, to apply a surface texture to the 2016 set of eight Have a Ball stamps (Scott 5203-5210).
The 10 different Frozen Treats stamp designs each show two “frosty, colorful, icy pops on a stick,” set against a white background.
The watercolor illustrations are by California artist Margaret Berg, a native of South Africa who studied at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.
Leslie Badani and USPS art director Antonio Alcala, both of Alexandria, Va., also contributed to the design of this issue.
The treats that are shown each have distinctive characteristics, including one that has decorations resembling a circle of watermelon seeds; another adorned with kiwi, orange and strawberry; others with colorful stripes and curlicues; and a few that appear to include chocolate as an ingredient.
“Forever” and “USA” are printed along the bottom of each stamp.
This is the first time the United States has issued scratch-and-sniff stamps, where a scent is released if the surface of the stamp is scraped by a fingernail, coin or similar object.
For stamp collectors, who make every effort to preserve their collectible items in an undamaged state, the scratch-and-sniff option might create a dilemma, as scratching the surface of the stamp runs counter to that instinct of preservation.
The solution might be to buy two panes of the new stamps: one to save, and one to scratch and sniff.
Linn’s has not had access to the Frozen Treats stamp panes as this issue was being prepared, and therefore cannot report if the aroma can be detected without scratching the stamps.
A first-day ceremony for the Frozen Treats stamps will take place at 6 p.m. Central Daylight Time in the Event Courtyard at the Thinkery Children’s Museum, 1830 Simond Ave., in Austin, Texas. The ceremony is free and open to the public. Parking is available at nearby Alamo Parking, according to the Postal Service, and tickets will be validated at the museum admission entrance.
The Postal Service advises that visitors planning to attend the ceremony can RSVP online.
“Modern frozen treats are available in many varieties,” the Postal Service said. “Ice pops are made by large manufacturers, home cooks, and artisanal shops. In recent years, frozen treats containing fresh fruit such as kiwi, watermelon, blueberries, oranges, and strawberries have become more common. In addition, flavors such as chocolate, root beer, and cola are also popular. Some frozen treats even have two sticks, making them perfect for sharing.”
Historic figures from Marco Polo to Thomas Jefferson reportedly enjoyed ice creams and treats made from shaved ice and flavorings, but Unilever, the company that today markets the well-known Popsicle brand of ice pops, claims that this treat was the first such item prepared on a stick, an accidental invention in 1905 by 11-year-old Frank Epperson.
The Frozen Treats forever stamps are the second U.S. issue within two years to feature icy cold dessert treats. The Postal Service issued a set of five Soda Fountain Favorites forever stamps in a pane of 20 on June 30, 2016, illustrating an ice cream cone, an egg cream, a banana split, a root beer float and a hot fudge sundae (5093-5097)
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On April 20, 2017, a set of six forever stamps titled Delicioso and featuring Latin American prepared dishes was issued in a double-sided pane of 20 (Scott 5192-5197).
The Frozen Treats set, therefore, is the third in what seems to be an unannounced series of U.S. stamps celebrating prepared foods — but the first to convey an aroma.
The scented stamp concept has been used by other countries over the past 45 years.
Switzerland rather famously issued a pane of 12 stamps in 2001 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Chocosuisse, an association of Swiss chocolatiers (Scott 1100). The 90-centime stamps, printed to look like pieces of a chocolate bar, release a chocolate scent when scratched.
That same year, Brazil issued a 1.30-reis stamp celebrating coffee, an issue that the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue describes as being “impregnated with a coffee scent” (Scott 2830).
Bhutan issued what is believed to be the world’s first scented stamps in 1973 (Scott 150-150E). The six stamps depict varieties of roses, and smell like them, too.
The American Topical Association has compiled a checklist of scented stamps that is available to ATA members for a small fee.
As of mid-May, the ATA checklist has 114 listings that include the country name, issue date, denomination, Scott number (if assigned) and subject description.
For more information about the ATA, visit its website, or write to American Topical Association, Box 8, Carterville, IL 62918-0008.
The technical details for the Frozen Treats stamps released by the Postal Service describe the dimensions of a press sheet that appears to comprise eight double-sided panes of 20, but no ordering information for a press sheet was provided. The stamp announcement also did not provide information about USPS-prepared first-day covers.