US Stamps

A closer look at the new Endangered Species collector’s kit

Jun 6, 2023, 11 AM

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

On May 19, Endangered Species Day, the United States Postal Service issued a pane of 20 different Endangered Species commemorative forever stamps. The stamps feature photographs of species taken by National Geographic Explorer and photographer Joel Sartore. Postal Service art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps.

To complement the stamp issue, the Postal Service produced a limited edition of 4,000 Endangered Species collector’s sets. The set includes a 9½-inch-by-9½ inch 36-page book and an individually numbered 4-inch-by-3-inch card.

A publicity image of the set is shown nearby.

The book, Endangered Species, has information on all 20 species pictured on the new stamps and includes illustrations of other related wildlife stamps where appropriate. There is also a page about Sartore, information about the design process by Noyes, and a page discussing the printing of the stamps.

And it is that last part that leads to what I find to be the most interesting part of the set. In the inside back cover of the book, there is a pocket that holds a glassine containing the normal stamp pane along with eight different proofs of varying stages of the production process. Shown above is the Black-Footed Ferret stamp cropped from each of the different proofs in the kit, all of which are without die cuts but printed on stamp paper. The normal stamp is the first image shown.

In order, the proofs are explained as follows.

Second to the first normal pane is a finished pane without tagging and without the printing on the back.

The third pane is the finished design but without the special coating over the animals.

The fourth pane is the finished design with the special coating over the animals. The third and fourth panes are somewhat difficult to tell apart. Postal Service spokesman Jim McKean told SSM that “this coating is designed to help separate the animals from the stamp background.”

The fifth pane is just the black ink with the special white ink used for the word “Endangered.”

The sixth pane is just the black ink, the seventh just the yellow, the eighth just the magenta and the ninth just the cyan.

A glassine interleaving sheet was placed in between each proof pane.

The Endangered Species Limited Edition Collector’s Set was available on the USPS website as of May 31. It is item No. 483899 and sells for $59.95 with a purchase limit of five. Because the set contains eight proofs, a normal stamp pane and a book, I feel that the value is there for the price.

This is the fourth such product that the Postal Service has produced in the past 10 years. The Endangered Species proof set is similar to a set of proof panes offered to collectors in 2013 in conjunction with the Jenny Invert pane of six $2 stamps (Scott 4806).

A note in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers reads, “A book containing an unused and a first-day canceled example of No. 4806, along with items that are termed ‘proofs’ and ‘die wipes’ sold for $200.”

The die wipe in the Jenny Invert set consisted of a small pane with blurred blue and red ink impressions that the Postal Service described as “an authentic section of the die wipe used during the press run.”

Also, a set of six proof panes was offered for $79.95 with the 2019 Transcontinental Railroad set of three in a pane of 18 (Scott 5378-5380). And, a set of five proof panes was offered for $59.95 with the 2020 Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor stamp (Scott 5524).

The Transcontinental Railroad proofs were sold in a boxed set with a commemorative book, while the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor proof set included only a shrink-wrapped book with a pocket for the stamps and proofs in the inside back cover.

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