US Stamps

Northern cardinal alights on stamped envelope July 9 in Bird City, Kan.

Jun 19, 2023, 7 AM

By Charles Snee

For the first time in more than six years, the United States Postal Service is issuing a stamped envelope picturing a bird.

On July 9, a new nondenominated (66¢) envelope featuring a male northern cardinal perched on the branch of a pine tree will be issued in Bird City, Kan., without an official first-day ceremony. Bird City, with a population of 437 as of the 2020 census, is about a three-hour drive from Denver.

The first day of issue coincides with the U.S. Postal Service’s planned postal rate increase that will see the cost of a first-class letter rise from 63¢ to 66¢.

The stamp imprint (indicium) on the new Northern Cardinal envelope is based on an illustration by artist Kandis Vermeer Phillips of Gaithersburg, Md.

Antonio Alcala, who served as the envelope’s art director and designer, told Linn’s Stamp News that he found Phillips’ eye-catching work online.

“I discovered her work on Instagram, with posts related to work she did while at the Oak Springs Garden Foundation [in Virginia],” Alcala said. “She posted images of plant and wildlife she recorded in a small journal/sketchbook.”

Alcala explained what captured his attention when viewing Phillips’ output for the foundation.

“The work looks accurate without appearing stiff, forced, or overworked,” he said.

“It has the charm of someone who is serious about their artistic practice, but creates for themselves and not for the market.”

According to Alacala, the USPS did not consider any other images of birds by Phillips for the Northern Cardinal envelope.

“On the strength of her existing work, she was hired to create a new artwork for use on an envelope,” Alcala said.

During their collaboration, Phillips presented Alcala with several options for his consideration.

“Initially, Phillips sent me several sketches, from which I selected one and made a few comments about how the composition might work better for the format,” Alcala said.

“We had a few rounds back and forth making minor adjustments, until one was ready to present to USPS for approval. She then delivered the final artwork for scanning and preparation for printing.”

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