US Stamps

Wild Orchids stamps in coils, double-sided pane bloom Feb. 21

Jan 29, 2020, 4 PM

By Michael Baadke

The next selection of flower stamps from the United States Postal Service will offer 10 different designs on stamps in two different sizes, creating at least 20 different collectible varieties.

The nondenominated (55¢) Wild Orchids forever definitive stamps will be issued in a double-sided pane of 20, which the Postal Service describes as a booklet, and in rolls of 3,000 and 10,000 coil stamps.

The stamps are all offset-printed and processed by the same contractor, Banknote Corporation of America, and the production details for the two roll sizes of the coil stamps appear to match precisely.

As a result, it is likely that the individual coil stamps will look the same regardless of which size roll they come from.

However, the coils from either roll are noticeably smaller than the booklet stamps, which means some of the stamp design will be cropped away on the coils.

The coils will have straight die-cut edges across the top and bottom. The stamps from the double-sided pane will have either one straight edge only or two adjoining straight edges that meet at a corner.

Postal Service production details for the coil stamps specify that a plate number (B followed by four single digits) will appear on every 27th stamp in roll of 3,000 or 10,000.

Because the plate-number interval is not an even multiple of the 10 different Wild Orchids designs, three designs in a given roll will come up short in total quantity, compared to the other seven designs.

The Postal Service is accommodating collectors looking for a smaller coil format by offering a strip of 25 with plate number from the coil of 3,000 as USPS item No. 750403, and a strip of 25 with plate number from the coil of 10,000 as USPS item No. 760703.

A first-day ceremony for the new stamps will take place at 11 a.m. at the American Orchid Society Library at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, Fla.

USPS chief customer and marketing officer and executive vice president Jakki Krage Strako will participate in the stamp dedication. The Postal Service advises attendees to register online in advance.

“Part of the largest family of plants on Earth, orchids grow in many climates and thrive under a variety of conditions,” according to the Postal Service. “There are more than 30,000 species of wild orchids in the world, with more than 100 species native to North America.

“Many orchids native to North America are endangered or threatened, making sightings in their natural environment increasingly rare. These striking flowers are native to damp woodlands and numerous organizations across the country are working to preserve their habitats.”

The stamp designs by USPS art director Ethel Kessler show 10 different photographs of wild orchids taken by Jim Fowler, illustrating nine different varieties of the flowering plants.

There is no floral identification inscribed on the individual stamps, but on his online Flickr photo album titled “Native orchids of North America,” Fowler displays almost 5,000 orchid photographs he has taken and provides identification there for each orchid pictured.

The photographs on the stamps in the pane illustrated here show the following varieties as they are identified in Fowler’s online album.

Along the top row from left to right are Triphora trianthophora (three-birds orchid), Cypripedium californicum (California lady’s-slipper), Hexalectris spicata (crested coralroot), Cypripedium reginae (showy lady’s slipper), and Spiranthes odorata (fragrant ladies’ tresses).

The flowers in the bottom row are Platanthera leucophaea (eastern prairie fringed orchid), another Triphora trianthophora (three-birds orchid), Platanthera grandiflora (large purple fringed orchid), Cyrtopodium polyphyllum (terrestrial cowhorn), and Calopogon tuberosus (common grass pink orchid).

As a popular flower, both in the wild and cultivated in the home, the orchid has been featured on multiple U.S. stamps in the past.

Among the four 6¢ stamps issued Aug. 23, 1969, to commemorate the 11th International Botanical Congress in Seattle, Wash., one depicts Cypripedium reginae (showy lady’s slipper, Scott 1377).

That rare variety is also the state flower of Minnesota, and as such is featured on the 20¢ stamp from the State Birds and Flowers pane of 50, in two perforation varieties issued April 14, 1982 (Scott 1975 and 1975A).

Even more prominently, a set of four 20¢ Orchids stamps was issued March 5, 1984, in a pane of 48 (Scott 2076-2079). The individual stamps depict Arethusa bulbosa (wild pink orchid), Cypripedium calceolus (yellow lady’s slipper), Cleistes divaricata (spreading pogonia) and Calypso bulbosa (Pacific calypso).

Pictorial elements of the first-day cancels that will appear on covers sold by the Postal Service and serviced by collectors feature some of the flowers depicted on the new stamps.

The black first-day cancel includes line drawings of the crested coralroot and fragrant ladies’ tresses orchids. The crested coralroot appears again on the digital color postmark, flanked by blooms of the three-birds and common grass-pink orchids.

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