Year of the Tiger stamp to debut Jan. 20 in New York
By Charles Snee
The third stamp in the United States Postal Service’s current Lunar New Year series celebrates the Year of the Tiger and will be issued Jan. 20. The Year of the Tiger begins Feb. 1 of this year and concludes Jan. 21, 2023.
A free public first-day ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. at the Peter Norton Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, in New York City. Ronald A. Stroman, a member of the Postal Service’s board of governors, will serve as the dedicating official.
“This is a ticketed event. To facilitate contact tracing if necessary, tickets must be obtained from Peter Norton Symphony Space,” the Postal Service said in a Dec. 16, 2021, press release.
“Everyone entering the building is required to show proof of full [COVID-19] vaccination and state-issued I.D. Peter Norton Symphony Space will not accept negative test results in lieu of proof of full vaccination,” the USPS said.
Additional information about the ceremony is available on the USPS website.
Like the 2020 Year of the Rat (Scott 5428) and 2021 Year of the Ox (5556) stamps, the new nondenominated (58¢) Year of the Tiger forever stamp features an ornate three-dimensional ceremonial mask by Camille Chew. Her intricate artwork was photographed and then used for the vignette of the stamp designed by USPS art director Antonio Alcala.
The tiger design was shown previously as one of 12 simple sketches in the margin of the stamp pane for the 2020 Year of the Rat stamp. That pane was pictured on page 16 of the March 9, 2020, issue of Linn’s Stamp News.
Chew’s tiger mask is rendered in vivid hues of blue, orange and gray. Stylized floral accents in green, yellow and blue dangle from either side of the tiger’s head, and four pairs of sharp teeth give the animal a somewhat fearsome and menacing look.
“Calling to mind the elaborately decorated masks used in the dragon or lion dances often performed in Lunar New Year parades, this 3-dimensional mask depicting a tiger is a contemporary take on the long tradition of paper-cut folk art crafts created during this auspicious time of year,” the Postal Service said.
It’s no coincidence that Chew emphasized the colors blue, orange and gray in her tiger mask design because they are considered lucky for those born in the Year of the Tiger. Other symbols of luck for people born during the Year of the Tiger are the numbers 1, 3 and 4; yellow lily and cineraria flowers; and the directions east, north and south.
According to China Highlights, a tour company, “People born in a year of the Tiger are brave, competitive, unpredictable, and confident. They are very charming and well-liked by others. But sometimes they are likely to be impetuous, irritable, and overindulgent.”
“With stubborn personalities and tough judgment, Tigers work actively and express themselves boldly, doing things in a high-handed manner. They are authoritative and never go back on what they have said.”
Chew is creating the designs for all of the stamps in the current Lunar New Year series of 12.
The series chronicles the full zodiac cycle of lunar years observed in many Asian cultures. Each year in the repeating cycle is identified and characterized by a specific animal.
The 12 animals featured in the lunar new year cycle, also known as the Chinese zodiac, are normally listed beginning with the rat and followed by the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and boar (or pig).
Stamps marking the Lunar New Year are popular with collectors and mailers worldwide.
The new stamp was printed by six-color offset lithography with accents in both gold and purple foil.
Banknote Corporation of America printed the stamp on its Gallus RCS press, which was used previously for the 2020 Year of the Rat forever stamp, 2021 Year of the Ox, 2020 Celebrate forever stamp (5434), the 2019 Transcontinental Railroad set of three (5378-5380), Woodstock Music Festival forever stamp (5409), and others.
Lunar New Year traditionally announces the beginning of spring. As such, those celebrating in the United States mark the occasion by tidying up their streets and homes and hanging decorations.
According to the USPS, “Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays of the year for many Asian communities around the world and is primarily celebrated by people of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Malaysian and Filipino heritage. Across these varied cultures, many traditions exist for ringing in a new year of good luck and prosperity.”
For almost three decades, the Postal Service has issued stamps to recognize Lunar New Year, which is known as the Spring Festival in China and Tet in Vietnam. The colorful stamps, with their rich symbolism, are intensely popular among collectors of Asian descent.
The Postal Service’s first Lunar New Year series began with a 29¢ stamp issued Dec. 30, 1992, to ring in the Year of the Rooster (Scott 2720). Of the three tagging varieties of this stamp, one (2720c) is quite scarce. A mint, never-hinged example is valued at $125 in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.
That 29¢ issue for the Year of the Rooster marked the U.S. stamp debut of designer Clarence Lee, a Chinese-American graphic artist based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lee went on to design the remaining 11 stamps in the series, which concluded with the 37¢ Year of the Monkey stamp (Scott 3832) issued Jan. 13, 2004.
Almost one year later, on Jan. 6, 2005, Lee’s 12 Lunar New Year stamp designs were issued in a double-sided pane of 24 37¢ stamps (Scott 3895), with each design appearing twice in the pane. The designs were utilized once more in a pane of 12 39¢ stamps issued Jan. 29, 2006 (3997).
A new 12-year lunar calendar cycle began with the Year of the Rat in 2008. Because of this, the Postal Service chose not to issue a Lunar New Year stamp in 2007.
For its second Lunar New Year series that began in 2008, the USPS teamed up with Kam Mak from Brooklyn, N.Y., who provided the illustrations for Ethel Kessler’s designs.
Unlike the first 12 stamps designed by Lee, which focus on animals, the second series gives prominence to the different ways people celebrate Lunar New Year.
Mak’s painting of a cluster of red lanterns appears on the first stamp in the second Lunar New Year series, a 41¢ commemorative (Scott 4221) issued Jan. 9, 2008, in San Francisco, Calif.
Two pictorial first-day cancels will be made available for the 2022 Year of the Tiger forever stamp.
The black postmark will show a depiction very similar to the marginal rendition of the tiger design. The full color postmark will show a rendition of the paper illustration pictured on the stamp.
The black postmark is applied at no charge to most collector-submitted envelopes. The color postmark can be obtained by collectors on envelopes constructed from laser-safe paper. There is an order minimum of 10 envelopes with a fee of 50¢ per postmark.
The USPS Postal Bulletin provides additional ordering information.
Both the black and color postmarks are used on first-day covers prepared and sold by the Postal Service.
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