The two principal countries from which I collect new stamp issues each year, Thailand and the United States, have remained fairly quiet thus far in 2018.  Thailand Post hasn’t released anything at all since February 7 but that is about to change (I’ll dedicate the next article to the planned April releases). The United States Postal Service has had three stamp issues (one a set of ten) since I last blogged about U.S. stamps back on February 9.

The first of these was a set of ten (50¢) forever commemorative stamps picturing “Bioluminescent Life” (specifically, deep-ocean octopus, midwater jellyfish, deep-sea comb jelly, mushroom, firefly, bamboo coral, white marine worm, crown jellyfish, pale blue marine worm, and sea pen) released on February 22 at Fort Pierce, Florida, in panes of 20. Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism, a form of chemiluminescence. This occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria and terrestrial invertebrates such as fireflies. In some animals, the light is bacteriogenic, produced by symbiotic organisms such as Vibrio bacteria; in others, it is autogenic, produced by the animals themselves.

In a general sense, the principal chemical reaction in bioluminescence involves some light-emitting molecule and an enzyme, generally called the luciferin and the luciferase, respectively. Because these are generic names, the luciferins and luciferases are often distinguished by including the species or group, i.e. Firefly luciferin. In all characterized cases, the enzyme catalyzes the oxidation of the luciferin.

The first day of issue city, Fort Pierce, is home to ORCA, the Ocean Research & Conservation Association. ORCA’s CEO and Senior Scientist is Dr. Edith Widder, who took the photographs that appear on seven of the stamp images. The selvage — or area outside the stamps — features a transparent deep-sea comb jelly (photo by Gregory G. Dimijian), surrounded by images of the firefly squid (photos by Danté Fenolio). Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps and selvage from existing photographs. They were printed by Banknote Corporation of America at Browns Summit, North Carolina, with a total of 40,000,000 selft-adhesive stamps printed. The panes are printed in the following arrangementt:

  • Row 1: deep-ocean octopus and midwater jellyfish (photos by Edith Widder);
  • Row 2: deep-sea comb jelly (photo by Edith Widder), mushroom (photo by Taylor F. Lockwood);
  • Row 3: firefly (photo by Gail Shumway), bamboo coral (photo by Edith Widder);
  • Row 4: marine worm and crown jellyfish (photos by Edith Widder);
  • Row 5: marine worm (photo by Steve Haddock) sea pen (photo by Edith Widder).

On March 5, a single self-adhesive stamp was released in Springfield, Illinois to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Illinois statehood. The first Europeans to visit Illinois were the French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette in 1673, but the region was ceded to Britain after the French and Indian War. After the American Revolution, Illinois became a territory of the United States, and achieved statehood on December 3, 1818.

The stamp art features an outline of the state map with a series of yellow beams that are meant to look like rays of a rising sun. In similar fashion, the Postal People tell us “the yellows and blues symbolize the dawning of a new day as the state joins the Union. Stars, representing the first 20 states, grace the top of the stamp. The rising sun symbolizes the 21st star.” Illinois artist Michael Konetzka designed the stamp; Antonio Alcalá was the art director. They were printed by Banknote Corporation of America in Browns Summit, North Carolina, using offset printing in a quantity of 25,000,000 stamps.

The stamp is available from USPS online sales and phone outlets. Although other post offices may order them, they are being distributed automatically only to Post Offices in Illinois.

I can recall watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” as a child growing up in West Texas but I don’t remember much about it. The USPS released a single self-adhesive stamp on March 23 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, picturing the show’s host, Fred Rogers (1928-2003), The stamp also pictures King Friday XIII, a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood puppet character hailing from “The Neighborhood of Make-Believe.”

Rogers’ groundbreaking public television series inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity and honesty. Filmed in Pittsburgh and first distributed nationally in 1968 by a predecessor of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the program was innovative and unlike anything on television for children at that time. Each episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” began with its host welcoming the audience into his television house. While singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Rogers always put on his trademark cardigan, changed into sneakers and then introduced the day’s topic. He discussed many of the experiences of growing up, delicately covering everything from sharing and friendship to difficult subjects like anger, fear, divorce and death.

Derry Noyes was the art director, designer and typographer on this stamp while the artist was Walt Seng. Printed using offset by the Banknote Corporation of America in Browns Summit, North Carolina, 12,000,000 stamps were printed in panes of 20.

Currently, the United States Postal Service has two releases scheduled for April: a set of four to be issued on April 6 in order to bring awareness to the role of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education “in keeping the United States a global leader in innovation and providing new opportunities for all Americans to learn and explore the world” as well as a single Peace Rose stamp due on April 21. I’ll report more on these next month.