One of the “New Normals” that we experienced in 2020 was a huge number of delays, postponements and cancellations, a many of which are still on-going as postal services worldwide are attempting to cope with the havoc the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked on printing presses, stamp distribution and international delivery snafus.  Even something seemingly as simple as announcing the upcoming year’s stamp subjects saw a delay.  Some feared a cancellation altogether as the United States Postal Service lost billions in revenue and much confusion under their newly appointed Postmaster General.

In year’s past, the Stamp Programme announcement was a much anticipated part of National Stamp Collecting Month in October. The 2020 preliminary schedule was revealed in a press release dated 22 October 2019. Finally, the USPS announced their initial 2021 subjects, along with a few designs, on 17 November 2020 with a press release titled, “Hello, 2021”.

As always, the online forums, chatrooms, social media outlets, and club meetings brought huge numbers of naysayers come out of the woodwork to spout their feelings on how slighted they are by what the Citizen Stamps Advisory Board spent many meetings discussing before passing their recommendations on for approval. The comments run along the lines of “Uninspired” to “What a bunch of ugly stamps!” or “Why wasn’t “{insert random topic or anniversary here} marked by a stamp?”

A recent podcast by Lloyd de Vries who maintains the excellent Virtual Stamp Club website and blog, represents a typical annual viewpoint:

“The US Postal Service has announced some of the stamps it plans to issue in 2021, and it’s a good thing I know the list isn’t complete. It’s an uninspiring bunch of pop culture and playing to interest groups.”

For the full broadcast, click here:

My responses to stamp criticism are always, “If you don’t like it, you don’t need to collect it” and “You can’t please everybody.” Personally, I am still smarting over the lack of a stamp or stamps to mark last year’s centennial of the National Football League. My hometown team, the Kansas City Chiefs, won the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years and an NFL stamp would have looked great on the commemorative covers. I digress.

With the number of stamps released by the United States — not to mention other entities and topicals that I follow — I am glad that I do not feel compelled to purchase every single one of them.

Whenever the preliminary Stamp Programme is published, I scan through the designs and there are always a few that pop out as “must purchases”. For 2021, I am probably most excited about the four stamps to be released marking (finally!) the Day of the Dead (better known where I come from as Día de Muertos) which I have been trying to bring attention to for years — even here in Thailand.

I am also happy to see the Missouri statehood stamp as I lived just across the state line in Johnson County, Kansas, for many years and feel a kinship with the region (hence my Chiefs fandom). I am sure many armchair philatelists will decry the choice of Bollinger Mill State Historic Site for the design rather than, say, the Arch in St. Louis or even KC’s Arrowhead Stadium.

A few other thoughts that I had on my initial perusal of the list:

  • I hope they don’t release the Japanese-American Soldiers stamp anytime near to Pearl Harbor Day.
  • It’s great to see another “Happy Birthday” stamp after so many years.
  • Why don’t I hate the “Message Monster” stamps?
  • The Heritage Breeds stamps remind me somewhat of a certain annual set from Portugal.

I don’t hate any of the designs this year and I find them slightly more interesting overall than 2020’s selection. Your opinions will more than likely vary. I have reached a point in my life where I do not like criticism of stamps no matter what.  This hobby has room for all sorts of subjects and design executions and there are collectors who find great beauty and enjoyment in what others find plain, amateurish or downright atrocious  As I said before and will say many times again, nobody is forcing anyone to collect anything that you do not want to.

With all of the preamble out of the way, here is the USPS press release of 17 November 2020, along with my formatting of these initially revealed subjects and designs, as well as a few more recent additions and release date announcements.  Enjoy (or not!)….

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Postal Service today revealed several new stamps to be issued in 2021.

“A handwritten letter shows the recipient how much you care. The stamp you choose to adorn your envelope adds an extra important touch,” said U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Director William Gicker. “The new 2021 stamps are designed to look beautiful on your envelopes, to be educational and to appeal to collectors and pen pals around the world. As always, the program offers a variety of subjects celebrating American culture and history, and this year, we made a special effort to include a little fun.”

The 2021 stamp program commemorates Missouri statehood, Japanese Americans who fought in World War II and Chien-Shiung Wu, one of the most influential American nuclear physicists of the 20th century. Fun issuances include Western Wear, Backyard Games, Espresso Drinks, a stamp showcasing a visual riddle, and four Message Monster stamps with self-adhesive accessories. The program also includes Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses, the last of the popular Lighthouse stamp series.

This is a partial list of the 2021 stamp program. All stamp designs are preliminary and subject to change.”

PLEASE NOTE: The full, up-to-date schedule is now maintained on the 2021 Stamp Programme Page here.



14 January 2021

Love (1 Forever Rate stamp)

The Postal Service continues its popular Love series with a new stamp in 2021. The stamp art features a lighthearted and colorful digital illustration with the word “LOVE” and three large hearts shown in an unconventional palette of color duos, strikingly set against a dark blue background. Greg Breeding was art director; Bailey Sullivan created the original art and designed the stamp.

24 January 2021

Brush Rabbit (1 Additional Ounce Rate stamp; 2 formats – sheet and coil)

The Postal Service features a brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani) on this beautiful new additional-ounce stamp, available on a pane of 20 or in a coil of 100. The pencil-and-watercolor illustration is from preexisting artwork by designer and illustrator Dugald Stermer. The brush rabbit is a small brownish cottontail rabbit of the U.S. West Coast and Baja California, Mexico. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp.


24 January 2021

Barns (4 Postcard Rate stamps; 2 formats – sheet and coil)

Four new postcard stamps celebrate the beauty and history of American barns. With differing qualities of light and color, each piece reflects one of the four seasons: a round barn surrounded by the hazy light and warm colors of fall, a gambrel-roofed barn in summer, a forebay barn in an early spring countryside, and a Western barn on a winter’s night. Ashley Walton designed the stamps with original artwork by Kim Johnson. Greg Breeding was the art director.


24 January 2021

Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine FL (1 Priority Mail Rate stamp and pre-stamped envelope)

The latest Priority Mail stamp celebrates the oldest masonry fortification in the United States, the Castillo de San Marcos, in St. Augustine, Florida. The stamp art features a digital illustration of the fortress based on a contemporary photograph. With a view toward the northeast corner of the fortress, the artwork captures it in the golden glow of sunrise over Matanzas Bay. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp with art created by Dan Cosgrove.


28 January 2021

Black Heritage – August Wilson (1 Forever Rate stamp)

Award-winning playwright August Wilson is receiving one of the nation’s highest honors when he takes center stage on a Forever stamp. One of America’s greatest playwrights, Wilson is hailed as a trailblazer for helping to bring nonmusical African American drama to the forefront of American theater. Wilson collected innumerable accolades for his work, including seven New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards; a Tony Award, for 1987’s “Fences”; and two Pulitzer Prizes, for “Fences” and 1990’s “The Piano Lesson.”


02 February 2021

Lunar New Year – Year of the Ox (1 Forever Rate stamp)

In 2021, the Postal Service will issue the second of 12 stamps in a new series of Lunar New Year stamps. Calling to mind the elaborately decorated masks used in the dragon or lion dances often performed during Lunar New Year parades, these three-dimensional masks are a contemporary take on the long tradition of paper-cut folk art crafts created during this auspicious time of year. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp with original art by Camille Chew.


11 February 2021

Chien-Shiung Wu (1 Forever Rate stamp)

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) was one of the most influential nuclear physicists of the 20th century. During a career that spanned more than 40 years in a field dominated by men, she established herself as the authority on conducting precise and accurate research to test fundamental theories of physics. Art Director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp with original art by Kam Mak.


To Be Announced

Garden Beauty (10 Forever Rate stamps in booklet of 20)

Garden Beauty celebrates America’s love of flowers and gardens with 10 new stamp designs in a booklet of 20. The stamps include a pink flowering dogwood; a rose-pink and white tulip; an allium, or ornamental onion; a pink and white Asiatic lily; a magenta dahlia; a yellow and pink American lotus; a pink moth orchid with mottled petals; a pink and white sacred lotus; an orange and yellow tulip; and a yellow moth orchid with a pink center. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamps with existing photographs by Allen Rokach.


To Be Announced

Mystery Message (1 Forever Rate stamp)

The new Mystery Message stamp will put your sleuthing skills to the test. Featuring bright colors and interesting shapes, the stamp design is a visual riddle spelling out a message. Each colorful square contains a letter in an interesting pattern. The patterns, though seemingly random, were carefully placed so that when put all together, the message reads, “MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE!” Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp.


To Be Announced

Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly (1 Non-Machineable Surcharge stamp)

The Colorado hairstreak graces the eighth nonmachinable butterfly stamp for use on irregularly sized envelopes, such as square greeting cards, invitations or announcements. The stamp art is a highly stylized, simplified image of a Colorado hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus). Artist Tom Engeman created the stamp art. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp.


To Be Announced

Backyard Games (8 Forever Rate stamps)

These stamps capture many of the games Americans play for outdoor fun. A pane of 16 stamps features eight unique designs including: badminton, bocce, cornhole, croquet, flying disc, horseshoes, tetherball and a variation on pick-up baseball. Greg Breeding was the art director. Mike Ryan designed the stamps with original artwork by Mick Wiggins.


To Be Announced

Day of the Dead (4 Forever Rate stamps)

In recent decades, Day of the Dead has caught on in the United States as a festive and increasingly popular celebration for all ages. These new stamps will be the first issued by the U.S. Postal Service to mark this holiday. Luis Fitch designed and illustrated the stamps. Antonio Alcalá was the art director.


To Be Announced

Heritage Breeds (10 Forever Rate stamps)

These stamps pay tribute to heritage breeds, preindustrial farm animals that are enjoying renewed attention for their versatility, adaptability and unique genetic traits. This pane of 20 stamps includes photographs of 10 heritage breeds: the American Mammoth Jackstock donkey, the Narragansett turkey, the Cayuga duck, the San Clemente Island goat, the Mulefoot hog, the Cotton Patch goose, the American Cream draft horse, the Barbados Blackbelly sheep, the Milking Devon cow and the Wyandotte chicken. Zack Bryant designed the stamps with photographs by Aliza Eliazarov. Greg Breeding served as art director.


To Be Announced

Raven Story (1 Forever Rate stamp)

Merging traditional artwork with modern design touches, this stamp depicts one of many stories about Raven, a figure of great significance to the Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast. Among the cultures of the region, Raven plays an essential role in many traditional tales, including stories about the creation of the world. Inspired by the traditional story of Raven setting free the sun, the moon and the stars, Tlingit/Athabascan artist Rico Worl depicts Raven just as he escapes from his human family and begins to transform back into his bird form. Antonio Alcalá served as art director.


To Be Announced

Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII (1 Forever Rate stamp)

With this commemorative stamp, the Postal Service recognizes the contributions of Japanese American soldiers, some 33,000 altogether, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. The stamp, printed in the intaglio method, is based on a photograph. “Go for Broke” was the motto of the all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team and came to represent all Japanese American units formed during World War II. The stamp was designed by art director Antonio Alcalá.


To Be Announced

Western Wear (4 Forever Rate stamps)

The U.S. Postal Service celebrates the enduring legacy of Western wear with four fun new Forever stamps in a booklet of 20. The stamp art features four graphic illustrations of Western wear staples — a cowboy hat, a cowboy boot with a spur, a Western shirt, and a belt buckle featuring a longhorn head. Each image is framed by elements common to the American West and iconography of the region, including cacti, snakes, roses and stars. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps with original art by Ryan Feerer.


To Be Announced

Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses (5 Forever Rate stamps)

The long-running series celebrating American lighthouses continues with five new stamps. The mid-Atlantic lighthouses featured in this issuance are: Thomas Point Shoal, MD; Montauk Point, NY; Harbor of Refuge, DE; Navesink, NJ; and Erie Harbor Pierhead, PA. The late Howard Koslow was the artist for these stamps as well as previous issuances in the Lighthouse series. Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses were the last stamps he illustrated for the Postal Service. The art director was Greg Breeding.


To Be Announced

Missouri Statehood (1 Forever Rate stamp)

This stamp celebrates the bicentennial of Missouri statehood. Missouri became the 24th state in the Union on Aug. 10, 1821. The stamp art is an existing photograph of Bollinger Mill State Historic Site by noted landscape photographer Charles Gurche. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp.


To Be Announced

Message Monsters (4 Forever Rate stamps in booklet of 20)

The four fun designs on this new pane of 20 stamps invite interactivity with dozens of self-adhesive accessories that personalize your cards, letters and envelopes for delighted recipients. Decorations include hearts, hats, voice balloons, flowers and thought bubbles. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the pane with new illustrations by Elise Gravel.


To Be Announced

Espresso Drinks (4 Forever Rate stamps)

America’s love of coffee is celebrated with four new stamps in a booklet of 20. Four digital illustrations feature cups of four different drinks: caffe latte, espresso, caffe mocha and cappuccino. The names of the espresso drinks appear in art-deco-inspired lettering above or below each cup. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps with original artwork by Terry Allen.


To Be Announced

Happy Birthday (1 Forever Rate stamp)

This Happy Birthday stamp conveys exuberant greetings by calling to mind the childhood excitement of a birthday party. Each of the five letters in the word “HAPPY” is inspired by a different party decoration in the midst of a flurry of multicolored ribbons and confetti. This stamp was designed by Lisa Catalone Castro and Rodolfo Castro, featuring a digital illustration by the latter. Ethel Kessler served as art director.


Please visit the United States 2021 stamp programme page as I update the schedule with links to the individual posts about the stamps throughout the year.

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