Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stamps of Approval

When I was young I collected stamps, probably because my dad had a stamp collection. My favorites were the triangular stamps from Hungary that always said "Magyar Posta" on them. They usually had the best graphics...or maybe I just liked them because they weren't rectangular.

Every time I go to the post office intending to buy stamps (usually intended for envelopes mailing payments for due bills), I envision myself making a quick purchase of a "book" of 20 simple rectangles picturing either the American flag or the Liberty Bell. But when I get there, inevitably I end up buying TWO sheets (or "panes", as the USPS calls them) of beautifully-designed pieces of art, one to use, and one to save. The first time I remember this happening was in 2002 when the irresistible Andy Warhol stamps were issued. Then again, in 2005, a pane of Greta Garbo stamps caught my eye. These stamps not only had an engraved look, but they were also textured...tactile. Again...irresistible.

So my most recent trip to buy stamps produced this lovely sheet: a pane of stamps picturing 12 beautifully-designed everyday objects, which the postal clerk referred to as the "kitchen stamps".

These stamps feature products designed by pioneers of American industrial design. My favorites: the Henry Dreyfuss Model 302 Bell desk telephone and the Norman Bel Geddes Patriot radio, designed for Emerson.

One other stamp that caught my eye was the jazz tribute stamp, designed by Howard Paine and illustrated by Paul Rogers. It features not just a perfect color palette and choice of typeface, but also makes you feel like you can hear the music playing.

In a day and age where most letters are now sent electronically, the USPS is still doing a good job of selling people like me who buy them not to use, but to keep as pieces of art.

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