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Love Issues Have Been Popular Subjects

by Marjory J. Sente

Nothing makes a stamp show more exciting than a first-day ceremony. And the one last month for the first day of issue for the nondenominated (34c) Love Letters booklet stamps was no exception.

The new stamp celebrating the cherished tradition of love letters was issued Jan. 19, in Tucson, Ariz., at the Arizona Philatelic Exposition (Aripex). Its non-denominated design was valued at 34c to pay the new first-class letter rate.

Two additional versions, one with the same design and format bearing a printed 34c denomination, and another, complimentary horizontally formatted stamp paying the 55c two-ounce letter rate, were issued Feb. 14 - Valentine's Day - in Lovejoy, Ga. At that same time and place, new 34c Lovebirds stamped envelopes were issued in No. 6 ? and No. 10 sizes.

At Aripex, in keeping with the Love theme, roses were distributed to the women and chocolates to the men who attended the first-day ceremony. The first-day program included a 'love note,' and a Barber Shop Quartet (actually made up of eight men) harmoniously serenaded the attendees with a selection of love songs.

The U.S. Love stamp series has a rich history that compliments personal memories and milestones of many people.

Giving the remarks at this ceremony, Gordon Morrison related how hesitant he was to take the design of the first U.S. Love stamp for approval to his boss, Postmaster General El-mer T. Klassen, because it had such a modern design.

His boss loved it, and the stamp was issued in Philadelphia, Pa., on Jan. 26, 1973. Printed in bright purple, green and red, the 8c stamp featured the famous Love sculpture by Robert Indiana.

The 1990 25c Love stamp, sporting folk art-style love birds, has always been a personal favorite of mine. Issued at Romance, Ark., on Jan. 18, 1990, it became the subject of a number of my stenciling projects.

The (32c) Cherub stamps issued Feb. 1, 1995, based on details from the Sistine Madonna by Raphael, were the first Love adhesives issued without a printed value. They debuted at Valentines, Va., proving that you can't put a price on an angel!

The die-cut version of this design was also the first American Love stamp issued in a self-adhesive format. Later in the year, on May 12, the design was reissued with 32c and 55c values.

Since I planned to attend the first-day ceremony for the new 2001 issue, I decided to make some cacheted FDCs. I was intrigued that the background of the new issue was an excerpt from a letter written by John Adams to Abigail Smith, the woman who would become his wife, so I decided to use the same text for the cachet.

First, I typed the text into a Word document, I then formatted it for a No. 10 size envelope and changed the font to script.

In the first version, I let the text extend the full length of the envelope.

For the next generation of cachets, I put the text into a flush right and left block on the left side of the envelope, and added the title 'Love Letters.'

The third generation of FDCs was prepared on No. 6 ? size envelopes.

Along the way, I also played with the color of the type, thus creating additional cachet varieties for this issue.

With the versatility of a computer, it is possible to use a limited number of textual and visual elements in combination to make a wide variety of cacheted covers, no two of which are exactly the same.

By the time I was done playing, I felt like a 21st-century Harry C. Ioor. Making printed cachets from the 1920s through the '40s, Ioor was notorious for producing many variations on a basic design.

There was a nearly endless variety of possible combination FDCs for this issue. Among the most likely were ones using adhesives featuring John and Abigail Adams or Love stamps of prior years.

I, however, decided to make combo covers using the 1974 10c Universal Postal Union commemoratives.

Some of the stamps in the series included the notation, 'Letters Mingle Souls.' These were the first older U.S. issues that I thought of when I read the press release on the new Love Letters stamps.

The following day at the show, the 'Love' saga continued. While I was servicing some additional FDCs, I met Dingguo Dai, a philatelic columnist and special correspondent for several publications, who was servicing FDCs that he made.

Another interesting item is a colorful and effective cachet with a reproduction of the 55c Love Letters stamp. Its background has an excerpt from a letter from Abigail to John.

Also at the bourse I found a FDC for the 1973 Love stamp that rounds out this story - a commercial FDC by Menley and James, a company in Philadelphia. The cachet is a simple text design that repeats the word 'love' in 18 typefaces.

Since that first Love stamp was issued in 1973, they have become popular U.S. issues and will long continue to be so.