When President Obama signed the law creating a new semipostal last September, the U.S. Postal Service had 12 months to design, print, and release a stamp that would raise funds to protect vanishing species. Considering the production realities involved, one year allowed precious little time for creative decisions.
As a semipostal, the project also faced unusual constraints. Semipostals sell for a higher price than First-Class stamps, with net proceeds benefiting a worthy cause — in this case, five conservation funds protecting Asian and African elephants, great apes, rhinoceroses, tigers, and marine turtles.
Since the idea is to raise awareness and funds, the goal for semipostals is to focus public attention on a single, iconic stamp image. It would be nearly impossible to depict six animals of such different sizes on one stamp design and achieve a powerful image. So art director Derry Noyes and the Postal Service had an important decision to make: Which animal would they feature?
From an artistic standpoint, Noyes advocated using an image of a tiger — one of the more visually striking of the animals that will benefit from stamp proceeds.
However, groups outside the Postal Service had a direct interest in the stamp’s design, since they would both promote the stamp and receive proceeds. To avoid the appearance of favoring one group’s animal over another, one solution seemed simple: an American species on an American stamp. Of the animals the fund is designed to help, only certain species of marine turtles are indigenous to the United States.
But artist Nancy Stahl, who is experienced at illustrating animal-themed stamps, recognized a possible problem. It’s challenging to depict emotion in a turtle’s face, which could mean fewer people would form an attachment to the stamp image.
In addition, stamp size posed a particular challenge for depicting the grandeur of marine turtles, which can weigh hundreds of pounds. “By trying to draw the entire animal,” Stahl continues, “he looked like those little green turtles that you used to buy in a pet store.”
As Stahl and Noyes worked to produce an attractive stamp design around the turtle, Postal Service officials met with representatives of the various conservation funds. During this meeting, the Postal Service learned something unexpected: Coalition members agreed a tiger would make the best stamp design.
“Everyone wanted the stamp to succeed because it benefits such an important cause,” says Layne Owens, stamp development specialist for Stamp Services. “So when Stamp Services managers met after the coalition meeting, we unanimously agreed that we should revisit the design. We let Derry know that she could start focusing on the tiger, as she originally proposed.”
“I’m not sure what happened, but I was thrilled,” Noyes says, “because the tiger is a gorgeous animal.”
The stamp featuring an Amur tiger cub will likely appeal to cat lovers as well as the conservation-minded. And more stamp sales means more money available for vital conservation efforts.
Net proceeds will be distributed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support the Multinational Species Conservation Funds. Silhouettes of animals representing each fund appear in the selvage of the stamp sheet. In addition, text describing the efforts of each conservation group appears on the back of the pane.
Like all semipostal releases, the stamp will remain available for at least two years before vanishing from the market. And every stamp helps prevent the day when these species might vanish from the earth.
Learn more about the imperiled species supported by the Save Vanishing Species™ semipostal by visiting the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website: www.fws.gov/international/semipostal.