Salt Lake Mailing & Printing Blog

Some of the Most Famous Stamps in USPS History

The famous Elvis stampPostage stamps evolved from necessity. In the earliest days of mail delivery in the United States, letters were sent without stamps, and the postage was paid by the recipient. Ship captains would advertise in local papers for the recipients of the stampless letters they had carried over the sea to come pay for and collect their mail. Mail continued the be sent in this haphazard way until the first adhesive postage stamps were issued by the United States government in 1847.

These first postage stamps were for practicality more than anything else, and they generally bore the bust of an American president or statesman. At the turn of the 20th century, the Post Office started issuing limited edition commemorative stamps that would gain the interest of collectors. Each commemorative stamp has a story behind it, created by designers and artists. Here are some of the most iconic stamps ever issued by the United Stated Postal Service.

The Inverted Jenny: The most famous stamp in American history was a misprint. Originally issued in 1918, the 24-cent stamp shows a biplane that was mistakenly printed upside down. Only 100 of these misprinted stamps were released to the public, and philatelists have chased them ever since. One of the remaining stamps recently sold at auction for $625,000. In 2013, the USPS reprinted the Jenny, intentionally inverted this time, in a $2 denomination.

Elvis: The most popular (in terms of number saved, not sold) commemorative stamp issued by the USPS is the 1993 Elvis stamp. Over 124 million of this colorful 29-cent stamp featuring the famous singer have been saved, nearly half again the number of the next most popular, Wonders of America, issued in 2006. Part of the success of the Elvis stamp is attributed to a survey conducted by the United Stated Postal Service. Pre-addressed ballots were available in post offices around the country, allowing people to vote on the whether they would prefer to see a heavier, older Elvis, or a younger, more slender image. More than a million ballots were received, and Young Elvis won.

The Simpsons: In what was to become the biggest commemorative stamp blunder in history, the USPS stamps featuring Homer Simpson and family fell flat. The Simpsons stamps were projected to be twice as popular as the Elvis stamp and $1.2 million was spent to print 1 billion stamps, of which only 318 million would sell, leaving some 682 million or so unsold.

Is there a stamp that sticks out in your mind? Is is because you loved it or thought it could use some improvement? Is there a commemorative stamp that hasn’t been produced but which you would like to see?

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