As has been mentioned in previous blog posts and library columns, the collections of the American Philatelic Research Library truly span a wide variety of topics as well as formats. This diversity is a testament to the varied collecting interests of our members and of philatelists in general. This month’s highlighted resource is an example of such diversity. Back in the summer during Volunteer Work Week here at the APRL, there were two volunteers who spent their time during the week sorting and inventorying this month’s special resource, stamp posters. On the second floor of the library in the Archives area is a significant collection of promotional stamp announcement posters. In the collection we have two different types of these posters.
The first type, the most commonly referenced by collectors of this unique area of philatelic miscellany, began back in 1959 when the Post Office Department starting sending to post offices 8½ by 11 inch posters announcing new stamp issues to be displayed on post office bulletin boards. This practice began with the 1959 4¢ 49 star American flag issue and continued until the 1981 17¢ Rachel Carson stamp. Initially these posters were printed only in gray, but in time were printed in a variety of colors to suit the stamp issue being announced. Printed by the Government Printing Office, the posters were also available by subscription to collectors who in some cases began affixing first day of issue stamps to them and then having the stamps cancelled at first day ceremonies. This first type of informational stamp poster can be found in the library’s collection of U.S stamp files.
The second type of stamp posters in the APRL collection is housed in lateral file cabinets in the Archives area. This collection includes the more modern U.S. Postal Service promotional type of stamp posters. The design of these posters tends to be far more colorful and less informational. This second type is produced in a wide variety of sizes from 11 by 16 inches to 24 by 36 inches and larger. These posters were primarily meant for visual display in post offices lobbies or wherever the Postal Service sought to promote the latest stamp issues. Some of these posters announce a specific stamp while others promote a collection or series of stamps.
These more recent posters were meant to more colorfully draw attention to new stamp issues as they were issued and also to more graphically introduce collectors and non-collectors alike to the wide variety of new USPS issues. Often appearing in post offices, these posters were also meant for distribution and display in places other than local post office. Although neither of these two types of posters in the library’s Archives area are available for borrowing as they are considered archival items, a researcher or collector who is interested in the posters can still can contact the library to view them in person or they can obtain a scanned copy by contacting the library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether informational or promotional, these stamp posters are very collectible and another fascinating avenue of philatelic interest and research found in the collections of the APRL.