The US Postal Service recently released a stamp to mark the forthcoming Year of the Pig, marking the 12th annual year of Lunar New Year themed “Forever Stamps” and fulfilling a campaign that started in 2008 (the Year of the Rat). And sure, that might not get your pulse racing, but wait ’til you’ve seen the designs.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the images used over the years along with a little bit of the history behind the series. Y’know, for your inner philatelist you didn’t know existed.
The first Lunar New Year Forever Stamp was designed by artist Clarence Lee for the 1993 Year of the Rooster.
The idea for the stamp series was birthed in the 1980s after Jean Chen, a member of the Organization of Chinese Americans, reportedly stumbled across a troubling depiction of the transcontinental railroad in a history book, only showing pictures of white workers. In response, he urged the USPS to make stamps giving representation to Chinese Americans, calculating that — what was then an image seen on a daily basis by millions of Americans — could help change perceptions.
The 1993 stamp lead to over 5 million USD in revenue, and was popular among stamp collectors in China as well. Due to the success of the 1993 stamp, the USPS continued the series over the following years, starting with this pretty damn cute 1994 Year of the Dog stamp.
In 2008, the USPS reignited the 12-year stamp cycle with a series of “Forever Stamp” designs that drew on traditional Lunar New Year elements such as firecrackers, dragon dancers, and oranges below. The artist behind this series is Kam Mak, the son of Chinese immigrants to America.
Here’s the updated Year of the Dog stamp, for example:
You can let your inner philatelist out and get into the CNY, as you enjoy the beauty of these Lunar New Year stamps issued both from 1993- 2004 and from 2008-2019.
1995, 2019 – Year of the Pig
1996, 2008 – Year of the Rat
1997, 2009 – Year of the Ox
1998, 2010 – Year of the Tiger
The artist even included some personal elements in his stamp designs. This one from 2010 included flowers that most people might not automatically associate with the New Year. “It was something that my grandmother would cultivate right before the Lunar New Year,” Mak says in an interview with LA Times. “As a little boy I’d help her. And the fragrance from the flower reminds me Lunar New Year is coming and always brings back really fond memories of being with my grandma.”
1999, 2011 – Year of the Rabbit
2000, 2012 – Year of the Dragon
2001, 2013 – Year of the Snake
2002, 2014 – Year of the Horse
2003, 2015 – Year of the Sheep
2004, 2016 – Year of the Monkey
And finally, here’s this year’s offering:
All pictures from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, National Postal Museum branch.
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