"Clever" and "tried-and-true" might be the best ways to describe next year's stamps. Several of the issues will have gimmicks, while others will be part of long-running series.
"It's really a very good, diverse program with a lot of fun elements, a lot of serious elements," David E. Failor, executive director of Stamp Services for the U.S. Postal Service, told CBSNews.com.
Members of the philatelic press were given an advance look at the 2007 U.S. commemorative stamps during a briefing at a major stamp-collecting show in Rosemont, Ill., in August.
Since then, the Postal Service added a Love stamp to the program early in the year. Titled "Love and Kisses," it features the foil-wrapped chocolate candy, although without the brand name. Three years ago, the Love stamp featured the candy hearts made by Necco, the New England Confectionery Company.
Love and Kisses is one of only a few stamps to be issued in the first third of the year. Much of the 2007 stamp program will be pushed into the spring and summer, because the Postal Service expects to implement a rate increase in the late spring.
"We're kind of reluctant to really issue stamps, say, two months before the rate changes because once the rate changes, people just don't want to buy stamps that have the old denomination," said Failor.
The 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia will be marked with triangular stamps — because the settlement was triangular. There will be one stamp on the face of the sheet, along with a painting by Griffith Baily Coale of the settlement. On the back, 19 more stamps of the same design will be arrayed, 16 of them in blocks of four, with the other three forming a trapezoid.
Because the quadricentennial occurs in May, the stamp will be released then, although most likely at the new rate, which is expected to be 42 cents.
Another clever issue is Pollination, four stamps forming blocks of four. Arranged one way, the four plants (prairie or common ironweed, saguaro flower, hummingbird trumpet blossom and purple or chaparral nightshade) are at the center, while a Southern dogface butterfly, lesser long-nosed bat, calliope hummingbird and Morrison's bumble bees are in the corners.
In the other, which will be on the opposite side of the booklet of stamps, the fauna are at the center, and the four plants are in the corners. Look for those in September.
Some popular series also continue: Ella Fitzgerald will be the subject for Black Heritage, Longfellow for Literary Arts, James Stewart for Legends of Hollywood, the lighthouses series shines again, this time with Pacific Coast beacons, and the fourth Disney set, in what was originally supposed to be a three-year series, will feature magic: Mickey Mouse as "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," Dumbo and Timothy Mouse, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, and Aladdin and the Genie.
The second of two comic book superheroes sets features Marvel Comics: Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Captain America and others. Some comic aficionados, though, are wondering why The Mighty Thor was left out. Ten characters will be portrayed, along with 10 comic book covers.
The first stamp of the year will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma Statehood. Although the centennial and the events celebrating it aren't until much later in the year, the Oklahoma Centennial Commission wanted the stamp issued earlier in the year so that it could be used leading up to the festivities.
The lettering at the top right of this stamp is "Oh, what a beautiful morning...." from the Broadway musical "Oklahoma!"
The design is a scene by artist Mike Larsen, showing the view from his back porch: The Cimarron River snaking through the marshes at sunrise. Stamp collectors who have seen the design don't think it really represents the state. The 1957 Oklahoma Statehood stamp featured a map, an arrow and an atomic energy symbol.
In 2007, the "social awareness" stamp is jury duty. It features two horizontal rows of head silhouettes in different colors, with the text "serve with pride." Such an issue had been requested by judges who had written the Postal Service.
"We look at it as one of those really good grassroots stamps that every post office can do something to celebrate with their local judges," Failor said.
Another "issues" stamp commemorates the 1944 Mendez v. Westminster School District decision, which overcame school segregation for Mexican-American children and laid the groundwork for the civil rights landmark ruling Brown v. Board of Education a decade later.
The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee looks for subjects that "were the landmark things that formed the United States today," said John Hotchner, a State Department employee who is probably the best-known stamp collector on the committee.
The non-religious Christmas stamps feature "holiday knits," pictures of holiday icons (Santa, snowman, bear and Christmas tree). A new religious Christmas stamp is based on a painting of the Madonna and Child by Bernardino Luini that hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
One of the more unusual subjects is Vintage Mahogany Speedboats built between 1915 and 1954. That will probably make the United States unique among stamp-issuing countries, said Hotchner.
Other issues include the International Polar Year and, later in 2007, individual stamps for the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, because USPS Stamp Services liked the artwork for the IPY issue so much; a Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window in the American Treasures series; new wedding stamps; and the Nature of America: Alpine Tundra (Rocky Mountains).
Missing from the 2007 stamp program was an issue for the Lunar New Year (Year of the Boar). Failor said there is sufficient stock of Clarence Lee's cut-paper designs, reissued earlier this year at the 39-cent rate, to carry through the New Year celebrations.
By Lloyd A. de Vries