Amateur astronomers are excited about the total solar eclipse set to appear (or disappear?) on August 21. This is the first time in 99 years a total solar eclipse will cross the entire United States.
Capitalizing on the public’s excitement, the U.S. Postal Service recently revealed a new stamp to mark the event, set for a June 20 release date. Place your finger or thumb on the stamp, which shows the eclipse, and it transforms into an image of the moon. The image reverts to the eclipse once it cools. This magic is made possible by the use of thermochromic ink — the first U.S. stamp application of the technology.
Along with the excitement, however, have come some questions from the stamp collecting community. A recent Linn’s Stamp News article noted it remains to be seen how the Postal Service’s postmark inks react with the unusual thermochromic ink and the special process used to print the stamp. Another question is how stamp collectors might display their eclipse covers if they worry about people constantly putting fingers on the stamps while viewing their collections.
The Postal Service always has to strike that fine balance between getting creative to spark an interest in stamp collecting among the younger generation with the more traditionalist approach generally associated with the philatelic community. We saw it with the Elvis stamp in the 1990s and again a few years ago with the Harry Potter stamp.
The controversy around the Harry Potter stamp reached a fever pitch in late 2013 when traditionalists balked at the blatant commercialism of the stamp, not to mention that he wasn’t even American! Others, however, felt it was high time for cultural icons to be presented on stamps.
In fact, our 2013 blog on the Harry Potter stamp is among our most popular in recent years, with the more than 200 comments roughly equally split between pros and cons.
The eclipse stamp isn’t nearly so controversial but does demonstrate how new technologies might change the face of stamps. Is that good, bad, or irrelevant? You tell us. We’d like to hear what you think about the new stamp, pictured above. And while you’re at it, tell us what other kinds of stamps you would like to see issued.