1997 Swans – Love (Pane of 20)
- First Love stamp (along with the 32¢ stamp): issued self-adhesive only; without the word “Love” prominently in the design; and accompanied by a matching set of picture postal cards
- Issued in time for Valentine’s Day
- 15th issue in the popular Love Series
55¢ Two-Ounce Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
February 4, 1997
First Day City:
Los Angeles, California
Banknote Corporation of America a Browns Summit, North Carolina
Pane of 20 plus 1 nonstamp label (Horizontal, arranged vertically 3 across by 7 down)
11.6 x 11.7 (Die-cut simulated perforations)
Why the stamp was issued:
To cover the 55¢ Two-Ounce Mail rate for things like wedding invitations which tend to be heavier than regular letters.
About the stamp design:
Pictures two spans facing each other with their curved necks creating the shape of a heart. Artist Marvin Mattelson of Great Neck, New York, created the oil painting used on the stamp.
Special design details:
Mattelson did two paintings – one vertical for the 32¢ stamp and one horizontal for the 55¢ stamp. The 55¢ stamp pictures more of the swan’s bodies, which the artist created using a wooden swan figurine as reference.
First Day City:
The First Day of Issue Ceremony was held at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, California. According to the Postal Service, “Considered an exclusive romantic retreat whose corporate symbol is a swan, the Hotel Bel-Air currently is home to two pairs of swans that occupy a small lake on the property.” This made the hotel an ideal choice to release the two 1997 Love stamps.
About the Love Series:
Based on the popularity of Christmas stamps, the USPS issued its first Love stamp in 1973. It wasn’t intended to be the start of a series, and in fact, it wasn’t until 1982 that another Love stamp was issued. Love-themed stamps were issued sporadically over the next few years. The USPS stated that they weren’t intended just for Valentine’s Day mail, but also for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. In 1987, the USPS officially declared it a series, and new Love stamps have been issued virtually every year since. Love stamps are classified as “special” stamps. They are on sale longer than commemoratives, are usually printed in greater quantities, and may go back to press to meet demand.
History the stamp represents:
Valentine’s Day brings to mind images of hearts, roses, and cupids – all of which have appeared on past Love stamps. The 1997 Love stamps, however, show two swans. Pictured in a head to head posture with their curved necks creating the shape of a heart, these graceful water birds are a fitting symbol of love.
Interestingly, swans are among the few species of bird that mate for life. When they’re two to three years old, swans choose their mates during highly vocal courtship rituals. In one such ritual, called the triumph ceremony, the male and female swans face each other, raise their wings, and trumpet loudly. The head to head posture shown on the stamp is also part of a courtship ritual that bonds the swans for life (some have lived for more than 50 years). Swans also have strong family ties, with most young swans remaining with their families until they choose a mate.