1997 55¢ Swans
Booklet Pane of 20
Issue Date: February 4, 1997
City: Los Angeles, CA
Printed By: Banknote Corp. of America
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: die cut 11.6 x 11.8
The 15th installment in the popular Love series, the Swan stamps are the first of the series that do not incorporate the word "love" in their design. The 55¢ stamp was intended for wedding invitations, which sometimes weigh up to two ounces. It is horizontal, rather than vertical to differentiate it from the 32¢ stamp.
Valentine’s Day brings to mind images of hearts, roses, and cupids – all of which have appeared on past Love stamps. This year’s stamp however, shows two swans. Pictured in a head to head posture with their bent necks creating the shape of a heart, these graceful water birds are a highly appropriate symbol of love.
There are many stories and legends associated with Valentine’s Day, one of which is the European belief that on February 14th of each year the birds chose their mates. Shakespeare and other writers of his day mention this in their writings. Chaucer wrote in his Parliament of Foules, “For this was Seynt Valentine’s Day when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”
Interestingly, swans are among the few species of birds that mate for life. When they are 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 posturing 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, and most young swans remain with their families until they choose a mate.