1997 Boris Karloff in Frankenstein – Classic Movie Monsters
- Honors Boris Karloff in his role as Frankenstein’s monster
- Part of the Classic Movie Monsters Series – one of USPS’s efforts to get young people interested in stamp collecting
- Issued at the beginning of Stamp Collecting Month
- Includes scrambled indicia
Classic Movie Monsters
32¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
September 30, 1997
First Day City:
Universal City, California
Printed for Stamp Venturers by J.W. Fergusson & Sons of Richmond Virginia with Scrambled Indicia by Graphic Security Systems Corporation of Lake Worth, Florida
Photogravure, Scrambled Indicia
Panes of 20 (Vertical 5 across, 4 down)
10.2 x 10.1
Overall tagging that stops short of each margin, leaving 14 outside stamps partly untagged
Why the stamp was issued:
To honor “Classic Movie Monster,” Frankenstein’s monster, and actor Boris Karloff who famously played the character.
About the stamp design:
Pictures a portrait by artist Thomas Blackshear (previous stamp artist for the 1990 Classic Films, 1993 Joe Louis, and 1995 Jazz Musicians stamps). Blackshear later said creating the stamp art was a “treat” because “monsters have always been a passion with me. I used to collect Famous Monsters of Filmland
when I was a kid… Also, I had almost every monster model kit that was ever put out.”
The name of the actor is printed in small white dropout type with the character’s name in large, brightly colored lettering suggestive of classic movie posters.
The stamp includes a hidden image only viewable with a special stamp decoder. Scrambled indicia was a new tactic used by the USPS beginning with the 1997 US Air Force stamp to attempt to combat counterfeiting. This stamp pictures bolts of electricity when viewed with the decoder.
First Day City:
The First Day of Issue Ceremony for these stamps was held at Universal Studios, Hollywood, in California.
About the Classic Movie Monsters set:
These five stamps were issued to kick off Stamp Collecting Month and honor “Classic Movie Monsters” from Universal Studios films and the actors who played them. The set was also part of the USPS’s efforts to attract young people to stamp collecting.
On the pane of 20, there are photographs of the actors on either side of the “Classic Movie Monsters” inscription along with each actor’s signature. All five stamps include scrambled indicia. Here are the hidden images that can be seen on each:
Phantom of the Opera – Floating masks
Dracula – Bats
Frankenstein – Bolts of electricity
Mummy – Ancient Egyptian gods/goddesses
Wolf Man – Howling wolves
History the stamp represents:
In 1931, the movie Frankenstein
made its shocking debut as the first major horror movie with sound. Based on Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus
, published in 1818, it is the story of Dr. Frankenstein, a scientist who creates a living being from the bodies of the dead. Despite his noble intentions, Frankenstein creates a monster.
Assembled from body parts stolen from graveyards, the monster is brought to life when Frankenstein raises him through. A hole in the roof of his laboratory and he is struck by lightning. When the creature is lowered to the floor and begins to move, Dr. Frankenstein cries, “It’s alive!”
Despite his hulking size and revolting appearance, the monster is actually a gentle creature. Although he is responsible for drowning a little girl, the tragedy is due only to his childlike ignorance of the world.
Boris Karloff was the talented actor who brought the monster to life. With a delicacy of expression unexpected from a character so grotesque, his performance inspires feelings of pity and compassion. When the monster meets his end in a burning windmill, the mood is tragic. The role brought Karloff worldwide fame, and launched his 20-year career as the king of horror films.