Stamps are significant because they depict much of its cultural history; these tiny pieces of paper represent and promote national heritage. Their designs are usually historical events or the president’s portraits; you’ll be amazed to know that the themes are endless; you can find your favorite tv shows and even many celebrities. But have you ever wondered what the most sold postage stamp in US history is? Well, the amazing Elvis Presley has this honor, and below you’ll find more about postage stamps and how Elvis appeared in the mailing service.
A quick recap on US stamp’s history
As you may know, postage stamps are used to pay postage fees to deliver letters and packages, and the sender pays that rate. In the US, the United States Postal Service (USPS) gives each postage stamp a specific value and design. Despite its utility in mailing, I’m sure you’re wondering what’s the importance of postage stamps besides helping us deliver our stuff.
Initially, letters didn’t have stamps, and the recipient paid the mail fees; with time, that changed, and so did the postal stamps. The first stamp designs were pictures of presidents and statesmen, but in the early 20th century, more stamps were issued to gain public and collector’s attention. Of course, every printing has an extraordinary story and a talented team behind its creation, especially one unique like Elvis’ stamp.
America’s most sold stamp
As stated above, the most famous postal stamp in the United States is the gorgeous and iconic singer Elvis Presley. The USPS issued approximately 517 million units of this unforgettable printing on January 8, 1993, representing a massive success for the American institution. The Postal Service chose Elvis to depict the 29 cents version of this stamp, and numbers estimate that they sold around 124 million stamps nationwide.
The Elvis portrait in the mailing stamps was transcendent because the mailing service later created a Legends of American Music series. With that significant popularity, he was first in that collection, but how exactly “The King of Rock and Roll” was in a stamp? Well, keep reading to find out every detail of this landmark moment.
The idea of honoring Elvis
On a dark day for Rock and Roll lovers, we lost our king in 1977; since then, his fans worldwide have tried to honor Elvis’ legacy. Of course, his US followers weren’t far behind and claimed a stamp to immortalize a legend like Presley from the first moment of his absence. Luckily, the US Postal Service leaders heard their pleadings, and almost two decades after his death, they considered him for a postage stamp for the first time. It wasn’t until 1988 when a postmaster suggested that Elvis, along with other significant musicians in American history, may appear on a stamp at some point.
Although back then it wasn’t confirmed the appearance of this iconic man on the USPS, fans couldn’t contain their excitement. Of course, not everyone was pleased; there were some controversies about using a figure with a long history of drug abuse. Some people were not okay with the idea of having as a postage stamp someone who wasn’t exactly a role model for society. After that debate, the USPS finally decided on January 7, 1992, that Elvis Presley would be the next image in a new stamp collection to honor American musicians.
The announcement came with many surprises because Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank informed the country that they could decide on the stamp design. Unfortunately, there weren’t many options; just two; one version of young Elvis and the other of old Elvis. There had to be a winner, so the postmaster said that the USPS was planning to install ballots to make voting easier.
Creating the perfect design
The artwork creation wasn’t an easy task; that’s why the Postal Service carefully entrusted it to two talented artists, Mark Stutzman and John Berkey. Mark was in charge of the young version of Elvis, and regarding the technique, he used an airbrush and acrylic on board. The final result of his painting was flawless and undoubtedly recreated a colorful and vivid portrait of the singer; many people fell in love with this portrait.
On the other hand, John painted an old and more mature Elvis using oil on board, and his version was also superb. He perfectly understood the assignment; the colors were also colorful but more solid, creating a realistic image of the king. Both artists demonstrated their skills and talent, but unfortunately, only one of these masterpieces was allowed to be chosen by the American public.
Public reaction and opinions
Despite the tremendous successful career of the American singer, there were different opinions and reactions in the United States. Many of them were pleased with the idea of Presley being depicted in one of the US classical and cultural representations. On the contrary, others didn’t find the great news so well and exciting in their patriot mindset. Those opponents believed it wasn’t correct to have a singer with so much polemic in his life on a postage stamp.
Some dissidents thought he wasn’t a role model for society for his many controversies on drug-taking and personal scandals; that’s why some individuals were shocked and outraged. Nevertheless, they weren’t the only ones to doubt the worth of having an Elvis stamp, Members of the US Congress also debated that idea. Newspapers also expressed different thoughts, and even some people like comedians and cartoonists took advantage of this situation to make fun of Elvis, the USPS, and the political candidates. Luckily, the discontent of a minority of people didn’t represent an obstacle in the commemorative postal stamp voting and publication.
Selection and launch of the postage stamp design
Despite the euphoria for the new stamp, the balloting period wasn’t too long, and it went from April 4 to April 26, 1992. The day came, and the Postal Service printed around 5 million ballots in different post offices across the country. The excitement was so popular that even the renowned People magazine published in one of its editions another 4 million more ballots.
As was expected, many vital figures participated in this poll; for example, the then-presidential nominee Bill Clinton wisely chose the young Elvis. By the end of the voting time, there were approximately 1.228 million votes, and the winner was Elvis painted by Mark Stutzman. According to statistics, 75% of American voters preferred the young and handsome image of the “King of Rock and Roll”.
The big day
To commemorate what would have been the 58th birthday of the king, the stamp was first seen on January 8, 1993, by the world and attendants. The revelation occurred at a crucial spot in Elvis’s life: his big and luxurious Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. The ceremony was celebrated massively in the former home of Elvis, and many prominent people showed up there to pay tribute to him. Among the audience were Elvis’ former wife, Priscilla Presley, and their daughter, Lisa Marie, seated in the front row to celebrate him.
Even though the weather was awful that day, that didn’t stop the crowds of fans from stopping by and being part of that historic day. Unfortunately, only 800 lucky people got a seat at the event, and the rest had to wait and witness everything from the streets. The celebrations started very early that day, some selected bands had the honor to perform at the event, and other privileged ones gave emotional speeches. However, one of the most unforgettable launch moments was when everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to the American idol, followed by an incredible fireworks show.
If that wasn’t enough, the Graceland manor produced around 35,000 special envelopes commemorating the date, and they quickly sold out within hours. Of course, the extraordinary things that happened at the launch had full media coverage and perfectly immortalized that day’s many remarkable acts and personalities. Without any hesitation, the event for the commemorative Elvis stamp went down in history and will continue to be remembered by future generations.
Elvi’s postage stamp legacy
As previously mentioned, this postal stamp’s impact was enormous in the United States, just like Presley’s whole career and talent. The over 500 million units the USPS printed were three times more than the run they usually did for a commemorative stamp. This fact highlights the anticipated success of this stamp, and eventually, it became the most publicized and sold in the country.
After the excellent public marvelously accepted the king stamp, the USPS decided to create a special edition called “The Legends of American Music”. This collection aimed to commemorate the life and legacy of other transcendental music icons like Elvis Presley and made him the pioneer in that exciting project.
An outlook on Elvis’s life
We already go deeper into the best-selling commemorative postage stamp in US history, but do you know more about Elvis Presley’s impact? I’m sure you heard and knew him through one of his amazing songs and portraits, in which he always looked gorgeous. However, it would be essential to dig a little into Elvis’ life, so we can better understand how he consolidated as a whole generation’s symbol and global superstar in the 1950s.
Elvis was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, where he spent most of his childhood with his family as an only child. Sadly, life wasn’t easy in Elvis’s early years; his family struggled with many problems, like financial issues and his father’s situation in jail. His family struggles were why Elvis was a shy and quiet child who was very close to his mom and grandmother.
Interest in music
At a very young age, he was interested in music; people often complimented him for his lovely and fantastic voice whenever he sang. Not long after his 10th birthday, he received his first guitar, his best friend in the upcoming years that will approach him into the music industry. He eventually moved to Memphis and recorded his first song with the help of three local musicians, and suddenly the song was on the radio on its way to becoming a hit. After that, the rest is history; Elvis signed his first contract while his songs were at the top of the charts.
Career and style
Elvis was a rising star thanks to his music and style; his work combined country and gospel genres. He also demonstrated his talent as an outstanding dancer and gained the title of “The King of Rock and Roll” for funding that genre. Every time he was on TV, he was a sensation; people were thrilled to see his performances.
However, the king was so talented that he didn’t only make his way in the music field but also in the Hollywood industry. In 1956 he made his first appearance in the movie; “Love Me Tender”, and by the end of his career, he had done more than 30 films.
Personal life and death
There were so many girls in love with Elvis, but only Priscilla Presley won his heart; she married him in 1967 and later had a daughter with him, Lisa Marie. Unfortunately, fame was massive pressure on Elvis, leading him to use drugs. This addiction deteriorated his health and caused his heart failure death and increased weight on August 16, 1977.
Summarize on the best-selling commemorative postage stamp in US history
Elvis’ impact was tremendous in the United States and worldwide, so it’s not surprising that he, as an international superstar, is commemorated through history in many ways. Even though his postal stamp initially created controversy, his success was historic and unforgettable, especially for American fans. Plus, nowadays, and after many years of this stamp launch, approximately 120 million of them are still circulating. A sale success like that proves something we already knew; Elvis will live forever in our hearts, no matter how much time passes.