1964 5¢ Sam Houston
US #1242 – Mr. Zip’s first postal appearance was in the selvage for this stamp.

On January 10, 1964, Mr. Zip first appeared in the selvage of a stamp sheet honoring Texas icon Sam Houston.

1974 10¢ Zip Code
US #1511 was issued to promote the use of Zip Codes.

Prior to the creation of Zip codes, the US had postal districts or zones for use in larger cities. As towns and cities grew, the Post Office needed a more organized system to help separate the mail. In 1944, postal inspector Robert Moon submitted a proposal calling for a three-digit Zip code to help sort the mail. For this, Moon is often considered the father of the Zip Code, though it wouldn’t be implemented for nearly 20 years.

Then on July 1, 1963, the Post Office unveiled its new Zip Code system (ZIP stands for Zoning Improvement Plan). In the five-digit codes, the first three numbers represented the sectional center facility, while the last two numbers were often the same as the old postal zone numbers. The introduction of Zip Codes was a big change. Not everyone adapted quickly, and that’s where Mr. Zip comes in.

US #1242 – Mr. Zip appears in the bottom left corner of this sheet.

The design of Mr. Zip is credited to Howard Wilcox, who first created the character for a New York bank’s bank-by-mail campaign. The Post Office Department eventually acquired the rights to the character, changed it slightly, and named him Mr. Zip.

1974 10¢ Zip Code Classic First Day Cover
US #1511 – Classic First Day Cover Picturing Mr. Zip

Less than a year after Zip Codes were introduced, Mr. Zip first appeared in the selvage of a US stamp sheet. He was pictured in the bottom left-hand corner of the Sam Houston stamp issued on January 10, 1964. Over the years, Mr. Zip was added to several stamp sheets, leading to a fun new collecting trend. In 1972, the Zippy Collectors Club was created for people collecting stamps with Mr. Zip in the selvage.

1974 10¢ Zip Code Fleetwood First Day Cover
US #1511 – Fleetwood First Day Cover Picturing Mr. Zip

Mr. Zip also quickly became infused into American culture. The Post Office was determined to get everyone to use Zip Codes, so they launched a massive advertising campaign. Mr. Zip was featured in newspapers and magazines, TV and radio and was pictured on mail trucks and in post office lobbies.

1971 Mr. Zip Special Delivery Set of First Day Covers
US #E22-23 – Set of Two Special Delivery Fleetwood First Day Covers Picturing Mr. Zip

One of the main goals of Mr. Zip was to appeal to children, so they would grow up knowing to use Zip Codes. Soon Mr. Zip had his very own comic strip and board game. Plus he was pictured on a variety of memorabilia, including a thermos set, and tin bank. Later he would appear on a toy mail car, toy train, jewelry, clothes, mugs, and have his own bobble head. In the ’60s, children were also encouraged to include the North Pole’s Zip Code on their letters to Santa.

1963-66 Blue, Mr. Zip with Press-Printed "DUMMY"
US #TDB12 – Mr. Zip Test Booklet with “DUMMY” Overprint

Celebrities also lent their talents to the Mr. Zip Campaign. Singer Johnny Puleo did a commercial with Mr. Zip. Additionally, Ethel Merman did a promotional jingle to the tune of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” that was featured in a Mr. Zip commercial.

2013 Priority & Express Mail Set, Plate Number Singles with Mr. Zip Logo on back
US #4738-39 – 2013 Priority & Express Mail Plate Number Singles with Mr. Zip Logo on back

The Mr. Zip craze lasted nearly 20 years, until the introduction of Zip+4 in 1983, though he continued to occasionally appear until 1986. Mr. Zip would reemerge in 2013. That year the USPS pictured Mr. Zip on the back of a couple stamps to honor the 50th anniversary of the Zip Code system.

Mr. Zip was included in the selvage of most stamps issued between 1964 and 1985. The Scott numbers of those stamps range between 1181 and 2166. You can search for them above to add more to your collection. A few are pictured below – but we have many more available!

1964 5¢ Civil War Centennial: Battle of the Wilderness
US #1181 – Battle of the Wilderness
1965 5¢ Herbert Hoover
US #1269 – Herbert Hoover
1977 13¢ Washington at Princeton

Click here for lots more images and history about Mr. Zip from the National Postal Museum.

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2 Comments

  1. And to think that the US government wanted to inculcate children (ie. me) to use and love Mr. Zip. In some way, a bit creepy? Maybe even…Orwellian?

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