Final Issue of the Classic Collection

US #3649 was issued on this day in 2002.

On June 13, 2002, the USPS issued the final sheet in the Classic Collection Series.

The series began six years earlier with the infamous Legends of the West sheet in 1994.  That sheet and the series that followed it actually developed out of plans to honor the centennial of Ellis Island!

After the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee requested artwork for the potential Ellis Island stamp, they found the art was “grim and lacked color.”  As they continued to discuss the project, their focus shifted from immigration to America’s Westward migration in the 19thcentury.  And that, in turn, became a Western Americana project. They initially considered a four-stamp set but had ideas to honor several figures and ultimately decided on 20 stamps.  Then the USPS manager of philately and the head of stamp design came up with the idea for the Classic Collection series, of which the Legends of the West would be the first issue.

US #2870 – The error sheet.

Each sheet in the series would have the same unique 20-stamp format.  Each would have broadly-defined Americana themes, exceptional artwork, a banner printed on the selvage of the sheet, and descriptive text on the back of each stamp. Additionally, postal cards with matching artwork would be issued to coordinate with a few of the sheets.

US #2869 – The corrected sheet.

The series got off to a memorable start when it was discovered before the Legends of the West stamps were even issued that the stamp picturing Bill Pickett actually pictured his brother Ben.  The sheets were recalled, but 186 were sold before the First Day of Issue, so the USPS sold 150,000 sheets through a mail-order lottery.  The corrected sheet was issued on October 18, 1994.

US #2975 was issued on June 29, 1995.

The Classic Collection series continued in 1995 with two more sheets.  The first was the Civil War sheet, which marked the 130thanniversary of the end of the war.  The creation of this sheet brought about the most extensive effort in USPS history to review and verify the historical accuracy of each of its stamp subjects.  Each of the 16 individuals and four battles featured were chosen from a master list of 50 subjects. The goal of the USPS was to show the wide variety of people who participated in the Civil War.

US #3000 was issued on October 1, 1995.

Also issued in 1995, the Comic Strip Classics sheet honored comics that were created within the first 50 years of comics, from 1895 to 1945.  One of these stamps included a rare USPS spelling mistake.  In the text on the backside of the Little Orphan Annie stamp, “indispensable” is misspelled “indispensible.”

US #3068 was issued on May 2, 1996.

Next up in the series came the 1996 Olympics sheet. The 1996 Olympic Summer Games marked the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics. More than 11,000 athletes from 197 countries reached for excellence as they took the Olympic motto, “Swifter, Higher, Stronger,” to heart.

US #3142 was issued on July 19, 1997.

The fifth issue in the series featured Classic American Aircraft.  According to the back of the pane, “The aircraft chosen for this Classic Collection are representative of the first fifty years of powered flight in America.  They are a chronicle of our aviation history from the days of wood-framed, fabric-covered contraptions to high-flying supersonic vehicles.”

US #3236 was issued on August 27, 1998.

In 1998, the sixth addition to the series honored four centuries of American Art.  The text on the back of the pane reads, “The American artists represented here were born in diverse places around this country, as well as elsewhere. Some were self-taught, others were academically trained…  These images … reflect some of the enduring themes in American visual arts: a concern with individuality in a democratic society, reverence for the variety of landscape across the continent, down-to-earth realism, and a recurring sense of optimism and energy.”

US #3351 was issued on October 1, 1999.

While the 1999 addition to the series may seem like a departure from the Americana themes of previous issues, the USPS had their reasons for this sheet.  Picturing 16 insects and four spiders, the sheet was created to display their educational value and create interest among children.  The species represent the wide range of colors, lifestyles, and behaviors exhibited by these amazing creatures.

US #3403 was issued on June 14, 2000 (Flag Day).

The first 2000 addition to the series might be the most patriotic yet!  It shows the evolution of the American flag from Colonial times to the present. According to the back of the sheet, “The United States flag has evolved over the past 200-plus years from a variety of local, regional, and national designs, including unofficial and semi-official ones…  These 20 examples, which are based on the most recent research available, offer a visual sampling of variations on a theme.”

US #3408 was issued on July 6, 2000.

The second sheet of 2000 honored America’s favorite pastime.  The Legends of Baseball issue honored 20 baseball greats who were named to the “All-Century Team,” announced after the 1999 season. Votes from fans, as well as members of a special panel, selected the team.

US #3502 was issued on February 1, 2001.

In 2001, the Classic Collection honored the art of 20 American illustrators of magazines, posters, books, and advertisements. According to the USPS, “Advances in printing and publishing made possible by the Industrial Revolution ushered in a new era for American illustrators during the last quarter of the 19thcentury, allowing their work to be reproduced with increasing fidelity and attracting some of the country’s finest talents to the field.”

US #3649 – Complete set of 20 Masters of American Photography First Day Covers.

On June 13, 2002, the USPS issued the final sheet in the Classic Collection Series, honoring 20 renowned American photographers.  The sheet adopted a different format, similar to the Legends of Hollywood sheets. The works on the sheet are displayed in chronological order and the selvage shows a photo taken by William Henry Jackson or  one of his assistants. These artists combined daring, craftsmanship, and creativity to enlarge our view of America and the American people.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. Love the historical beauty of this wonderful country that we live in and can share with the rest of the world Thur stamps as works of art

  2. These stamp series shows the beauty of stamps and the intersection of art and stamp collecting. It is the reason why I became a stamp collector not for the investment but for the art and history.

  3. I do not agree with their choices, especially the bugs and spiders. In our entire US history surely there were things more interesting to the average person. WHO DECIDES ON THESE??????
    They need to get a new panel with different opinions as to what buyers would like. The average American never sees or know3s about these items, only stamp collectors.
    Thank you for these infos in history. I enjoy them.

    1. When I suggested a subject for a new stamp (the New York to Paris car race held 1909) that I suggested in 2008, they sent me a letter saying they make their decisions up 5 years or more in advance! I guess they can’t please everyone.

  4. I inherited a British stamp collection from my English in-laws 30 years ago and that got me started. There for several years I tried to grow both collections, but finally settled on the American stamps. At first I was scrounging around trying to get stamps off family mail and things went very slowly. Then I discovered Mystic. Mystic is a lovely company, very helpful, and their prices are very reasonable! Now I can buy the stamps I cannot find otherwise, and I am very happy with that.

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