The story behind the upcoming 2023 40¢ Red Fox stamp

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

The 40¢ Red Fox stamp that the United States Postal Service is planning to issue in 2023 has an unusual pedigree.

It is the product of a lobbying campaign by bulk mailers who convinced postal executives that the new stamp could boost first-class mail volume.

Stephen Kearney, a former USPS stamp executive who led the campaign, told Linn’s Stamp News that bulk mailers will use the new 40¢ Red Fox stamp in combination with other stamps on their postage-paid return envelopes that will be franked with enough postage to meet the new 63¢ letter rate that goes into effect Jan. 22.

An exact 63¢ franking would not be easy with most of the current low-denomination Fruits stamps that mailers typically use, Kearney said.

The new 40¢ stamp will make smaller combinations of stamps adding up to 63¢ much easier, he said.

In fact, the USPS has calculated a number of ways the 40¢ Red Fox stamp can be combined with existing stamps to meet the current 60¢ first-class rate.

Before the 40¢ Red Fox stamp and other 2023 U.S. stamp subjects were announced Oct. 24, Kearney had explained the usefulness of the new stamp to members of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, which he heads.

(For a review of the 2023 U.S. stamp program, see the story in the Nov. 14 issue of Linn’s.)

“Quite a few nonprofit mailers use multiple postage stamps on response envelopes to provide First-Class postage and boost response rates from donors,” Kearney said.

“We have been urging the Postal Service to ensure an adequate supply of lower-denomination stamps to enable the use of several that add up to First-Class postage, now 60 cents and soon to be 63 cents.”

“Not too long ago, USPS responded by deciding to add 40-cent stamps to its offerings of large coils,” he said.

Coil stamps in the Fruits series printed in large rolls of 3,000 and 10,000 have been highly popular with mailers because they can be mechanically affixed to envelopes.

Mailers say they get higher returns from mail that has stamps than with envelopes bearing a printed stamp indicium or postage meter, and they are expecting the same results from envelopes bearing the 40¢ Red Fox in combination with other stamps.

Kearney said he was not aware of the 40¢ Red Fox stamp’s design until the USPS announced the stamp as part of its planned 2023 U.S. stamp program.

The USPS said the self-adhesive stamp will be sold in panes of 20 and coil rolls of 3,000 and 10,000. The stamp “is intended for use by bulk mailers for items such as circulars, newsletters and catalogs,” according to the USPS.

The stamp features a pencil-and-watercolor illustration based on the work of Dugald Stermer, an illustrator from San Francisco who died in 2011.

In addition to Stermer’s drawing of the red fox, the stamp will carry Stermer’s calligraphy of the animal’s common name, red fox, and its scientific classification, Vulpes vulpes.

Ethel Kessler, an art director for USPS, is credited with the stamp’s design.

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