The Postal Service’s Love series has staying power. Its stamps have graced innumerable valentines, wedding invitations and greetings from Grandma since the series debuted in 1973. Here are six of the most memorable:
1. Robert Indiana’s “Love.” The stamp that started it all. Indiana created his iconic “love” design, with the tilted “o”, for a Christmas card commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in the 1960s. At the Postal Service’s request, Indiana copied the image for the 1973 stamp, with Bradbury Thompson as designer. It was a big hit with the public, although it wouldn’t be until 1982 that another Love stamp was released.
2. Love: Pansies in a Basket. This 2010 stamp, designed by Derry Noyes, is based on a detail from a 1939 greeting card, which is based on a watercolor by Hallmark employee Dorothy Maienschein. The quaint image and “thinking of you” message made it a useful card for many occasions — including two men who bought it for a friend who was about to be executed — and it is still sold by Hallmark today.
3. Love (1991). Swans, doves, bluebirds — all grace their share of stamps in the series. A rara avis is the Fischer’s lovebird, a parrot native to a small area in and around Tanzania. The artwork by parrot lover Nancy Krause is a tropical-hued image of a nuzzling pair of the birds, who mate for life. Their native population declined as they became popular pets (they were the most widely traded bird in the world in 1987), and today the species is considered “near threatened.”
4. Love (1986). This stamp by artist Saul Mandel is the only one in the series that portrays a living being that is not human or avian. The New York Times published an article after its release with the headline “Is It Too Cute?,” noting that some found the childlike illustration too unserious for adult correspondence. However, the article also stated that what it might lose in typical Love stamp buyers, it probably would pick up in sales to dog lovers and senders of children’s birthday cards. The dedication featured puppeteer Jim Henson and Rowlf, one of the Muppets.
5-6. Love: King and Queen of Hearts. Artist Jeanne Greco took her inspiration from a deck of 18th-century French playing cards for the artwork on these 2009 stamps. It was the first “se-tenant” stamp in the Love series, meaning that individual stamps create a larger scene when viewed as a whole on a sheet; in this case, the king and queen, each on their own stamp, face each other on the sheet, offering the other a posy. Noyes was the designer.