A while back I mentioned off-handedly, in a letter to my good friend Limner, that I should start a series of blog posts on ugly stamps. We had been commiserating together about some of the ugly stamps that the USPS comes out with from time to time. Flannery O'Connor stamp, I'm looking at YOU:
I ask you, does this look like Flannery? It looks like some random woman with a peacock feather fetish. She needs her glasses!! And I don't like that look on her face either. She looks slightly constipated.
So here goes. The only change is, I'm not going to call this series by its original title: "Ugly Stamps I Have Hated." It sounds very harsh. Instead, it's going to be "Stamps Only Their Mother Could Love." Someone undoubtedly worked very hard on these stamps, and invested a lot of time and talent and energy into their production. I just don't like them, that's all.
Flannery above doesn't count as the first entry because I do not own these stamps. They might be beautiful in person. No, the honor of the first ugly stamps are these (forgive the glare):
It's a set of two different stamps commemorating the end of the Civil War in 1865. One stamp depicts the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865. The other depicts the surrender of the Confederate forces at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
You might wonder why these are my first choice of ugly stamps. The art is interesting. The historical interest is high, although I'm not a Civil War buff so it's kind of lost on me.
No, the ugliness comes from two things, I think:
- First off, these stamps are HUGE. They would dwarf even a business-size envelope. I don't know what it is with the movement towards larger and larger stamps, but I wish they would stop it. I send more reasonably-sized correspondence envelopes and can never use stamps this big. Especially if I happen to get creative with the address and mail art. Which I have been known to do.
- Secondly, the paintings are SO detailed that one literally can't appreciate them fully on a postage stamp (as gargantuan as these may be). I don't think stamps are the place for any kind of intricate artwork. It needs to be bold, highly visible, and relatively simple.
Also, there's the fact that these large stamps are part of an even larger commemorative sheet, which makes the whole thing just seem wasteful. Although Limner has recently taught me that it's OK to repurpose these parts of stamp sheets for envelope decorations -- I really must remember to try some of that soon.
Oh, and let's not even mention the colors in general. I know they are probably significant (blue and gray and all that) but they just make the whole thing come off as blah and uninteresting to the eye. I know a true stamp collector would probably have a quite different view of this sheet. But I look at it as a stamp user, not a stamp collector. And these are not terribly user-friendly stamps.
Here's one more picture so you can appreciate the true blah-ness of these stamps.
So there you have it! Two stamps that only their mother could love. What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Do you have votes for the next stamp in this series? Let me know in the comments!