En­gravers, cherry trees re­ceiv­ing recog­ni­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - PETER M. REX­FORD

As much as peo­ple may find it hard to be­lieve, and no mat­ter their po­lit­i­cal lean­ings, there is — I’m not kid­ding — one thing in the Dis­trict ev­ery­one can agree on: Our na­tion’s cap­i­tal is the epi­cen­ter and source of some of the most im­pres­sive sights in the U.S.

Most are ob­vi­ous in the form of build­ings, mu­se­ums and mon­u­ments, which are used as back­drops in count­less movies. But there are more sub­tle things we may not think of as of­ten as we should.

One is the Bureau of En­grav­ing and Print­ing, which pro­duces our pa­per money. It also has a hand in cre­at­ing stock cer­tifi­cates and other im­por­tant doc­u­ments. Take a look at some of the pa­per money pro­duced 100-plus years ago. The def­i­ni­tion and at­ten­tion to de­tail in the de­sign is bor­der­line un­be­liev­able. Not to take any­thing away from to­day’s cur­rency, but back then, there were no com­put­ers or high-tech imag­ing. It all was done by hand.

Since the 1950s and 1960s, the BEP has is­sued spe­cial sou­venir cards for ma­jor coin, cur­rency or stamp col­lect­ing ex­po­si­tions on which it has show­cased some of its spec­tac­u­lar work. Ini­tially, col­lec­tors at those shows might have pur­chased one as a cu­rios­ity. As their pop­u­lar­ity grew, the cards be­came uni­ver­sally sought af­ter. A few of those very early cards are now val­ued at hun­dreds of dol­lars or even more than $1,000.

This year marks the 150th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the BEP. For the big event, it has cre­ated a se­ries of three cards hon­or­ing the BEP’S work. Who de­serves it more?

The cards fea­ture in­tri­cate en­grav­ings used on of­fi­cial cer­tifi­cates and bank notes over the years. Each shows a pro­gres­sion of BEP styles. The cards will be is­sued through­out the year in tan­dem with ma­jor col­lec­tor shows. They are be­ing made avail­able to the public by mail. All sub­scrip­tion or­ders for the set must be made no later than May 9.

The cost for all three sets is $51. To view the sesqui­cen­ten­nial cards or place an or­der, go to the BEP web­site: Mon­ey­fac­tory.gov. (See? Even big gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cra­cies can be clever.) Once there, click on the BEP store but­ton. The sets also are avail­able by call­ing 800/456-3408.

Once a year in the Dis­trict, for a sadly short pe­riod of time, the most col­or­ful at­trac­tions are the thou­sands of cherry trees lin­ing the Ti­dal Basin, East Po­tomac Park and Washington Mon­u­ment. The trees and their mil­lions of pink blos­soms even­tu­ally in­spired the Na­tional Cherry Blos­som Fes­ti­val.

In 1910, Ja­pan orig­i­nally do­nated 2,000 trees to Washington. Un­for­tu­nately, all were in­fested and promptly de­stroyed. Not a prob­lem. In 1912, Ja­pan re­placed those by send­ing about 3,000 more. First lady He­len Taft and the wife of the Ja­panese am­bas­sador planted the first two trees on the Ti­dal Basin. A cen­tury later, those two orig­i­nal trees still stand near the John Paul Jones statue.

In 1965, Ja­pan sent 3,800 more that were planted around the Washington Mon­u­ment.

A new U.S. stamp cel­e­brat­ing the cen­ten­nial of the first cherry trees is ac­tu­ally two For­ever stamps that com­bine to make a large hor­i­zon­tal im­age show­cas­ing the Ti­dal Basin, Lin­coln Me­mo­rial, Washington Mon­u­ment and, of course, thou­sands of the col­or­ful cherry trees.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the Ja­panese are is­su­ing their own sheet of stamps salut­ing the cherry trees in the U.S. as well as their own coun­try.

Spe­cial first-day-of-is­sue can­cels on the new U.S. stamps are avail­able to col­lec­tors through May 24. To get one by mail, pur­chase the stamps at a lo­cal post of­fice and af­fix them to a self-ad­dressed en­ve­lope. Place that in­side of a sep­a­rate mail­ing en­ve­lope and send it to: Cherry Blos­som Cen­ten­nial Stamps, Spe­cial Can­cel­la­tions, Box 92282, Washington D.C., 20090-2282. The can­celed en­ve­lope will be re­turned via reg­u­lar mail.

There’s no charge for the spe­cial can­cel, but the May dead­line is ab­so­lute.

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