Engravers, cherry trees receiving recognition
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.