Stamps of Approval
Americans had been asking for a dedicated holiday stamp for years before the post office finally issued its first one, a 4-cent stamp, in November 1962 (above).
Expecting high demand for the 1962 Christmas issue, the post office ordered its largest ever special-stamp print run to date at the time—350 million. The stamps quickly sold out. By year’s end, the service had printed 1 billion of the stamps.
The first religious Christmas stamp, an angel with a trumpet, came out in 1965. It was based on a painting of a weather vane atop a Methodist church in Massachusetts.
The image on the first Madonna and Child stamp, in 1966, was taken from a 15th-century painting at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Madonna and Child stamps based on major works have been issued almost every year since. Old masters rendered on stamps include
Jan van Eyck, Raphael, Botticelli and Bellini (top, from 1992).
The first Santa Claus stamp was issued in 1972.
The post office processed about 2 billion holiday cards in 2012. Five years later the number was down to under 1.3 billion.