On July 20, 1994, the United States issued two stamps to mark the 25th Anniversary of a human being's first footsteps on the Moon. One was intended for use
on Express Mail and bore a $9.95 denomination. The other was a 29-cent commemorative stamp, covering the first-class rate.
The stamps were the third and fourth in a sequence directly related
to the first manned Moon landing and issued over a span of 25 years. These four issues were linked by more than their theme: Each was designed by an artist or artists with the surname of Calle.
Project Apollo - the sequence of flights preceding and including the actual Moon landings - inspired a 6-cent commemorative (Scott 1371) issued May 5,
1969. Its design was based on a photograph taken from Apollo 8, which put men into orbit around the Moon for the first time on December 24, 1968. The photograph showed a half-Earth rising over
the lunar horizon. On the stamp were inscribed the opening words of the Book of Genesis: "In the beginning God..."
10c Moon Landing Airmail Stamp of 1969
This oversized, colorful stamp was one of the last to be issued by the old U.S. Post Office Department before it was replaced by the U.S.
Postal Service, an independent government agency, on July 1, 1970. Its story is unique in the long chronicle of U.S. philately.
For one thing, it was printed from a master die which Neil
Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin carried with them to the Moon on the lunar module Eagle.
Second, it was the largest postage stamp the United States had issued up to that time. Its design was 1.80
by 1.05 inches, and its overall size was 1 61/64 by 1 15/64 inches, making it 50 percent larger than conventional U.S. commemoratives. (These so-called "jumbo" dimensions later were used for
several commemorative stamps issued in the early 1970s.)
Finally, production of the design and die were carried out in secrecy by officials of the Post Office and the Bureau of Engraving and
Printing, just as had been done with the Project Mercury commemorative of 1962. It wasn't until July 9, 1969, a week before Apollo 11 was launched, that Postmaster General Winton M. Blount
disclosed plans for the stamp and attendant details.
On that date, Blount announced that "Apollo 11 will mark America's first mail run to the Moon." In a public-relations masterstroke
credited to Julian Scheer, NASA's assistant administrator for public affairs, Blount revealed that the astronauts would take with them the engraved die that later would be used to make the
stamp's printing plates, along with a special "Moon letter" bearing a die proof of the stamp. The letter would be personally postmarked by Armstrong and Aldrin while they were on the Moon,
The entire project was carried out with the knowledge and approval of President Richard M. Nixon. To preserve secrecy, Blount said, there had been no "paperwork" involved. Rather
than use messengers to carry materials between the Post Office Department and the Bureau, official staff workers served as couriers. Those who didn't need to know about the stamp weren't brought
into the loop.
Paul Calle, the designer, was fully briefed, of course. Calle, of Stamford, Connecticut, was an established artist, well-known for his oil paintings and pencil drawings alike.
His drawings, some of them very large, were notable for the control and sensitivity they displayed, giving them the quality of fine etchings.
Calle had launched a freelance illustration
career after completing high school at age 15, and graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, at 19. In the 1950s, he had illustrated science-fiction stories; since 1963 he had been
painting and sketching the real thing - astronauts, rockets and space vehicles - as one of the original artists in NASA's Fine Art Program.
These eight NASA artists were assigned to create a
permanent record and interpretation of history in the making. At 35, Paul Calle was the youngest of the group. Beginning with Gordon Cooper's Project Mercury flight in May 1963, Calle had
documented the action of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flights from the launch facilities of Cape Kennedy to the recovery carriers in the South Atlantic.
When Postmaster General Blount
informed Stevan Dohanos, chairman of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, of the plan to create a Moon landing stamp in secret, Dohanos chose Calle to create the design on the basis of his
NASA experience and his work on the Gemini "Space Twins" commemorative stamps of 1967.
"My initial rough thinking sketches explored the concept of a design incorporating the Moon, Earth and
the lunar landing module," Calle wrote in The Pencil, his book on the art of pencil drawing. "My second series of rough pencil sketches evolved into the 'First Man on the Moon' concept.
the evolution of the design, it quickly became obvious that the first step on the Moon was the most dramatic moment, and with that final sketch we knew we had our design!"
There was a
problem, however. How could Calle be sure his picture, which had to be completed a month before the launch of Apollo 11, would be accurate?
NASA provided photographs or duplicates of all the
equipment that would be involved in the landing, including a lunar module which Calle viewed at the plant of the manufacturer, the Grumman Corporation. In addition, Calle knew that Armstrong
would put his left foot down first as he came off the module's own, padded "foot"; that was choreographed in advance.
What he didn't know - what no one knew - was whether the landing area
would be solid or powdery, and, if it was the latter, how deep the module would sink. The artist took a chance and showed the module's tripod foot making a barely perceptible imprint.
Fortunately, that turned out to be exactly what happened.
Many collectors were quick to assume that the stamp violated the federal law forbidding the use of a living person's picture on U.S.
postage. The individual on the stamp, though his features were completely hidden by a space suit, could have been none other than Neil Armstrong.
However, the Post Office was careful to
describe the subject simply as "a spaceman" in its press releases. The picture was symbolic, not literal, postal officials said, and this same explanation - unconvincing though some found it to
be - was later used to defend the designs of the 20th Anniversary and 25th Anniversary stamps as well.
Calle went to Cape Kennedy for the Apollo 11 liftoff July 16. Before the launch, he was
scheduled to sketch the astronauts as they breakfasted and suited up in their quarters. He was the only outsider present for these events.
Getting an artist into this highly restricted area
"took a lot of persuading both at NASA headquarters and at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston," recalled James Dean, director of the NASA Fine Art Program, in the book Paul Calle: An
"My plan was finally approved," Dean continued, "and I believe it was partly because of the record of achievement in developing the NASA Art Collection and mostly because I
had selected Paul Calle for the assignment.
"Calle had proven himself on previous art projects with NASA, particularly the Gemini Sketchbook, and his coverage of Apollo 7, the first manned
Apollo flight. Also, we at NASA knew that Calle had been selected by the U.S. Postal Service to design the First Man on the Moon commemorative stamp." Being chosen for this privilege had a
drawback, though. Everyone who would come in contact with the crew had to adhere to strict medical quarantine procedures to eliminate the possibility of transmitting a virus or bacteria to them.
Calle had to undergo a physical examination, keep a record of any illness and report periodically to medical authorities.
"I had to keep track of every sniffle, every cough," the artist
recalled. "It was an honor system, but I knew the historical significance of the mission, so I was careful, and, happily, nothing happened." Later, when he arrived at Cape Kennedy, he underwent
another physical and was pronounced healthy enough to be with the crew.
At the crew building, in the predawn darkness of launch morning, Calle was checked through security. He had a moment of
panic when a guard couldn't find his name on the official access list, but chief astronaut "Deke" Slayton intervened and got him in. Clad in white gown, cap and surgeon's face mask, Calle
entered the room where Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were having breakfast, and began sketching.
"Mike (Collins) kept looking at me drawing," Calle said. "He kept eating, then he'd look up.
He did this several times. Finally he asked, 'Is that you, Paul, behind that mask?' I said, 'Yes. Remember, you invited me to lunch sometime. Well, this isn't lunch, but here I am!'
stopped eating and came over to look at my sketches. I was amazed. Here he was on his way to the Moon, and he stops to look at my drawings."
When breakfast was finished, the suiting up began,
with the aid of crews of technicians, one crew to each astronaut. Piece by piece the cumbersome uniforms were pulled on and checked, fishbowl helmets were snapped in place and the suits were
pressurized, with Calle recording it all in drawing after drawing. After the operation was completed and the astronauts headed for the elevator, Neil Armstrong turned and, with his arm raised,
gave Calle a thumbs-up sign - a gesture which the artist quickly recorded in a sketch.
"Paul's intrusion is not resented," Michael Collins later wrote, recalling that momentous morning in his
autobiography Carrying the Fire, "as he is obviously a professional, hopefully among other pros. We are hardly aware of him and his sketch pad."
Calle was still sketching, this time from
outside, with other spectators at a safe distance from the launch pad, at 9:32 a.m. as Apollo 11 took off atop its mighty Saturn rocket. Four days later, at 40 seconds after 4:17 p.m., Eastern
Daylight time, July 20, the lunar module Eagle landed on the Moon, carrying Armstrong and Aldrin. Collins remained in the Columbia command module orbiting overhead.
As the world watched and
listened via television and radio, Apollo 11 Commander Armstrong sent the good news from 235,000 miles away: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
Later that same day, at 20
seconds after 10:56 p.m. EDT, Armstrong descended a ladder, stepped off the lunar module's footed to the Moon's surface and radioed his famous message: "That's one small step for man, one giant
leap for mankind."
Back home in Connecticut, Paul Calle recalled, he and his family "sat glued to the television set." "Fortunately, when Armstrong took that first step, it was perfect," he
said. "Just as I envisioned it on the stamp. I knew I would paint that scene again."
Aldrin later joined Armstrong on the Moon's surface. As it turned out, the two astronauts found themselves
too busy with scientific and other duties to carry out the assignment of postmarking the "Moon letter." So the envelope and its die proof actually were given the "MOON LANDING/USA/JUL/20/1969"
hand stamp during the return journey.
"Never mind that it is July 22," Michael Collins wrote in Carrying the Fire, "this is the first chance we have had to get to it. We try the cancellation
out first, inking it and printing it in our flight plan three times until we get the hang of it, and then we apply it gingerly to the one and only envelope, which we understand the postmaster
general will put on tour."
The hand stamp itself had been specially made for Apollo 11 by the Baumgarten Company of Washington, D.C., a manufacturer of rubber stamps for postal use since
1888. When the canceling device was delivered, NASA officials told the company it was too heavy; on the Moon mission, and especially on the Eagle's liftoff from the Moon's surface, not an ounce
of excess weight could be allowed. So a Baumgarten worker drilled a series of holes in the wooden handle and mount. "It looked like a piece of Swiss cheese when we were finished," recalled James
A. Baturin, the firm's president.
The Post Office noted with pride that the Moon letter traveled more than a half-million miles, the longest distance any piece of mail had ever gone. As
announced in advance, the letter underwent a decontamination period at Houston, along with the astronauts themselves - who were quarantined for 18 days - and the other materials that had been on
the Moon's surface.
The die was especially processed for decontamination before the prescribed quarantine period had elapsed and was flown in a special plane from the Houston Space Center to
Washington, where it was hurried to the office of Postmaster General Blount.
On July 31, Blount provided press photographers with a quick look at the die, then sent it to the Bureau of
Engraving and Printing, where the process of preparing the plates for stamp production began promptly. The die then was returned to the Post Office Department to be placed on display in the
department's Philatelic Exhibition Room, along with the Moon letter, once it had cleared decontamination. These unique artifacts later became a part of an elaborate traveling exhibit that was
shown throughout the nation and abroad.
The Moon letter, the die and the hand stamp presumably are still in Postal Service archives, although officials were unable to say for certain that
this is the case.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing printed the Moon Landing stamp by a combination of offset photolithography and recess engraving. Robert J. Jones was the modeler and the
engraving was done by Edward R. Felver (vignette) and Albert Saavedra (lettering).
Yellow and light blue, and then red and dark blue, were applied in two passes through the two-color Harris
offset presses. Then, black for the picture, blue for the bottom inscription "FIRST MAN ON THE MOON," and red for the vertical "UNITED STATES" inscription at the right were added in a single
pass through a Giori press.
Because of its size, the stamp was produced in sheets of 128 rather than 200 subjects, cut into post-office panes of 32 instead of the usual 50. A total of
152,364,800 stamps were printed and distributed.
The stamp's dedication September 9 was in conjunction with National Postal Forum 111, the third annual meeting of top business executives and
Post Office officials in Washington, D.C., held for an exchange of ideas on the Postal Service. The three Apollo 11 astronauts were on hand for the event. On the following day, they were honored
at a joint session of Congress.
The stamp inspired great interest among First Day Cover collectors. Within three weeks after the July 9 initial announcement, the Washington City Post Office
had received 500,000 requests for First Day Covers, which would bear not only the September 9 Washington, D.C., date stamp but also a replica of the July 20 "MOON LANDING USA" date stamp that
the astronauts applied to the Moon letter. About one-fifth of these requests came from overseas, an unprecedented high demand for a U.S. stamp. The response was especially heavy from Australia,
Great Britain, France and Belgium, but altogether more than 100 countries were heard from.
The final tally of First Day Covers was an "astronomical" (the Post Office's word) 8,743,070, a
figure that nearly trebled the previous high of three million. By comparison, even the Elvis Presley commemorative stamp of January 8, 1993, one of the most phenomenally popular stamps ever
printed, received only 4,451,718 official Memphis, Tennessee, First Day of Issue postmarks. A first-day processing crew of 40 was quickly expanded to 100 when the demand for Moon landing Covers
swelled, but, even so, it took five months to complete the task.
One major error variety of the stamp has been recorded. Some specimens are missing the offset red color, which consists of the
flag stripes on the astronaut's shoulder patch and a series of light red dots over the yellow portions of the lunar module and the astronaut's face plate. Error stamps were first found in the El
Paso, Texas, area in October 1969. The variety has the Scott catalog number C76a. A vertical pair of Moon Landing stamps, one normal and one with the red missing, was sold for $360 at a Jacques
C. Schiff Jr. Inc. auction December 11, 1993.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing also had problems with registration on the stamp, and numerous copies have been found with noticeable shifts
in the offset colors. Stamps on which the shifts are extreme enough command a premium price. For example, a plate number block of four with the offset colors shifted down so the Earth touches
the Moon, and the stars on the shoulder-patch flag are beneath the stripes, sold for $57.50 at a Schiff auction January 29, 1994.
As for Paul Calle's premonition on July 20 that he would
"paint that scene again" (Neil Armstrong's first step on the Moon) it came true, of course. Later in the summer Calle began work on a four-by- eight-foot oil painting called The Great Moment.
With no photograph in existence of this event, the painting has become the most authoritative visual record for posterity. When the work was shown at the National Air and Space Museum in 1989 as
part of an exhibition commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Apollo 11, Hank Burchard wrote in The Washington Post:
"...Paul Calle runs away with the show. There's nervous boldness in his
composition of 'First Step on the Moon' (The Great Moment, 1969) in which Neil Armstrong's exit from the lunar lander is dwarfed by the harsh bleakness of the moonscape and the vast black void
The $2.40 20th Anniversary Priority Mail Stamp of 1989
In issuing its first Priority Mail
stamp on July 20, 1989, the United States Postal Service achieved two objectives. It promoted Priority Mail service, which promised two-day delivery between all major markets and three-day
delivery elsewhere. And it celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 voyage to the Moon.
The denomination of the stamp was $2.40, the rate then in effect for Priority Mail items
weighing from 12 ounces to two pounds. It was dedicated at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, in conjunction with a major federal observance of the Moon-landing Anniversary.
U.S. Postal Service had been considering a special stamp for Priority Mail for some time. At one point, officials asked Chuck Ripper of Huntington, West Virginia, a wildlife artist who had
designed numerous stamps in the past, including the 50-stamp American Wildlife pane of 1987, to prepare some concept sketches. But Ripper's finished artwork - a painting of a pheasant in flight
- ended up not on a Priority Mail stamp but squeezed into a small format and used on a 25-cent definitive in booklets.
When the time came to issue the first Priority Mail stamp, space, not
wildlife, was the theme. The stamp would be the Postal Service's first on a space topic since 1981. Space had been the subject of numerous U.S. stamps in the 1970s, in the afterglow of the
successful Apollo flights, but the troubles that befell NASA in the 1980s - especially the tragic loss of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 - gave the United States little to commemorate
postally during that decade.
Postal commemoration of a 20th Anniversary actually was contrary to Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee policy. Item No. 4 of CSAC's subject selection criteria
reads: "Events of historical significance shall be considered for commemoration only on Anniversaries in multiples of 50 years." However, as postal officials explained it, the Moon landing was
an event of such historic significance that the committee agreed to waive the rule.
Selecting Chris Calle to design the stamp was largely the idea of Jack Williams of the Postal Service's
stamp design section, who had been assigned to be manager and art director for the Priority Mail project. Williams thought it would be fitting that the son of the designer of the original Moon
Landing stamp should design the stamp commemorating its 20th Anniversary. He knew, too, as he confided, that Paul would inevitably "be peeking over Chris's shoulder."
Chris welcomed Paul's
advice, but he was an established artist in his own right. He lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, a few miles from Paul's home in Stamford, and the two shared a studio. As a boy, his father's work
and achievements had stimulated Chris's own fascination with art. He became a freelance illustrator after graduating with honors from the University of Michigan in 1983. Besides receiving many
major commissions from magazines and corporations, Chris followed in Paul's footsteps by being named an official NASA artist documenting the Space Shuttle program.
By 1989 he was already an
experienced stamp designer as well, having produced the portraits for eight Great Americans definitive stamps (Harry Truman, John James Audubon, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Justice Hugo Black,
Belva Ann Lockwood, Father Howard Flanagan, Dr. Paul Dudley White and General "Hap" Arnold) and the images for three Transportation Series definitive coil stamps (wheelchair, tandem bicycle and
fire engine). He also had designed the Connecticut Statehood Bicentennial commemorative of 1988.
For the $2.40 Priority Mail stamp job, Chris did extensive research. He combed local libraries
for material, and also tapped the most obvious source: his father's extensive file of photographs and drawings made during Apollo training sessions in the 1960s.
One of the early ideas Chris
proposed to the Postal Service, in fact, was a "stamp on stamp" design incorporating Paul's original 10- cent Moon Landing stamp of 1969. He prepared a pair of sketches incorporating this
concept. The Postal Service rejected that idea, preferring to use original art.
Both Calles make a policy of offering their clients a variety of design treatments. As Paul said: "A lot of
artists do just one sketch, and if it's turned down they do another sketch. But Chris has been brought up with the idea that you investigate all the different possibilities; not just one design,
but different points of view, and submit it all, as long as you can happily live with whichever one they choose to go with."
Accordingly, Chris sent several concept sketches to the Postal
Service. "Dad had some very distinct ideas about some of them," he recalled. "I basically did the sketches, but certainly Dad's influence was behind them."
The Citizens' Stamp Advisory
Committee, a panel that recommends stamp subjects and designs to the postmaster general, looked over the submissions and chose a vertical treatment showing the two Apollo 11 astronauts planting
the American flag on a cratered lunar surface. Some of Chris's proposed designs included inscriptions calling attention to the 20th Anniversary, but Postal Service officials decided that the
stamp should be bare of type except for the basic "USA $2.40."
Chris executed his finished artwork in the "mixed media" he often uses - a combination of colored pencil, colored inks, dyes and
gouache (opaque watercolor) or tempera paints. Like Paul Calle's 1969 stamp, this one was assigned to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for production by offset and intaglio. The Bureau's
Kenneth Kipperman engraved the vignette, Dennis Brown engraved the lettering and numerals, and Ronald Sharpe modeled the stamp.
Instead of the two presses that had been needed for combination
printing in 1969, however, the Bureau now had a modern high-speed web- fed press capable of handling the job in one pass. It was the Goebel "D" press, which was officially designated Press 902,
capable of producing stamps in six offset and three intaglio colors. For this one, five offset colors were actually used - red, yellow, blue, black and dark blue - and one intaglio color, black.
Although the 1969 Moon Landing stamp had been the largest issued up to that time, the Postal Service had produced even bigger stamps since then. One of them was the $8.75 Express Mail stamp
of 1988, and the new Priority Mail stamp was formatted to its dimensions: approximately 1 1/4 inches wide by 1 13/16 inches deep. The new stamp was printed from offset plates of 80 subjects and
intaglio sleeves of 160 subjects and was issued in post-office panes of 20 stamps.
After Chris Calle turned in his finished artwork, "the Bureau did a beautiful job with it," Jack Williams
recalled. Bureau technicians used a computer graphics program, he said, to "smooth out" the dark blue sky Chris had provided as background, making it a uniform solid blue, and to de-emphasize
some of the shading lines on the flag "so it wouldn't took as if the flag was soiled or covered with Moon dust."
"Then the engraver (Kenneth Kipperman) did quite a bit of work," Williams
added, "etching lines in and around the feet and legs, bringing out the craters a little more sharply, hyping up the highlights in the helmet, and providing a little more gray in the Moon's
blue, to make it closer to the actual coloration of the soil."
The ceremony at the National Air and Space Museum July 20, 1989, combined a celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Moon
landing and the dedication of the Priority Mail stamp. It featured an address by President George Bush, and marked his first attendance as president at a stamp first-day event.
was introduced by Vice President Dan Quayle. After the stamp was dedicated by Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank, Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin each spoke briefly. Both
Calles were in attendance.
A total of 208,982 First Day Covers of the stamp were postmarked. Then, in 1994, the Postal Service reported that more than $24.4 million worth of the stamps - more
than 10.1 million stamps - had been saved by collectors and others, and likely would never be used for postage. This may reveal the most important reason why the subject was chosen for the $2.40
Priority Mail Stamp in the first place.
Whereas the 1969 stamp had produced one major error variety - the missing red offset color - the 1989 Priority Mail stamp generated three.
to be reported consisted of two full 20-stamp panes that completely lacked the black intaglio ink that provided details of the astronauts' space suits and the lunar surface. Also missing was the
single-digit intaglio sleeve number that normally appeared in the selvage adjacent to the four corner stamps on a pane of 20. Small spots of black and blue appeared in the ghostly areas of the
design that represented the astronauts' undefined bodies, but these appeared to be spatters of offset ink.
The error stamps were discovered in 1990 by an unidentified collector who bought 10
Priority Mail panes at the Oak Forest station of the Houston, Texas, post office. Upon examination, the collector found the two error panes in the middle of the group. Bob Dumaine of Sam Houston
Philatelics of Houston bought both panes from the finder. The variety was assigned the Scott catalogue number 2419a.
Later in 1990, collectors learned of the discovery in California of two
full panes and one partial pane of imperforate Priority Mail stamps. Merle Spencer, owner of The Stamp Gallery in Walnut Creek, California, purchased the error stamps from a collector in the San
Francisco Bay area. Five stamps from one pane had already been cut and used for postage when the error was recognized. The imperforate variety was listed by Scott as 2419b.
In addition, one
pane of 20 of the $2.40 stamp was found with the black offset color missing. This variety received the Scott number 2419c.
Single copies of the missing-intaglio variety were auctioned by
Jacques C. Schiff Jr. May 28, 1992, for $2,600, and by Lowell S. Newman & Co. March 13, 1993, for $2,000. A horizontal pair of the imperforate variety, with plate number attached, was auctioned
by Schiff at the May 1992 sale for $850.
The $9.95 25th Anniversary Express Mail Stamp of 1994
25 Anniversary of the Moon landing approached, Chris and Paul Calle received commissions to work on several design projects linked to Apollo 11.
One of these projects was a single stamp for
Sweden, created to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Swedish technology on the Moon. It features the Swedish-made Hasselblad camera used by the Apollo 11 astronauts and is the first Swedish
stamp to be designed by non-Swedish artists. The stamp was engraved by the world-famous intaglio master Czeslaw Slania.
The Calles also designed a set of four 75-cent stamps for the Republic
of the Marshall Islands, the site of what had been a key tracking station for the Apollo missions. Each stamp showed one or both of the Apollo astronauts in a different activity, and one of the
stamps also bore a profile portrait of John E Kennedy, the president who had committed the United States to putting a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. The stamps were issued in
se-tenant panes of 24 and also in souvenir sheets containing one of each of the four varieties.
Paul and Chris also designed a set of four coins ($5, $10, $20 and $50) for the Marshall
Islands, with designs that generally matched those of the four Marshall Islands stamps.
The fourth assignment was to create a $2.90 Priority Mail souvenir sheet for the Federated States of
Micronesia. This item bore a reproduction of the Paul Calle-designed U.S. Moon Landing airmail stamp of 1969. In 1969 Micronesia had been part of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the
Pacific Islands, and the souvenir sheet carried the notation that "The 10-cent First Man on the Moon Stamp Was Used in 1969 at Micronesia's Post Offices."
Finally, James A. Helzer, president
of the Unicover Corporation, asked the father-and-son team to create a limited-edition print that would feature Paul's original artwork for the 1969 stamp and actual specimens of the 1969 stamp
and the $2.40 Priority Mail stamp of 1989. A second version of the print would be offered in which each copy would bear a "remarque," or individual drawing by the artists. Both versions also
included the two 1994 stamps.
The U.S. Postal Service, however, gave no indication at first that it intended to provide any postal commemoration of the 25th Anniversary. It wasn't until the
late summer of 1993, after the Calles had begun work on the other projects, that the call came from Washington asking them to jointly design what at that time was contemplated as only a single
stamp depicting a scene from the Apollo 11 Moon landing. It would be a $9.95 stamp for Express Mail.
"In our minds, we had been thinking about a U.S. stamp for the 25th Anniversary since the
20th Anniversary in 1989," Chris said. "I'm sure Dad had been thinking about it since 1969. But we got the clear impression the Postal Service wasn't going to do another stamp on the same
subject so soon after the one in 1989."
The Postal Service finally did decide to mark the 25th Anniversary. In so doing, it once more broke its own rules by marking an increment of time other
than one of 50 years - and once again officials justified it by pointing to the unique significance of the Moon landing.
"We knew that the $2.40 Priority Mail Moon landing stamp had been
exceptionally popular," said Joe Brockert of the Postal Service's Stamp Product Development Branch. "We felt that using a Moonlanding theme on an expedited-mail service stamp of some sort would
At the time, the Postal Service had two expedited-mail stamps in circulation: a $2.90 Priority Mail stamp and a $9.95 Express Mail stamp. These stamps, both issued in 1991,
depicted the heads of eagles, and both displayed the five interlocking rings of the Olympic movement, in recognition of the Postal Service's role as a sponsor of the 1992 Winter and Summer
But now those Games were ended, and so was the Postal Service's sponsorship. As soon as supplies of the two stamps were exhausted, they would have to give way to new designs.
The first eagle to fly away was the one on the $2.90 Priority Mail stamp; in 1993, the Postal Service replaced it with a piece of futuristic artwork, showing an imaginary space vehicle zooming
across the face of an unidentified planet, designed by veteran U.S. stamp designer Ken Hodges.
"It was necessary to issue the new Priority Mail stamp well in advance of the Moon-landing
Anniversary," said Brockert. "So that wasn't the right time or opportunity. Then came the need to issue a new $9.95 Express Mail stamp. And its timing coincided with the Anniversary.
said, 'Well, it's an expensive face value, but everything is coming together. We have to do a new Express Mail stamp anyhow, and we need to do something for the 25th Anniversary of the Moon
landing. So let's kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and take care of it that way."
Unspoken, of course, was the opportunity for profits. In a May 1994 communication, William J.
Henderson, Postal Service senior vice president and chief marketing officer, projected that $15 million in stamps - some 1.5 million of the $9.95 stamps - would be "retained" by collectors and
others. To the Postal Service "retention" means the stamps will be "saved rather than used on mail." Sales of $15 million for a single stamp is five times more than the Postal Service expected
for a typical 1994 29-cent commemorative.
Postal Service officials knew from the beginning that they would ask both Calles to design the Express Mail stamp. Unusual though it seemed, it
wouldn't be the first time a father and son had jointly created a U.S. stamp design.
Back in 1982, Arthur Singer of Jericho, New York, and his son Alan, of Brooklyn, had created the designs
for the 50-variety stamp pane featuring the state birds and flowers of each of the 50 states (Scott 1953-2002). The Singers' approach to their project had been simple: Arthur, a specialist in
ornithological painting, had painted the birds, and his son, a botanical artist, then added the flowers. With the Calles, as we shall see, the procedure would be much less structured.
1993, soon after agreeing to design the Moon-landing Anniversary stamps for the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, Paul and Chris Calle flew to NASA's Space Center in Houston to do some fresh
research. Both artists had an ample file of visual reference sources from their earlier projects, of course, but they wanted to go beyond that.
"I thought that Chris and I would share this
thing completely and get new material," Paul explained. "We didn't want to just do the same thing as before, working from the same photographs. We wanted to create something different."
"There are so few actual photos of the Apollo 11 astronauts on the Moon," added Chris, "and they've been so overused by now, that we wanted to paint a picture that would indicate how it was -
how it might have looked - if we had been there with them."
Paul called on one of his old friends from NASA for help. The official obtained a vintage Apollo-era space suit and recruited a
technician to put it on and pose for them. Using their Nikon 35mm camera and their sketch pads, the Calles collected a wide variety of images of the technician in a number of different poses.
"We were able to get marvelous, material." Paul said.
Back home with their reference pictures, the Calles set to work. In due time, the Postal Service weighed in with its own request, and
they turned their attention to this assignment.
The artists knew the Postal Service wouldn't want to duplicate either of the earlier designs - the first-step design of 1969 and the
flag-planting image of 1989. One of the props NASA had supplied in Houston was a rigid American flag of the kind the astronauts had "unfurled" on the airless moon, and the artists had made
several pictures of their model with the flag. They decided that the new U.S. stamp should show the two lunar astronauts saluting Old Glory, as one of them held the flagstaff in his left hand.
"We wanted to convey the image of the United States on the Moon, so we utilized the flag as a design element," Paul said.
As it happened, this was not a new design idea for the Calles.
Each of them, when working on their previous Moon Landing stamps had made a sketch based on that theme, but had abandoned it, in favor of another image, for the final artwork. Now, a quarter of
a century after Paul Calle had first visualized a stamp showing two astronauts on the Moon saluting the American flag, that concept would become an actual stamp.
Before reaching that point,
however, the two artists had to work through the design process in their own way.
After discussions together, they went to their own studios and each developed his own solutions to the
various problems involved in the saluting-the-flag design: what elements would be included, where they would go, their relative size and so forth. Then they compared notes - and found, perhaps
not unexpectedly, that their ideas were very similar.
After submitting a colored-pencil sketch to the Postal Service, and getting approval, the Calles began work.
"Everyone asks us, who
did what part?" Paul said. "And I say, 'Chris did the best part,' and Chris says, 'Dad did the best part.' We worked together. It was an interesting adventure."
"It really was," Chris added.
"I can't say that 'I did the flag' and 'Dad did the Earth.' It wasn't like that. It wasn't as if I just completed 'my half' and then Dad did 'his half.' We had the painting going back and forth
between our studios - we're not that far away from each other.
"We both had our hands on everything in it. In one way or another, we both touched everything. That was our intent. We wanted to
mix it up, so we could really feel as if we had done it together. Technically, it was more difficult than if each of us had done specific parts of the picture, the way the Singers had done (on
the State Birds and Flowers pane). Artistically, it was more fun."
In the Calles' design, the two astronauts stand facing the viewer. Their faces are invisible behind their gold-tinted
fishbowl helmets. One is in the foreground, at the center of the stamp, holding the flag, which is cut off by the right frame line just beyond the blue field of stars. The second man is at the
left rear; still further in the background at the left is the lunar module. Hanging in the deep blue sky, over the foreground astronaut's right shoulder, is the cloud-shrouded Earth, half of it
in shadow. A small part of the cratered lunar surface is visible.
The module portion of the design was based largely on reference pictures Paul originally had obtained in 1969. The picture of
the Earth was from a photograph made during one of the Apollo Moon missions and furnished by NASA.
The Calles did their finished art at the customary five times stamp size, employing mixed
media - a combination of tempera paint and colored pencil with watercolor washes. They included what they called a "halation effect" around the astronauts, the lunar module and the Earth.
"Rather than have the dark sky go right up to the edge of those figures, we put a little blue glow around the figures, like a softness in a soft-focus photograph," Paul explained. To accomplish
this, they painted the blue around the figures, then brought in the indigo of the sky and feathered it over the blue with a dry brush. "We did it to make it a little more interesting," Paul
said. "I hope it shows up on the finished stamp!"
Collectors who compare the original picture of the Express Mail stamp that was released by the Postal Service with the stamp itself will note
a minor difference in the front of the astronauts' space suits. Despite the Calles' extensive efforts to make the suits in their painting exact replicas of the Apollo 11 originals, it was
discovered after they had submitted their "finished" art that the suits on the stamp had an external horizontal hose across each wearer's abdomen that shouldn't have been there.
out, said Postal Service's Joe Brockert, that NASA had gotten Apollo 13 space suits for the visiting artists instead of Apollo 11 suits, and the suits had been modified between missions. "So we
had to send the artwork back to the Calles and they repainted it," Brockert said. In the process, Paul and Chris also revised the reflections in the astronauts' gold-tinted helmet faceplates.
The contract to produce the stamp was awarded to Banknote Corporation of America (BCA) of Suffern, New York. BCA had produced self-adhesive, or pressure-sensitive, stamps in the past, including
the intaglio- printed Pine Cone definitive of 1993, but the Moon Landing stamp would be its first conventional "lick and stick" product for the Postal Service.
BCA printed the stamp by a
combination of intaglio and offset. The large printing sheets were cut into panes of 20, four stamps across by five deep, for distribution to post offices.
BCA's Richard Baratz engraved the
intaglio portions of the stamp, and the company's Ron Centra was the modeler. Four offset colors were used the standard process colors of yellow, magenta, cyan and black and two intaglio colors,
black and blue.
The first public announcement of the stamp was made December 7, 1993, at the presentation of the Postal Service's 1994 stamp program at the National Postal Museum in
Washington. In fact, a large blowup of the design was chosen to be the backdrop of the speaker's podium; Bonnie Dunbar, a current astronaut, helped Postmaster General Marvin Runyon unveil it.
Runyon was asked during the ceremony why the Moon Landing stamp would be so expensive. "It's the highest-priced stamp, I guess, because it cost a lot of money to go to the Moon," Runyon quipped.
But hidden in the press release distributed that day was news that the high value problem had been addressed in another way. There would be a second Moon Landing stamp in 1994, a more affordable
29-cent, commemorative. "A collectible 29-cent souvenir sheet," the press release called it.
The 29c 25th Anniversary
Express Mail Stamp of 1994
A few weeks earlier, when the Calles' design for the $9.95 Express Mail stamp was completed, it was shown to Postmaster General Runyon. Runyon
approved the design but had questioned officials in Stamp Services about why there was no 29-cent stamp as well, one that everyone could afford as a souvenir of the Anniversary.
Postmaster General correctly anticipated the reactions of groups of collectors, philatelic dealers and the Postal Service's own agents abroad, to whom Stamp Services officials had given a
preview of the 1994 program at about this time. Members of these audiences were "shocked" at the news that the Moon Landing Anniversary would be commemorated with a stamp selling for $9.95,
according to one source, and argued that the stamp should be given a lower denomination or that a companion stamp at the 29-cent rate should be issued. In time, the Postal Service chose the
The question to be addressed was: What would this additional Moon Landing stamp look like?
Officials quickly concluded that it couldn't be simply a duplicate of the Express
Mail stamp with a 29-cent, denomination; that would cause confusion. It had to have a distinctive appearance.
Ultimately, they decided to issue the 29-cent stamp in the standard commemorative
size, arranged vertically, and to use a modified version of the Express Mail design. Simply cropping the original design to fit the new dimensions wouldn't work, however. The elements would have
to be altered and rearranged for the deeper, narrower space.
This required a brand-new painting, which the Calles agreed to create in short order. Their design solution, embodied in a
preliminary sketch, was to show only a single astronaut - the one in the foreground of the Express Mail design - saluting the flag he was holding. The second astronaut and the lunar module
weren't shown; the Earth was shifted slightly so it hung directly over the astronaut's head, rather than over his shoulder, and only a small part of the flag was visible at the right. Enough
room was reserved in the black sky at the upper left for the "USA 29" in dropout white typography.
The Postal Service gave quick approval, and Paul and Chris created their final artwork, a
tempera painting, in January 1994. In adapting their painting to the stamp design, Postal Service officials directed that it be tightly cropped so that the astronaut's figure fully filled the
available space - so tightly, in fact, that the elbow of his saluting arm was nipped off by the left frame line. The wording "First Moon Landing, 1969" was added beneath the picture.
Express Mail counterpart, the painting for the 29-cent stamp had to go back to the artists for a quick revision after it was discovered that the space suit depicted in the design had an
Unlike the Express Mail stamp, this one was printed by the gravure process. The contractor was Stamp Venturers, a partnership that had been supplying U.S. postage stamps
The brief announcement of the 29-cent stamp in December 1993 had said it would be issued in "a collectible souvenir sheet." What that turned out to be was a unique format, unlike
any that had been used previously for a U.S. stamp: a sheetlet of 12 with pictorial selvage.
The stamps were arranged, four across by three down, in the lower left corner of a sheet that
measured six inches across by 7 13/16 inches deep. The selvage of the sheetlet, which comprised roughly 60 percent of the total area, was filled with a replica of a NASA photograph made by the
Apollo 8 astronauts on their orbital tour of the Moon, showing Earthrise over the lunar surface. (It was the same picture that had been adapted by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Leonard
Buckley for the 8-cent Apollo 8 commemorative stamp of 1969.)
In the selvage design, the Earth hangs suspended in the upper right corner, against a dark sky. The Moon's horizon crosses the
lower part of the selvage and is partly concealed behind the stamps themselves. All wording is in dropout white. Across the top, in capital letters, is the inscription "COMMEMORATIVE EDITION."
Beneath that line of type, and immediately above the stamps, are the words "25th Anniversary/of the First/Moon Landing." In the lower right corner are the famous words: "That's one small/step
for a man,/one giant leap/for mankind," and their attribution: "Neil Armstrong/July 20, 1969." This is the official NASA version of the quote, which includes the word "a," although that word
wasn't heard and recorded by Mission Control in Houston.
The use of a living person's name on U.S. postal paper is unusual, but not unprecedented. Coincidentally, the first person to receive
this honor was Armstrong's greatest hero, Charles A. Lindbergh, the "Lone Eagle" for whom the Apollo 11 commander had named his crew's lunar module. The word "Lindbergh" was printed on a 10-cent
airmail stamp that was issued in 1927 (Scott C1O) to commemorate the pilot's pioneering solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
More recently, the name of living artist Thomas Hart Benton was
used on the Missouri Sesquicentennial stamp of 1971 (Scott 1426), which had a design based on a Benton mural, and a 1991 booklet of stamps depicting caricatures of famous comedians by Albert
Hirschfeld (Scott 2562-2566) bore the inscription "Comedians by Hirschfeld" on its cover.
Stamp Venturers printed the miniature sheet in the four standard process colors: yellow, magenta,
cyan and black, plus silver. Phil Jordan of Arlington, Virginia, was the art director and typographer.
In announcing the miniature-sheet format, the Postal Service said customers would not be
able to buy individual stamps: "The 29-cent commemorative stamp will be available only as a complete 12-stamp memento of this historic Anniversary." Once a customer had bought a pane of 12 at
its face value of $3.48, he or she could detach individual stamps and use them for postage, of course.
In making this a "COMMEMORATIVE EDITION," the Postal Service also clearly hoped to
encourage buyers to save the whole sheet intact, and projected that $10 million worth - nearly three million sheets - would, in fact, be retained. This was not surprising in view of the Postal
Service's 1994 statement that "stamp retention goals are certainly the most important philatelic goals since stamp retention generates some $200 million annually ..."
On June 21, 1994, The
Postal Service released technical details about the $9.95 and 29-cent Moon Landing Anniversary stamps, as well as information about their First Day of Issue sale.
The stamps would be
dedicated by Postmaster General Runyon on July 20, the 25th Anniversary of the landing. The public ceremony was scheduled for the main hall of the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall in
Washington, D.C., with an Apollo landing module as a backdrop. Other participants would include Dr. Martin Harwit, the museum's director, and Daniel Goldin, administrator of NASA.
landing remains one of the best examples of what happens when all of America pulls together toward a common goal," Runyon said in making the announcement. "The new Moon Landing stamps were
designed to capture the drama of a chapter in American history that we can all look back on with great pride."
When the dedication ceremony took place, an unannounced guest was on hand:
"Buzz" Aldrin. He joined Runyon, Harwit and Goldin in unveiling a large replica of the 29-cent stamp. (A similar blowup of the $9.95 stamp was already uncovered and in place when the event
Paul and Chris Calle were also present at the Air and Space Museum, and afterward patiently signed covers and other items for members of the audience, which numbered about a thousand
A few days before July 20, the Postal Service announced that the two Moon Landing Anniversary stamps would be sold at 10 other sites on the first day in addition to the official
first-day city, Washington. These sites were Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland; Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia; Kennedy Space Center, Florida; Marshall Space Flight
Center, Huntsville, Alabama; Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio; Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas; Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California;
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, and Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California. A special release of the stamps was also made at the European Space Expo in Noordwijk,
Speaking of the two U.S. stamps the Calles designed for the Anniversary, as well as the stamps and coins they produced for the other countries, Paul Calle reflected:
was an interesting adventure, working with a son. Two opinionated artists, discussing things and working independently and then getting together to modify everything. We arrived at what I think
were some wonderful solutions."
Only half in jest, the Calles say they already are looking ahead to designing a stamp for the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing in 2019.
"We're going to
do a painting next year and put it in the bank," said Paul. "I tell Chris, 'I don't know whether I'll be able to sign it by the time another 25 years have passed,' and Chris says, 'Don't worry,
Dad, when the time comes I'll point to the place where you should sign."
The Postal Service's Joe Brockert even had an idea for the next stamp's design. "We seem to be making a progression,"
he said. "First, the astronauts step on the Moon (1969), then they plant the flag (1989), then they pose beside the flag, saluting, to get their picture taken (1994).
"Maybe they'll be taking
off in the lunar module to rejoin the command module when we get to the 50th Anniversary!"
About the Author
George Amick is a journalist and stamp writer from Trenton, New Jersey. He has been collecting the stamps of the United States for 50 years.
He is editor of the editorial page of
The Times of Trenton. During his career with the newspaper, he has also been Washington correspondent, state capitol correspondent, metropolitan editor, state editor and Sunday editor. In
1968-69 he was a Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard University, studying urban problems.
He writes the annual U.S. Stamp Yearbooks published by Linn's Stamp News, and has contributed scores
of articles on a wide range of subjects to philatelic publications. His book Jenny! (also published under the title: The Inverted Jenny: Money, Mystery, Mania) tells the complete story of the
most famous of stamp errors, the U.S. 24-cent inverted center airmail issue of 1918.
He also wrote The American Way of Graft, a study of political corruption, published in 1975 by the Center
for Analysis of Public Issues and used as supplementary reading in several college political science courses. He is married and the father of three grown children. His wife, Donna, is a
journalist and desktop publisher.
This is to convey my thanks for their generous
assistance to Joe Brockert, Jack Williams and Robin Minard of the U.S. Postal Service; Paul and Chris Calle; James Bruns of the National Postal Museum; Gini Horn of the American Philatelic
Research Library, and James A. Baturin of Baumgarten Company. - George Amick
About this Article
article was written in and appeared in printed form in 1994. © 1994 by Fleetwood, a division of Unicover Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced by any
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