I wanted a stamp with hearts for Valentines, but did not really know what to say about one of the hippy like messages of peace and love that are the central to many recent stamp issues. This stamp turned out to be about celebrating intact families. As Frank Sinatra sung, “Love and Marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to the Valentines edition of The Philatelist.
I do not like the look of todays stamp. It manages to be both ahead of it’s time and behind the time at the same time. In both directions, it is in all the wrong ways. Like so many twenty first century stamp issues, this 1984 stamp has lost all the dignity and gravitas of a major country stamp issue. It used to be an important event for an issue to warrant a postage stamp issue. Instead we have here what is made to look like a child’s stick figure drawing, that doesn’t even really tell you what it is about. The way that the stamp is old fashion is in the way the government presumes to tell an individual how to live. There was a big movement in 1970s America to get the government out of an individuals bedroom. The fact that the message was so out of date is probably why the messaging was so obscure. It perhaps was not something the postal service wanted to talk about.
The stamp today is issue A1489, a 20 cent stamp issued by the United States on October 1st, 1984. It was a single stamp issue displaying a child’s drawing of a family consisting of mother, father, and a child. The issue promoted family unity. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used. There are out there imperforate vertical pairs of the stamp that are worth $325.
The level of illegitimacy was already on the way up by the time of this stamp. This was true both in the USA and in much of Europe. The rate of out of wedlock births in the USA was 16% at the time. This was more than double the rate at the beginning of the 20th century. This was mostly due do to the drop off in the practice of “shotgun” weddings. A shotgun wedding is one that happens immediately after an unmarried impregnation. The drop off accounted for over 75% of the increase in out of wedlock births.
Being raised by single parents does create issues for the child. They have higher rates of poverty, delinquency, and use of public assistance. They also have lower levels of educational attainment. What is less well understood is whether this is because of the illegitimacy itself of whether it relates more to the class of people involved. In Scandinavia for example the percentage of out of wedlock births are a big majority of births and yet wealth and education are at a high level and crime is low.
In any case it is not disputable that government promoting family unity was a failure. The illegitimacy rate in the USA is now over 40 % of all births. I guarantee that despite the fact that the rate of illegitimacy has continued to rise, the postal service would not repeat this type of issue.
Well my drink is empty so it is time to open up the conversation in the below comment section. A stamp celebrating shotgun weddings would have more likely got my vote. Issued a few weeks after Valentine’s Day? Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.