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Engraver Surreptitiously Etched Tiny Star of David on U.S. Stamp

August 15, 1987|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — A government engraver etched a tiny Star of David into the design of a $1 stamp last year--the first time, postal officials say, that a symbol has been surreptitiously placed on a U.S. stamp.

Officials of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving said Friday that the mark was added by Kenneth Kipperman, who was arrested by District of Columbia police in June and charged with threatening to blow up the site of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The bureau, part of the Treasury Department, ordered an immediate review of hand-engraved stamp dies after the star was discovered as a result of a telephone tip. The dies are the metal plates from which most U.S. stamps are reproduced.

No Other Marks Found

The review does not focus solely on stamps engraved by Kipperman, although bureau spokesman Ira Polikoff said that several of Kipperman's designs are under scrutiny. As of Friday, no other secret marks had been found on other stamps, Polikoff said.

Shortly after the anonymous call, officials found the six-pointed star in the beard of Hebrew educator Bernard Revel, founder of New York's Yeshiva University.

The tiny star, to the right of Revel's lips on the stamp, is not visible to the naked eye. But Polikoff said it was visible on the die from which the light-green stamp, part of a series honoring famous Americans, was printed.

Millions Printed

Because millions of the Revel stamps have been printed, the Star of David is not expected to appreciably increase the stamp's value to collectors, postal officials said.

The officials said they had no plans to call for re-engraving the stamp to eliminate the star, which Polikoff described as an "unauthorized" addition to the stamp.

Kipperman described himself as Jewish to arresting officers in June. "Since Revel is Jewish, (Kipperman) might have thought this would have added to the design," Polikoff said. "Who knows?"

Peter Davidson, manager of stamp and philatelic information for the U.S. Postal Service, said the agency had "not a clue" as to Kipperman's motive.

Building Being Razed

Kipperman, who is charged with making a threat to cause bodily injury in connection with the museum incident, could not be reached for comment. Two days after his arrest on June 17, he held a news conference and apologized, saying he only wanted to call attention to "what was the remains of a beautiful old historical building" that is being razed for the new museum.

The engraver, one of 16 artisans classified as "bank-note engravers" by the Treasury Department, has returned to work, but he has been placed on administrative duties away from the guarded area where stamp and currency designs are etched into metal. Kipperman's building pass has been coded to bar him from entering the area, Polikoff said.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said the stamp case has been turned over to a grand jury.

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