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Nixon Stamp to Be Issued in Early 1995


WASHINGTON — A memorial stamp bearing a smiling portrait of the late President Richard Nixon will be issued early next year, postal officials said Thursday, but uncertainty over the first-class postage rate will delay printing for several months.

Nixon will join actress Marilyn Monroe, trumpeter Louis Armstrong and chocolatier Milton Hershey, among others, on an eclectic roster of 1995 commemorative stamp subjects.

The Nixon stamp, in keeping with a tradition of honoring all former presidents after their deaths, normally would have been issued on his birthday, Jan. 9.

But its printing will be delayed because the expected January increase from 29 cents to 32 cents for first-class postage has not yet been approved by the independent Postal Rate Commission. (When the expected new rate of 32 cents takes effect, the Postal Service will have available large volumes of pre-printed stamps, with the letter G, the latest in a series used when rates change.)

Nixon's portrait is based on his official White House photo, but the design by Daniel Schwartz incorporates several changes requested by the Nixon family: The middle initial M. will be dropped from the name and his suit and tie will be darkened.

About 80 million copies of the Nixon stamp will be issued, a standard volume for a commemorative stamp. Although he was the only President to resign his office and his name is still associated with the Watergate political scandals, there was never any doubt that Nixon would be honored along with other presidents.

Rep. William L. Clay (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Post Office Committee, complained in a letter to Postmaster General Marvin T. Runyon Jr. that he was unalterably opposed to a Nixon stamp.

Runyon brushed aside the objection last month, telling Clay in a letter that "it is a longstanding tradition to feature every President from George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson on commemorative stamps after their death(s). Since the turn of the century, the death of a President or former President has been marked with the issuance of a memorial stamp the following year."

In the "spirit" of tradition, Runyon said, "we will feature President Nixon" on a stamp.

At the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, tourists and local visitors expressed a general approval of the stamp Thursday.

"I think it's great and I'm in favor of it," said Laguna Hills resident Bonnie Hightower. "I have heard negative remarks from people who don't like Nixon, but if they issue stamps for movie stars, why even question it? Nixon was our President."

Blanche Rodgers, visiting the library from Chicago, said, "If Elvis (Presley), who was on drugs, got a stamp, then Richard Nixon deserves to be on a stamp as well."

The library's director of special projects and events, Brett Holmes, said a commemorative stamp is "only fitting. Whether you love him, hate him or have no opinion of him, Richard Nixon was our 37th President. He influenced history both domestically and internationally as no other President had and no other President to come will ever do."

While presidents are honored on stamps a year after they die, Postal Service rules and traditions dictate that everyone else who is featured on a stamp must have been dead for at least 10 years.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter, running for reelection, wanted to solidify the labor vote by honoring AFL-CIO leader George Meany, who had died not long before. When postal officials reminded the White House of the dead-for-10-years-or-more rule, a compromise stamp was issued, showing an eagle with the slogan, American Labor. Meany, incidentally got his stamp this year, a full-face portrait.

The Postal Service will issue a veritable flood of stamps next year, more than 100 different stamps. None of them will be as popular as the Elvis Presley stamp, which sold 500 million copies last year. The Postal Service made an estimated profit of $36 million from Elvis stamps sold to collectors or to fans of the rock star, who never used them to mail letters. It costs just a penny to print two sheets of 50 stamps. The rest of the price of the stamp is profit if it is never put on an envelope for delivery.

Stamps are "miniature works of art and symbols of our national heritage," Runyon said Thursday as he unveiled the designs of the new issues.

Four environmental stamps, showing the Earth being washed in a bathtub, a tree planting, energy from the sun and children cleaning a beach, will be issued on Earth Day. They were designed by students who entered a nationwide competition. The winners were Melody Kiper of Shreveport, La.; Jennifer Michalove of Stonington, Conn.; Christy Millard of Lakewood, Colo., and Brian Hailes of Millville, Utah.

A set of 20 stamps dealing with the Civil War will show Confederate President Jefferson Davis on a U.S. stamp for the first time. Abraham Lincoln, who also will be featured, has appeared on more than 50 issues.

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