Total Eclipse (U.S. 2017)

Updated May 29th:

Issue: Total Eclipse of the Sun Stamp
Item Number: 475300
Denomination & Type of Issue: First-Class Mail Forever®
Format: Pane of 16 (1 design)
Series: N/A
Issue Date & City: June 20, 2017, Laramie, WY 82072
Designer: Antonio Alcalá, Alexandria, VA
Art Director: Antonio Alcalá, Alexandria, VA
Typographer: Antonio Alcalá, Alexandria, VA
Existing Photos: Fred Espenak
Modeler: Sandra Lane/Michelle Finn
Manufacturing Process: Offset, Microprint
Printer: Banknote Corporation of America
Printed at: Browns Summit, NC
Press Type: Alprinta 74, ABG Digicon Series 2
Stamps per Pane: 16
Print Quantity: 60 million stamps
Paper Type: Phosphor Tagged Paper, Overall
Adhesive Type: Pressure-sensitive
Processed at: Banknote Corporation of America, Browns Summit NC
Colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, Thermochromic/Black
Stamp Orientation: Vertical
Image Area (w x h): 1.085 x 1.085 in./27.56 x 27.56 mm
Overall Size (w x h): 1.225 x 1.225 in./31.12 x 31.12 mm
Full Pane Size (w x h): 6.00 x 6.00 in./152.40 x 152.40 mm
Press Sheets Size (w x h): 12.00 x 24.50 in./304.8 x 622.30 mm
Plate Size: 128 stamps per revolution
Plate Numbers: “B” followed by five (5) single digits
Marginal Markings:
Front: Plate numbers in two corners of pane
Back: © 2017 USPS • USPS logo • Plate position diagram • Barcode (475300) in upper right and lower left corners of pane • 1 map, “Track of the Total Solar Eclipse Across the United States, August 21, 2017” • Promotional text

Updated May 12th:
On June 20, 2017, in Laramie, WY, the U.S. Postal Service® will issue the Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp (Forever® priced at 49 cents), in one design, in a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) pane of 16 stamps (Item 475300). The $7.84 Total Eclipse of the Sun pane of 16 stamps may not be split, and the stamps may not be sold individually. The stamps will go on sale nationwide June 20, 2017.

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible to millions of Americans as it sweeps a narrow path across parts of the entire country. The U.S. Postal Service anticipates this rare event with a stamp celebrating the majesty of total solar eclipses. A total eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Moon completely blocks the visible solar disk from view, casting a shadow on the Earth. The image on the Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp shows a total solar eclipse that was seen over Jalu, Libya, in 2006.

The Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp is the first U.S. stamp to use thermochromic ink, which reacts to the heat of your touch. Placing your finger over the black disc on the stamp causes the ink to change from black to clear to reveal an underlying image of the moon. The image reverts back to the black disc once it cools. The back of the stamp pane shows a map of the eclipse path. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp with existing photographs taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak.

Stamp Fulfillment Services will make an automatic push distribution to Post Offices™ of a quantity to cover approximately 30 days of sales.

Special Dedication Postmarks:
Only the following pictorial postmark is permitted for the Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp. The word “Station” or the abbreviation “STA” is required somewhere in the design, because it will be a temporary station.

How to Order the First-Day-of-Issue Postmark:
Customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office, at The Postal Store® website at usps.com/shop, or by calling 800-782-6724. They must affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes (to themselves or others), and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:

FDOI – Total Eclipse of the Sun Stamp
USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services
8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64144-9900

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service™ will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. There is a 5-cent charge for each additional postmark over 50. All orders must be postmarked by August 20, 2017.

Philatelic products for this stamp issue are as follows:

  • 475306 Press Sheet with Die-cut, $62.72
  • 475310 Digital Color Postmark Keepsake, $9.95
  • 475316 First-Day Cover, $0.93
  • 475321 Digital Color Postmark, $1.64
  • 475329, Protective Sleeve, $0.25
  • 475330 Ceremony Program, $6.95
  • 475333 American Commemorative Collectible Panel, $10.95

Technical Specifications are not yet available.

April 27th:

According to a USPS spokesman, this “cool” “first of its kind” issue is a “Forever Stamp that turns into TWO images from the heat of your finger!” The stamp will be issued June 20

[press release]
Total Eclipse of the Sun to be commemorated on a Forever Stamp
One Stamp: Two Images

WASHINGTON — The Postal Service will soon release [June 20] a first-of-its-kind stamp that changes when you touch it. The Total Solar Eclipse Forever stamp, which commemorates the August 21 eclipse, transforms into an image of the Moon from the heat of a finger. The public is asked to share the news on social media using the hashtag #EclipseStamps.

Tens of millions of people in the United States hope to view this rare event, which has not been seen on the U.S. mainland since 1979. The eclipse will travel a narrow path across the entire country for the first time since 1918. The path will run west to east from Oregon to South Carolina and will include portions of 14 states.

The June 20, 1:30 p.m. MT First-Day-of-Issue ceremony will take place at the Art Museum of the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. The University is celebrating the summer solstice on June 20. Prior to the event, visitors are encouraged to arrive at 11:30 a.m. to witness a unique architectural feature where a single beam of sunlight shines on a silver dollar embedded in the floor, which occurs at noon on the summer solstice in the UW Art Museum’s Rotunda Gallery. The back of the stamp pane provides a map of the August 21 eclipse path and times it may appear in some locations. Visit NASA’s website to view detailed maps of the eclipse’s path.

Thermochromic Ink
The stamp image is a photograph taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak, aka Mr. Eclipse, of Portal, AZ, that shows a total solar eclipse seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006.

In the first U.S. stamp application of thermochromic ink, the Total Solar Eclipse stamps will reveal a second image. Using the body heat of your thumb or fingers and rubbing the eclipse image will reveal an underlying image of the Moon (Espenak also took the photograph of the Full Moon). The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.

Thermochromic inks are vulnerable to UV light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve this special effect. To help ensure longevity, the Postal Service will be offering a special envelope to hold and protect the stamp pane for a nominal fee.

A total eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Moon completely blocks the visible solar disk from view, casting a shadow on Earth. The 70-mile-wide shadow path of the eclipse, known as the “path of totality,” will traverse the country diagonally, appearing first in Oregon (mid-morning local time) and exiting some 2,500 miles east and 90 minutes later off the coast of South Carolina (mid-afternoon local time).

A total solar eclipse provides us with the only chance to see the Sun’s corona — its extended outer atmosphere — without specialized instruments. During the total phase of an eclipse the corona appears as a gossamer white halo around the black disk of the Moon, resembling the petals of a flower reaching out into space.

Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, VA, designed the stamp.

The Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp, which is always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

22 thoughts on “Total Eclipse (U.S. 2017)

  1. OK: Susceptible to UV light, a protective envelope will be provided at a nominal fee. ( How Much, what size ? ) What About the UV light(s) in the mail stream processing equipment. Don’t they use UV to find the tagging & scan for chemicals? Is the UV from the equipment less than what would cause the stamp to stop changing when you touch it & heat it up?
    Will a regular paper, or Manilla Envelope block the UV light, or do you have to wrap a regular envelope with Aluminum foil? ( Like an RF-Pulse blocking envelope that protects credit cards? )
    Are they going to send these stamps to almost all of the post offices in the Path of the Shadow?

  2. For folks in Oregon: The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde will have a special ‘Observance’ of the eclipse, from their Casino & Facilities at Spirit Mountain Lodge & Casino. Complementary Eye Protection Glasses will be provided on request,
    special areas near the Lodge/Casino will be set up outside for patrons to watch.
    The regular Buffet Breakfast & Lunch will be available. Lodge Reservations are only accepted 2 months in advance. All of the surrounding facilities are already booked. Some People have camping atop Mary’s Peak near Corvallis, to watch the Shadow Go Racing Across the Countryside. (1100 MPH ) I hope they’ll be selling the Solar Eclipse stamps.

  3. REALLY ! ? ?
    What about “solar” did the stamp designers NOT understand.
    Why, on a “Solar Eclipse” stamp, is a FULL MOON pictured?
    “Sun” is “solar;” “Moon” is “lunar”!
    I think the effect is GREAT! It’s just that the wrong heavenly body is pictured when the ‘process’ is done.
    It should be the Sun ! Especially since the process to ‘activate’ the image requires some form of HEAT!
    During a solar eclipse, it’s rare to see the Moon itself or any features on its surface. Also, the Moon has been featured on a few stamps over the last few years while the Sun hasn’t. The eclipse ‘hides’ the Sun, so by using the ‘heat’ process, it should be the Sun that comes out from behind the dark area – – – just like in a real solar eclipse!
    Or, am I missing something?

    • Because, if there was a solar eclipse, it would be because the moon was in front of the sun, between us and the sun. And, if you could see past the corona, you would see the moon.

      • Yes, I know the dynamics of BOTH solar and lunar eclipses. But in order to SEE the Moon, the sun AND its corona and prominences would all have to either disappear or move quite a distance across the sky.
        In my June 20 reply to “Number 6” below, I kind of address the corona issue. And as you say, “if you could see past the corona, you would see the moon;” however, the corona is STILL THERE on the stamp and it can’t be if we’re looking PAST, or beyond, it.
        I also said that “If they [corona & prominences] disappeared as well, then I’d have no problem with the main design, just the descriptor of ‘Total SOLAR Eclipse’.” And that’s because, visually, there can’t be a solar eclipse AND a FULL Moon in the same place at the same time — which is what the design, to me, is portraying.

  4. From Postal Bulletin MAY 11 PG 48-49 & 54-55
    USPS#4753 ONLY FOR SALE in Panes of 16 $7.84
    #10 $9.95, #16 93c #21 $1.64
    There will be an Any City cancel, and a PIC & DCP FDoI from Laramie WY.
    The Any City is similar to the Nebraska Statehood Crane & Mississippi Statehood 6-string Banjo cancels. Probably proposed for any city in the path of the shadow.
    ( NE only had 1, and MS has only had 2 so far… ) However, with a 4-week deadline for publication, and only 6 weeks until the event…

    • Update: Stamp Announcement 17-27: Total Eclipse of the Sun Stamp
      The Postal Service™ is revising the descriptive stamp
      text from the article entitled “Stamp Announcement 17-27:
      Total Eclipse of the Sun Stamp,” in Postal Bulletin 22467,
      (5-11-17, pages 48-49).
      The updated text is shown here:
      The heat of your touch is usually enough to activate the
      thermochromic ink, but other factors could influence this
      effect, such as lower body temperature, cooler extremities,
      or cooler room temperatures:
       Body temperature. Since body temperature differs
      from person to person, you may have to use an additional
      source of heat, such as a lamp, to reveal the
      image. When the temperature of the paper cools, the
      image will revert to the black disc.
       Room temperature. In an overly warm room, you
      may need to cool the stamps by placing them in an
      area which is substantially cooler than the room
      temperature.
      Thermochromic inks are vulnerable to UV light and you
      must keep them out of direct sunlight for extended periods
      of time. Excessive exposure to UV light could affect the
      changeability of the ink, which would result in a permanent
      clearing of the ink to reveal the moon.
      — Stamp Services,
      Marketing, 7-20-17

    • One of the Any City cancels for this stamp.

      July 29, 2017
      Charlotte Philatelic Society
      Charlotte, NC Station
      Postmaster
      2901 Scott Futrell Drive
      Charlotte, NC 28228-9998

  5. Jim Sutton: What you’re missing is that, during a solar eclipse, the light from the sun to the earth is blocked by the moon, which is what is depicted in this stamp. The rays flying off around the edge of the moon are the sun’s corona, which is all you can see of the sun during a total solar eclipse.

    A lunar eclipse is when the light from the sun to the moon is blocked by the earth.

    • Yes, I know that during a solar eclipse the sun is blocked by the Moon and that during a lunar eclipse the Moon is ‘shadowed’ by the Earth (re-read my original entry). However, the Moon is NEVER visible to the extent, and detail, shown on the stamp DURING any kind of SOLAR eclipse. And if the Moon was visible, one would NOT see the solar corona or prominences. And once the eclipse is over, one CANNOT see the Moon, but the sun IS visible again. And when you see a FULL Moon — the image when the stamp is warmed — in no way can one see any of the sun’s features (corona or prominences)! Especially eminating from the Moon!
      That’s why I consider this design to be in error. (The designer also had a design error on the green Star Trek stamp with the wrong shape of the Enterprise’s silhouette.)
      Again I say that when warmed up, it should be the sun that appears; especially since the surrounding solar activity (corona & prominences) is still there. If they disappeared as well, then I’d have no problem with the main design, just the descriptor of “Total SOLAR Eclipse.”
      Maybe I’m being too nitpicky and want the stamp to be scientifically accurate.
      My main objection is that a solar eclipse and a full Moon are complete opposites and cannot share the sky at the same time — like the stamp infers.
      Many people don’t know the difference between the two types of eclipses and this design, to me, does not help nor clarify — it acerbates the ‘problem.’

  6. And speaking of “scientific accuracy,” the first day of summer — aka “summer solstice” — is on June 21, NOT June 20 (like it was LAST year). Granted it’s at 4:24am, but it’s still on the 21st!
    I’m curious as to how one day could make a difference on the release of this stamp.
    If it was a scheduling ‘thing,’ then the “why” for the difference should’ve been mentioned in the press releases.

    • I’m no expert, but what we were told is that the Summer Solstice occurs at different times depending on where you are, and the United States is big enough that it will occur on June 20 in Wyoming and other western states.

    • I love it when half the sources I check say one thing — June 20 — and the other half say the other thing — June 21 — and all the calendars say June 21.
      Most sources agree that the solstice marks the start of summer.
      However, the 4:24am time I found for June 21 was NOT clearly identified as “UT”.
      As such, though summer starts then there, as was pointed out, due to location difference, summer started at 9:24pm here in the west (MST).
      So, my apologies about questioning why the USPS picked June 20 as the release date.
      But I still think something should’ve been mentioned to avoid the whole “summer solstice / start of summer” confusion.
      Still, it all goes to “accuracy.”

  7. Some folks may pick nits, but the bottom line says:
    ALL of the post offices here were SOLD OUT by noon.
    How many of these will be used for postage, and what percent will
    wind up in the secondary market once the novelty has worn off?
    The Post Office is only looking at the till after a day of SOLD OUT.

    • To My Knowledge, in the USA, the only other recent stamp that did this was the American Motorcycles stamps, First-Day of Issue, Sturgis SD. They are available in the secondary market, at Catalog Price. The USPS hopes the Solar Eclipse will perform similarly.

      • However, in Canada, the Lunar New Year seems to sell out rather well. ( It did in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Antigonish-Canada Post had none for sale in March. )

    • Where is “here”?
      I’m in Phoenix, AZ, and the post offices here have NOT sold out. I just called several and they all still have plenty.
      In fact, when I went to my local post office yesterday (3:00pm MST), the clerks were trying to get the customers interested and to buy at least a couple of the sheets. While I was there, I was the only one who bought the stamp — and only one sheet.
      There was NO run on the stamp yesterday, and from the reaction to my question of “Do you have any of the Solar Eclipse stamp,” there still was no rush to get them today.
      Of course, it may be possible that the daytime temps here of 115° to 122° might have something to do with that.

      Also, when my housemate saw them, the first thing he said was, “Are they real?”
      And after I demonstrated the ‘change,’ he said, “Are you sure they’re real postage stamps?”
      Thought his reaction was worth mentioning.

  8. The protective envelopes are twenty-five cents and they are the size of the pane. They are black and in silver say Total Eclipse of the Sun. They are very attractive and match the stamps well. Classy! I am anal about anyone touching my stamps. I collect them in document protectors with the press release in three ring binders. I would like to point out that the thermochronic ink works just as well while inside a document protector. So, you can enjoy the effect without actually touching the stamps. I believe only time will tell how long the thermochronic ink lasts after going through the mail stream. Anything now would be a guess. How long a mint stamp will still work, and how long the used stamps last will be determined. Things usually do not work nearly as well or long as the manufacturer specifies. But, I would love to be pleasantly surprised. Another first for the USPS. I like these as well. Keep in mind, it would probably be much cheaper for the USPS to just use the metered mail strips and not worry about designing and producing and distributing stamps at all. But, for every one of us philatelists, the post office sells hundreds or thousands of these stamps per year, for which they do not have to provide the service paid for. Does that make us a PAC?

    • I agree, the protective envelopes are very nice, attractive, and classy; however, I was not taken with the fact that you have to pay for them. (Maybe they were free at the FDOI ceremony?)
      The envelope, like the ‘glassine’ ones the post office hands out FREE when you buy any quantity of stamps, should also be free. I would have no problem to a limit of one free one per person, then charge a fee for extras.
      I’ve been to many release ceremonies, both coin and stamp, and any folders/envelopes and the like were free with the purchase of the item; or, the price of the item was increased to include the folder/envelope.
      Though a quarter is not much, it is the principle of the thing. It made me feel that the USPS was trying to nickel & dime us.

      • I was at the post office today (June 22) to get a cancelation on an unrelated commemorative of my own making and I asked how their supply of the eclipse stamp was. The clerk told me they had quite a few sheets still available, but that it was the “sleeve” {folder} they were short on since each post office only got a very limited number of them.
        This makes wonder, was it the stamp or the sleeve/folder that “Lefty” above (June 21) was talking about when he/she said all his/her post offices were “sold out”?

  9. Wanted to buy solar eclipse American Commemorative Collectible Panel, $10.95
    SKU 475333 but couldn’t find it in USPS online stores.Can any body provide any information about the said product.

    • I don’t know if it’s available yet or already sold out.
      Best thing to do would be to call USPS and ask about it.
      Good luck.

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