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Heart history

Fans have been swooning over Love stamps since 1973

USPS Love stamps
Love stamps include, clockwise from left, a 2008 heart, the first Love stamp from 1973, the 2017 skywriting stamp, this year’s release, the 1984 stamp and the 1997 swans stamp.

The Postal Service released its latest Love stamp last week, continuing a tradition that began more than 50 years ago.

The first Love stamp was introduced in 1973 and billed as a “Special Stamp for Someone Special.” It featured artist Robert Indiana’s iconic 1960s Love design, which he previously rendered as a painting and a sculpture.

The stamp was supposed to be a one-off — but eventually proved popular enough for a series.

It was nine years before the second stamp was issued, and the concept gained traction. A new stamp has been issued annually since 2004.

Through the years, common themes have emerged.

The word “love” is predominant in a majority of the stamps, spelled out in big block letters or flowy cursive — even skywriting, in the 2017 stamp.

Hearts are also abundant. Sometimes a heart is formed by the negative space in the design, as in the 1997 swans stamps.

Birds have appeared on multiple Love stamps.

Doves, bluebirds and, of course, lovebirds have been depicted. They are known to form mating pairs for life, making them ideal symbols of love and faithfulness. This year’s stamp shows a heart-sealed envelope delivered by a bird in flight.

Flowers are portrayed on many Love stamps, too.

Red roses are the iconic symbol of romantic love. Pink roses express appreciation and admiration. Purple pansies, featured in the 2010 stamp, represent affection. The word “pansy” is rooted in the French word “pensée,” referring to a thought.

And of course, the theme that runs through all the Love stamps is love and affection.

While Love stamps are released in time for Valentine’s Day, as USPS points out each year, they can be used to deliver love for any reason, in any season.