By Jeremy Cox
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Ever tried to send a leafy vanilla orchid through the mail? Or a great egret? Or a roseate spoonbill?
Today, you can.
The U.S. Postal Service is unveiling a new series of stamps and postcards in Naples that highlight South Florida’s wild side. The "Southern Florida Wetland" issue will be available only at post offices in the city of Naples today; the nationwide release is scheduled for Thursday.
For Hal Williams, president of the Collier County Stamp Club, these are heady times.
“We’re very proud that they’ll be having the first-day ceremony (in Naples),” said Williams, a 67-year-old North Naples resident whose collection includes stamps dating back to their advent in the 1840s.
Postal Service dignitaries, more than a dozen wildlife groups and about 150 schoolchildren from Naples, Immokalee and Everglades City are expected to attend the 11 a.m. first-day-of-issue ceremony.
Naples Zoo was chosen as the event’s backdrop because its grounds include several of the 21 plants and animals depicted on the stamps, said Postal Service spokeswoman Debra Mitchell in Fort Myers. Zoo staff will lead the children on a “zoo safari” to glimpse flora and fauna.
The 10 stamps are arranged on a pane and have a price tag of $3.90, or 39 cents per stamp — the going price of stamps these days. The postcards will be sold in packs of 10 for $7.95. The issue is the eighth in a series called “Nature of America,” which draws attention to unique plant and animal communities across the country.
The zoo plans to waive admission fees today, said Tim Tetzlaff, the zoo’s director of conservation and communication.
Hawaii artist John D. Dawson created the pane’s wild scene after hours of research, field observations and specimen studies. The work includes depictions of royal palms, American crocodiles, Cape Sable sea sparrows, a Florida panther and an eastern indigo snake. The back of the pane features a numbered key that gives the common and scientific names of each plant and animal on the subtropical front side.
Although recent stamp issues aren’t worth more than the cost of sending a letter, collectors still clamor for new issues, Williams said.
"People collect all kinds of things. They’ll collect bottle caps. They’ll collect leaves off trees. They’re not worth anything. It’s just a hobby," he said.