A quarter-century after the release of its first California condor postage stamp in 1971, the U.S. Post Office released a new condor stamp. The 1996 version shows a full-color close-up photograph of an adult condor’s head:
Much had changed between 1971 and 1996. As the California condor population continued to dwindle through the 1970s and into the 1980s, all condors were eventually brought into captivity. Within just a few years, some of the captives and their new offspring were released. By 1996, the total condor population was over 100. Most of these birds were still in captivity but the population size was more than double what it had been in 1971.
Some of the first day covers, or cachets, commemorating the release of the 1996 stamp have more sophisticated art work than those from 1971. But there are still simple and even silly cartoons among the set.
The 12 cachets below are from my collection. Some include text or images on their reverse side.
The image on the cachet just above is by wildlife artist Chuck Ripper. Ripper’s razor sharp images of animals have themselves appeared on many U.S. postage stamps.
The 1971 California condor stamp had shown a bird in soaring flight. The close-up image of the California condor on the 1996 stamp is consistent with humans’ growing familiarity with the condor.
In fact, we know the name of the model for this stamp: Almiyi. Hatched in 1983 at the San Diego Zoo, her egg had been laid in the wild but then taken from the nest for hatching in captivity. During her life she produced 38 chicks, a remarkable contribution toward restoring her species. Almiyi died this past May from cancer.
To learn more about Almiyi, visit the Fish and Wildlife Service’s website for her obituary. To see cachets for the 1971 condor postage stamp, view an earlier post: First day cover art: 1971.