I'm happy to announce spring is officially here. I'm confident of that for multiple reasons. My wife is thrilled with my now tracking that greenish pollen in the house instead of slush. Our mail-order catalogs are beginning to advertise clothing ideal for autumn. And there are more mulch vendors circling the neighborhood than ice cream trucks.
Of course, birds changing is added testimony to the season. Not that all winter birds are dull, but the ones that come back in the spring are particularly special. It must be a visual treat in Mexico, or wherever they go from October to April. Happily, they're now back to brighten it up around here.
The Postal Service evidently wants to make sure we notice, because they just issued a booklet of stamps featuring 10 brightly colored birds of spring. Better still, the birds, such as the western meadowlark, mountain bluebird, Baltimore oriole, scarlet tanager, white-throated sparrow and others, are all songbirds as well. Hence, they sound every bit as good as they look.
Amazingly, upward of 4,500 different types of songbirds can be found around the world — some more tuneful than others. For instance, by definition, the crow is a songbird, though not one anyone but a member of the Addams Family would consider it melodic. Others sing only occasionally.
The 10 chosen by the USPS known for both their songs and colors are a welcome addition to spring 2014. They are just now hitting most post offices and are still available for a special First Day of Issue cancel.
Collectors can get the cancels by purchasing the stamps at a local post office, affixing them to a self addressed envelope and sending that inside of a separate mailing envelope to: Songbirds Stamp, Postmaster, 401 Tom Landry Freeway, Room 645, Dallas, TX 75260-9998. There's no charge for the postmark, but all orders must be received no later than June 4, 2014.
One of the most human signs of spring is baseball. Most would argue it is far and away THE harbinger of the season. The fact that it is clearly "America's Pastime" was underscored by the recent release of the National Baseball Hall of Fame gold, silver and clad coins. The last time a coin was produced commemorating baseball was in 1997. They were nice enough — silver-dollar and $5 gold pieces in honor of Jackie Robinson. Images on the coins showed him sliding safely into base on the dollar and a portrait of the icon on the gold.
I wrote about the three new coins recently. They broke numismatic ground by being struck in a convex-concave fashion. On one side is a convex curved baseball replete with detailed stitching. The concave side features the nicely detailed image of a baseball glove.
Whether because of the quality of the images on the coin or the fact baseball is the "King of Spring," all of the proof and uncirculated strikes of the $5 gold and silver-dollar coins have sold out. Fact is, the gold coins sold out within hours of their release and the silver dollars went within the next week. Be it among coin collectors or baseball fans, demand has clearly been through the roof.
That leaves only the clad half-dollar coins. Also struck in proof and uncirculated condition, they are still available for $23.95 and $22.95, respectively. Granted, they don't have any precious metal content, but they are the most affordable of all the varieties and also come in the unique convex-concave format.
I can't speak to the future value of any of the coins, but if the alacrity for baseball is any indication, these will be in demand for decades to come. If you were lucky enough to get in on the gold and silver coins, kudos! For those interested in the still-remaining clad versions, more information is available on the U.S. Mint website at: www.USMint.gov.
Editor's Note: A JPEG visual of a sheet of the new songbird stamps has been sent with this column.
To find out more about Peter Rexford and features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.