Stamps are generally designed to be a positive and uplifting way to convey information. Most commemorate people, places or events that impact us. They also have been propaganda tools — especially during wartime — for those at home or abroad.
International mail recipients appear to be the target of the newest stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service. It's designed in a round format and features an image of Earth. That's appropriate, considering its $1.15 value is intended for 1-ounce international postal rates anywhere in the world. It, too, is informational, but in a visibly negative way.
The image of Earth on the stamp doesn't feature rich blue waters. Instead, the oceans of the world are seen in deep reds, greens, yellows and oranges. These colors represent the extreme warming of the waters and how that heat spreads with ocean currents.
Unlike mere predictions and conjecture related to climate change, the thermal images of Earth are taken from actual NASA satellites. In other words, this isn't going to happen — it's taking place. The impact of it all waits to be seen, but it's an important harbinger of what's going on. I'm not sure if recipients will automatically understand what the colors on the stamp mean, but if they do, it's a good start in recognizing an issue that affects everyone in every country.
Released for Earth Day 2014, the stamp is currently available in larger post offices — or online at www.USPS.gov. And, of course, special First Day of Issue cancels are available for collectors.
To obtain one of the special cancels, purchase the stamp and affix it to a self-addressed envelope. Send that inside of a separate mailing envelope to: Global Sea Surface Temperature Stamp, PO Box 92282, Washington, DC 20090-2282. There's no charge for the postmark, but all orders must be postmarked NO LATER than June 20, 2014.
The one thing that has been a positive constant around the globe for several thousand years is gold — specifically, gold coinage. Starting somewhere around 600 B.C. and continuing today, nothing has been coveted more.
A new book by Svein Gullbekk, "Money That Changed The World — A History of Gold Coins and Gold Currencies," details many of the premier gold coins from ancient days to the present.
In 234 pages and almost 200 color images, the book traces gold coins from ancient Greece to the present-day Americas. Unique to the book is how it extensively covers gold throughout the world.
A compelling example showcases Hitler's obsession to find and seize gold to support his war effort, which he did. Included in the volume are also stories of the role of gold leading up to our Great Depression of the 1930s. Of course, the vast wealth of European nations and the Middle East, where gold has literally shaped nations, politics, borders and wars, is found throughout.
Understand, the tome isn't a mere picture book or casual read. The author is a professor of numismatics at Oslo University. He takes a scholarly approach to the subject. Nevertheless, the facts are curious and the stories compelling, transporting readers to the mines of South America, holds of Spanish wrecks, bazaars of ancient lands and much more. For those who collect or truly lust after this precious metal in coin form, "Money That Changed the World" is a compelling resource.
The hardcover book costs $75.25. The price includes shipping. It is available from the Coin & Currency Institute. For more information or to order a copy, call toll-free: 800-421-1866, or visit: www.coin-currency.com.
Editor's Note: A JPEG visual of the Global Ocean Stamp 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.