- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

BRUNSWICK, Md. — Most artists dream that their work will last forever. For Tom Engeman, designer of the U.S. Postal Service’s new “forever” stamp, it’s guaranteed.

The 73-year-old graphic artist signed copies of his Liberty Bell artwork yesterday at his hometown post office as a 2-cent postal-rate increase took effect.

The forever stamp offers a new option for mailing a first-class letter: You can pay 41 cents for a regular stamp that will be outmoded by the next rate increase, or pay the same price for a forever stamp that will be accepted when rates go up.

Mr. Engeman, who has designed 18 postage stamps since 1989, said he didn’t know his Liberty Bell image would become the first forever stamp when he created it nearly three years ago.

“I’m flattered, of course,” he said.

Like virtually all U.S. postage stamps, the Liberty Bell design was approved in concept by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee and commissioned by an art director.

Mr. Engeman was called because of his work on previous assignments, including a National World War II Memorial stamp, a Statue of Liberty stamp and — Mr. Engeman’s favorite — a stamp depicting Uncle Sam’s star-spangled top hat.

Mr. Engeman was paid the standard fee of $5,000 for his glowing, bronze Liberty Bell design, which was based on a black-and-white engraving the art director provided. The design, created on the artist’s Apple computer, was stashed in a Postal Service image bank along with about 100 other pieces of artwork that had not been assigned to a particular stamp.

When the Postal Regulatory Commission approved the forever-stamp idea last May, the stamp advisory panel went to the image bank in search of an appropriate design, said David Failor, executive director of stamp services.

“Immediately, everyone focused on that Liberty Bell that Tommy had done,” Mr. Failor said. “It just seemed like a perfect fit for us.”

The stamp, showing the cracked bell and word, “Forever,” makes “a very recognizable American icon,” Mr. Failor said.

Mr. Engeman said he felt as honored by this selection as he did when he was commissioned to create his first stamp, depicting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“They called me, and they can get anybody they want, so I felt kind of privileged,” he said. “Still do.”

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