Stamp Inspired by Ancient Greeks and a Contest!

Postage stamps featuring Olympic themes have been popular ever since French sportsman Pierre de Coubertin revived the games in Athens in 1896. The games, however, have a much longer history, of course. The first recorded Olympic Games took place in the Greek city of Olympia in 776 B.C., and subsequently were held every four years for nearly 12 centuries until the end of the fourth century A.D. The 2004 Olympic Games postage stamp recognized the tradition’s ancient origins.

36 U.S.C. Sec. 220506. Official Licensed Product of the United States Olympic Committee.

“The idea was to create a graphic that resembled the Attic vase paintings of Greece,” says stamp artist Lonnie Busch. “After finding as many images of vases as possible, I tried to capture the feel in an updated version,” he explains. The result is a stylized depiction of a Greek runner that resembles a scene from an ancient black-figure vase. A classical design known as a meander or key pattern, which borders the top and bottom of the stamp, helped Busch and art director Richard Sheaff meet an even larger design challenge.

“That challenge,” says Busch, “was to make the image flow across the sheet of stamps.” Sheaff wanted the runner, border, and background to merge into the adjoining stamps on either side, giving the appearance of a footrace when they appeared in horizontal rows on the stamp pane. Red versions of the main figure on either side of the main runner created the desired effect, and the stamp was complete.

Busch says that he wasn’t intimidated by the worldwide interest in the games or the long tradition of Olympic-themed stamps. Instead, he focused on the task at hand: capturing the idea of the Olympics Games in a single piece of art.

“In a way, that gave me freedom and protection,” he says, “leaving the image fresher.” His design honors all modern Olympians while acknowledging the small band of runners whose determination and competitive spirit has resonated for centuries.

How well do you know the Olympic Games? Answer the following question correctly and you could be one of four lucky winners of a First Day of Issue ceremony program for the 2004 Olympic Games stamps:

The ancient Olympic Games began with a single footrace. What was the name of that footrace?

Submit your answer to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com and, remember, spelling counts! The winners will be selected at random and notified by email. Deadline for entries is 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, August 3. Good luck!

36 U.S.C. Sec. 220506. Official Licensed Product of the United States Olympic Committee.

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About USPS Stamps

The Postal Service™ is proud of its role in portraying the American experience to a world audience through the issuance of postage stamps and postal stationery. Each year the Postal Service issues commemorative stamps reflecting subjects of national significance and appeal. More than 160 years of stamp development has yielded an incredible archive of imagery and commentary reflecting American culture and society. Even in this fast-changing world, stamps are still a versatile and convenient method of postage. And stamp collecting is a lifetime hobby that is fun and educational for all ages. Stamp collecting is easy to start without a big investment. It is also a great way to learn about the world and its many wonders, opening the door to an exciting universe of history, science, geography, the arts, technology, and sports. Our mission is to provide universal service that is prompt, reliable, efficient, affordable, and self-sustaining. Throughout its history the Postal Service has grown with the nation, binding it together by ensuring that everyone, everywhere, has the same ability to communicate regardless of technological change.

One thought on “Stamp Inspired by Ancient Greeks and a Contest!

  1. I think Micheal Philips should have a stamp with his picture & the US flag. For all the effort & time and the winning of gold & silver medals at the Olympics., For the United States

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