Big Sur’s Bixby Creek Bridge to star on stamp: One of 23 to be issued in 2010

Visually, the iconic concrete-arch bridge is stunning. Functionally, Bixby Creek Bridge allows millions of motorists to enjoy the Big Sur Coast every year.

For these reasons, the bridge, which spans more than 700 feet of Highway 1 roadway, will be featured on a U.S. postage stamp coming out next month.

The U.S. Postal Service announced last week that the stamp — one of about two dozen coming out this year — will be the new Express Mail lick-on, to be released Feb. 3. The stamp’s postage value will be $18.30, which is a $4.65 increase for an Express Mail stamp from last year.

"We look at landmarks and iconic views of our country and what we have to offer in terms of prominent landmarks," Postal Service spokesman Roy Betts. "In this instance, Bixby Creek Bridge fits the bill."

Construction of the bridge, which took 14 months, was completed in 1932.

"It’s an awesome display of what man can do working with nature," Betts said.

The illustration of the bridge was done by Dan Cosgrove, an artist from Illinois.

Local philatelist William Greenebaum said there have been several other stamps relating to Monterey County, though this may be the first featuring a local landmark.

"But I wouldn’t want to swear to that," Greenebaum said. "We’ve issued thousands of commemorative stamps."

The Monterey Bay Aquarium hosted a First Day of Issue ceremony in October for the release of a 10-stamp pane depicting a kelp forest.According to the U.S. Postal Service Web site, the scene, which features a mishmash of fish, sea mammals, sea birds and shelled sea creatures, is supposed to depict a kelp forest off the coast of Central California. The site says that the scene is imaginary, but all the species "could be encountered at or near the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary."

The aquarium hosted a First Day of Issue event in 2000, when five stamps featuring deep-sea creatures were unveiled.

Another stamp of local interest was issued in 1979 honoring author John Steinbeck, who was born in Salinas. First Day of Issue envelopes are stamped "Salinas, Ca, Feb. 27 1979." That would have been Steinbeck’s 77th birthday.

The Bixby stamp is one of 23 new stamps planned for release this year. It is one of two that will feature bridges. The other is of Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge, which is the longest suspension bridge in the Western hemisphere.

Other 2010 stamps feature Mother Teresa, actress Katharine Hepburn, pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, and a snowboard representing the XXI Winter Olympics.

Two other new stamps have loose local connections, including one featuring a monarch butterfly and another of cartoon character Dennis the Menace, whose creator, Hank Ketcham, lived the latter part of his life on the Peninsula.

Betts said the stamp images are chosen by the 14-person Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, which each year "receives thousands of suggestions for subjects to appear on stamps."

The committee passes its selections onto the Postmaster General, John Potter, who gives the images final approval.

"It’s not a requirement that you have to be a stamp collector" to be on the committee, Betts said, "but you have to have an appreciation for stamps, and even more so, appreciation for American history."