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'02 issues to honor Houdini, 50 states

A colorful set of postage stamps bearing greetings from each of the 50 states, and designs honoring poets, entertainers and journalists, are among the new stamps scheduled to be issued next year by the U.S. Postal Service.

A block of four Winter Sports stamps will jump-start the year with designs saluting athletic events showcased at the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. A stamp honoring the important and often life-changing act of mentoring a child and the latest stamp in the Lunar New Year series _ with a design depicting the Year of the Horse _ will also be issued in January.

Feb. 1 will mark the beginning of Black History Month and the issuance of a stamp featuring writer Langston Hughes, the 25th in the Black Heritage series. Other notable Americans in the series include last year's honoree Roy Wilkins, Malcolm X (1999), Bessie Coleman (1995) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1979).

Other individual honorees to appear on stamps in 2002 are Irving Berlin (expected to be issued May 11), John James Audubon (June 27), Harry Houdini (July 3), Andy Warhol (Aug. 6), poet Ogden Nash (Aug. 19) and Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic Games gold medalist and "father of surfing" (August).

On March 16 the Postal Service will issue a stamp celebrating the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Also expected in February or March is a Happy Birthday stamp, which will spice up traditional birthday wishes mailed to family and friends.

Based on "large letter" postcards popular in the 1930s and 1940s, the Greetings from America stamps will be issued in April, marking the first issuance of a pane of 50 stamps in 10 years. The stamps hint at the romance of travel and discovery and convey a nostalgia for all aspects of popular American culture. Text on the back of the 50-stamp pane will list each state's bird, flower, tree and capital city as well as date of statehood.

April will also see the continuation of the educational Nature of America series. The fourth souvenir sheet of 10 stamps in the series will shed light on the longleaf pine forest. Although greatly reduced in size, the longleaf pine forest still occupies parts of its natural range in the coastal plains from southeastern Virginia to eastern Texas.

The final installment in the Classic Collection series debuts in June with the release of the Masters of Photography pane of 20 stamps featuring a wide variety of black and white images captured on film by notable photographers over the years.

Four lovable Teddy Bears are expected to win the hearts of many collectors starting Aug. 15. These stamps were inspired by the popular single design issued in 1998 as one of 15 stamps honoring the 1900s in the Celebrate the Century program.

In September Kirby and Samantha, a photogenic puppy and kitten adopted from animal shelters, will appear on the Neuter or Spay stamps, which were developed to help spread awareness about the importance of neutering or spaying pets.

Four Women in Journalism stamps _ recognizing the talents of Marguerite Higgins, Ida Tarbell, Ethel Payne and Nellie Bly _ will also make headlines.

September will end with the issuance of the American Bats stamps in time for the beginning of National Stamp Collecting Month in October. The return of the classic Hawaiian Missionaries stamps and holiday stamps featuring four Snowmen ornaments will close out the 2002 program.

The Legends of Hollywood series continues in 2002, but the design and date of issue have not been determined.

Stamp yearbook out

The U.S. Postal Service has released its 2001 Commemorative Stamp Yearbook, the annual tribute to the year's commemoratives. The special full-color book highlights the stamps, date and place of official issue, illustrator, designer and art director.

It includes an impressive array of Americana such as the legendary baseball fields, Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago. Also noted in the book are funny lady Lucille Ball and not-to-be-forgotten Snoopy with his Peanuts gang.

The price for this hardcover keepsake is $25. It's available from stamp dealers or bookstores.

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