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New stamp gives Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth another chance to shine

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New stamp gives Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth another chance to shine

CAPE ELIZABETH — A soon-to-be-released U.S. postage stamp will bear the world-famous image of Portland Head Light.

Again.

The new stamp is part of a commemorative series called New England Coastal Lighthouses. The series features five different lighthouses from five states, and each location will play host to a stamp dedication ceremony during simultaneous events later this month.

In Cape Elizabeth, Portland Head Light will serve as backdrop for the unveiling of its namesake stamp. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 13, at Fort Williams, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

Portland Head Light, which is often hailed as the most photographed subject in Maine, has graced U.S. postage stamps twice before, in 1970 and 1981, stamp collector Bruce Harrington said.

It could hold the record for the number of times a single Maine-related subject has been featured, according to Harrington.

There have also been at least five stamp dedication ceremonies in Maine; one of them for an earlier Portland Head Light stamp. In 1981, the post office unveiled its three-stamp series, "America the Beautiful," which featured an agricultural image to represent "amber waves of grain," the Rockies for "purple mountains majesty" and Portland Head Light for "sea to shining sea." The ceremony was held in downtown Portland and Harrington was there.

Harrington said he is not planning to attend the Cape Elizabeth ceremony this month. He said stamp dedications have lost their luster. They're less formal.

Rick Stambaugh, president of York County Stamp Club, is planning to attend a stamp dedication that day, but he'll be in New Castle, N.H., at the Portsmouth Harbor Light.

Stambaugh, 67, said he still enjoys stamp dedications, but he agrees they've diminished in scale over the years.

The first ceremony he'd ever attended was in the early 1980s in Kennebunkport for the dedication of a four-stamp series featuring street cars. The speaker was then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Other stamp ceremonies have featured notables such as Sen. Ted Kennedy and the prime minister of Ireland, Stambaugh said.

At a more recent ceremony, the "dignitaries were parks officials and people from the post office," he lamented.

Stamp collecting has also diminished in scale, Stambaugh added. Few people are doing it anymore.

"It's age. There are no young stamp collectors," he said. "I tried to run a stamp club for kids at our local elementary school. About 10 years ago, I could no longer get any kids interested."

Part of the problem is the stamps themselves. Self-adhesive stamps are impossible to soak or steam off envelopes, which has curtailed a form of collecting that thrived in the days when people licked stamps.

The stamp dedication ceremony at Portland Head Light will be a worthwhile excursion for anyone who chooses to go, Stambaugh said.

"It's a living piece of history that they'll see," he said. "They'll see a stamp being issued for the first time and they'll be given a souvenir. The only people in the world that will have that souvenir are the people who show up."

The other ceremonies will be held at Boston Harbor Light in Boston; New London Harbor Light in New London, Conn., and Point Judith Light in Narragansett, R.I.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.