- September 01, 2000, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
Crown Roll Leaf created a stunning stereogram image for Canada Post's millennium project, and a team of suppliers brought the stamp to life.
Canada Post, the official postal administration of Canada, reports it was the first postal authority in North America to produce a hologram-decorated stamp. That was in 1992, and since that time, holograms have become a more common device to enhance the graphic appeal of stamps, with approximately 60 hologram stamps converted worldwide.
So, when Canada Post decided to develop a special keepsake stamp to commemorate the coming of the new millennium, it did the "old-fashioned" hologram one better. Canada Post raised the bar in postage stamp graphic design worldwide by working with key suppliers to develop the first holographic stereogram stamp.
A stereogram is a three-dimensional hologram produced by recording many individual frames of a sequence of images. Because it incorporates dozens of layers of images, it offers the viewer a far more fluid and realistic viewing than a traditional hologram.
"After a while, it can get kind of gimmicky," Jim Phillips, manager/stamp marketing for Canada Post, says of the holograms. "We only use them when it really makes sense—when we could really deliver something new and different to the consumer—and the millennium was obviously a special time. I've seen almost every hologram stamp, and this is the first one of this nature that has full motion."
Assembling the Team
Preserving memories of the past and sending a message of peace, hope, and love for the future, Canada Post created an "Official Millennium Keepsake," a special philatelic souvenir that pays homage to the printers that began producing stamps in Canada in the nineteenth century.
The stereogram stamp was one of three included in the special commemorative collection. The concept for the commemorative collection—to represent the past with an intaglio steel engraving, the present with lithography, and the future with holography—was conceived at Canada Post in November 1998.
Ashton-Potter, a Toronto-based offset litho printer that produces nearly half of all postage stamps used in Canada, was responsible for coordinating many aspects of the project. Canada Post coordinated the creation of the stereogram by Crown Roll Leaf as well as the production of the silver cases that contained the keepsake images.
To do so, Ashton-Potter assembled a production team encompassing all aspects of hologram/stamp production. The team included, in addition to Crown, Gravure Choquet Inc. and model maker and animation artist George Sivy. (Other companies also were involved with the intaglio and litho stamps.)
Full-Size Image a Challenge
Georges de Passille, manager/stamp products for Canada Post, was confident his team could produce striking "past" and "present" stamps with traditional printing methods.
Ashton-Potter used a six-color, 28x40-in. Man-Roland sheet-fed litho offset press to print five million souvenir sheets and 250,000 miniature sheets. The 95-cent intaglio stamp was produced in the same quantity by Canadian Bank Note. It features a dove with an olive branch in its mouth surrounded by an elaborate Victorian-style frame.
However, in discussing the hologram project, de Passille notes that "Canada Post wanted to really push the envelope as far as possible, then push it some more, creating something that had never been done before."
He adds, "It was an immense project. We threw ourselves in and accepted nothing but excellence."
Making the job even more difficult was the size. Phillips notes that holograms have traditionally been much smaller, about the size of a hologram that might appear as an authenticator on credit cards. For example, France recently produced a stamp carrying a round hologram of the Mona Lisa. There, however, the registration was not critical, according to Phillips, since the hologram was a smaller element of the overall stamp. In contrast, the full-size stereogram used for the millennium project became, in essence, the stamp itself. "It took up 99 percent of the stamp. It's a full holographic image."
A dove, the symbol of peace, love, and hope, was chosen as the image for each stamp.
In creating the stereogram, designer Pierre Yves Pelletier used a live dove as a guide, then hired an animal trainer, built a flight cage, and photographed the dove in flight. Recording the flight was essential, as the image in a stereogram must replicate reality. The photographs then were reduced to the size of the postage stamp. In all, 60 individual photos of the dove were used to create the image.
On a computer Sivy arranged the dove image and other elements of the hologram stamp: "1999-2000," "Canada," "the Canadian maple leaf," and "46" for the stamp's denomination. The art then was sent to the headquarters of Crown Roll Leaf, a full-service, vertically integrated manufacturer of hot stamping foils, holograms, and diffraction gratings.
A production-quality, full-color, white-light-viewable hologram was electroformed to produce a silver master. This master was used to create a "shim" that embosses the holographic image into the roll leaf product. After embossing, Crown Roll Leaf metallized the hologram and applied adhesive. The process took four weeks.
The goal was to hot stamp the hologram stamps three across, so Crown delivered three separate 4-in., 2,500-ft-long webs to Gravure Choquet. When the accuracy slipped slightly over the separate webs, Crown produced a single 18-in. web with three holograms across for a 20-in. repeat.
"The accuracy was very good, and the customer got good repeat," says Patrick Choquet, VP of Gravure Choquet. The remake took three weeks. Crown kept producing holograms for Gravure Choquet until September, when all five million were completed.
ot Stamping Step
Gravure Choquet hot stamped the holograms onto stamp paper made especially for the project. To do the job, the company produced nine copper plates, one for each image in the press sheet, to place under the paper to handle the pressure necessary for application of the hologram in a Bobst SP 76 BM press. The plates were the same size as the hologram and had a center-etched square the size of each stamp.
For the press layout, the receiving plate had the copper plates arranged in position and locked. Cardboard spacers were placed between the copper squares so that the paper remained flat and even. A cover sheet was placed over the copper plate, and the hologram webs and the receiving plate then were aligned. The paper was fed into the Bobst press, which applied 1 ton of pressure/2 sq in. at 300 deg F to affix the holograms. After exiting the machine, they were kiss cut on a Bobst die-cutter.
"The really unusual part was affixing the hologram to the stamp," notes Phillips. "The amount of pressure that was needed, the heat that was involved, the extremely tight registration that was required, all combined to make it a difficult job."
Each self-adhesive stamp can be removed from its border and each border also can be removed. A special overlay was used to check the registration for each sheet as it left the press. One press operator was dedicated to the entire production, which ran from July through November, five to six days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day.
"It was extremely complex coordination," notes Phillips. "It is very difficult to bring everything and everyone together and get that quantity out in a short time frame."
But in the end it all came together to produce a striking memento.
Crown Roll Leaf, Paterson, NJ; 973-742-4000; crownrollleaf.com
Gravure Choquest Inc., Quebec City, Canada; 514/327-2104
George Sivy, Logan, UT; 435/258-0709
Man Roland, Westmont, IL; 630/920-2000; manroland.com
Pelletier Design, Beloeil, Quebec, Canada; 450/464-1312
Bobst Group, Roseland, NJ; 973/226-8000; bobstgroup.com