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Guest Post: Depicting Stamps and Currency

October 4, 2012

Today we’re giving you an informative guest post by Sun at Night. Whether you’re an illustrator or photographer – all artists should read this to ensure designs using stamps and currency aren’t declined.


One of the many current topics right now addresses holidays and postal delivery. Postage stamps, mail delivery and postal carriers have over a century of graphic art history.  This subject has been commercially portrayed for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, humorous birthdays, and of course thank you cards.

Postage stamps are coupled along with currency as they are legally treated in the same manner. They both represent monetary value. Commercial applications utilizing either paper money or coins have been associated with everything from St. Patrick’s Day to Christmas. Many cultures use money to depict good fortune and luck. The commercial usage is only limited by creativity and law.

In the United States the image of any currency or revenue stamps whether it is foreign or domestic is regulated. The governing federal agency is the United States Secret Service. It covers illustration as well as photography and even specifies no storage of original images that are used to make the final product. This means that if you scan a single bill of currency at 100% you may not keep a copy of it. The only object that falls into the category of currency is a depiction of coins. These are not regulated.

Below is a quick summary of how to depict postage stamps and currency for commercial use under US law. This is adapted to target digital media.

  • United States and Foreign Postage Stamps Illustrated or Photographed
    • Without the Cancellation mark (not used for postage)
      • Use must be non-fraudulent
      • Any size may be used of black and white depictions
      • Color depictions
        • 75% smaller than the actual size or
        • 150% larger than the actual size
    • With Cancellation Mark (official postal mark)
      • Use must be non-fraudulent
      • Any size, any color
      • Cancellation mark must be prominent
  • United States Currency
    • Single sided only
    • 75% smaller than the actual size or
    • 150% larger than the actual size
    • May not keep any file on any type of storage that is 100% scale of the currency.
  • Foreign Currencies
    • 75% smaller than the actual size or
    • 150% larger than the actual size
    • Black and white only
    • Original files made to use the final image are to be destroyed

Additional Info and Resources

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2012 11:37 am

    Thank you, Sun At Night. Very useful information I hadn’t given much thought to.

  2. October 4, 2012 11:47 am

    I hadn’t given much thought to this at all too, thanks for the very interesting info!

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