CHARLES TOWN – The apple is getting its day.
The U.S. Postal Service’s latest postcard stamp, released last week, showcases the apple – the fruit that serves as the mascot for Musselman High School, is the centerpiece of the Eastern Panhandle’s Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival every October and one of the top crops for farmers here.
West Virginia ranks No. 9 in apple production nationwide, with some 3.4 million bushels being harvested across the Mountain State in an average year. Ninety-five percent of the state’s apple crop grows in Jefferson, Berkeley, Hampshire and Morgan counties.
The new stamp series features four varieties of apple, including the Golden Delicious – West Virginia’s official state fruit since 1995.
Effective Sunday, the cost of sending a postcard rises to 33 cents while the cost of mailing a first-class letter will jump to 46 cents. Both represent an increase of one penny.
Massachusetts artist John Burgoyne used pen, ink, watercolor and some computer tweaking to create the illustrations for the stamps. Other varieties featured: the Northern Spy, the Baldwin and the Granny Smith.
The Golden Delicious, discovered on a family farm in Clay County in 1905, since has become a global favorite for its sweet flavor. It’s believed the variety descended from the Grimes Golden, an apple found by Thomas Grimes in Brooke County in 1804.
West Virginia has celebrated the Golden Delicious for more than 40 years. Clay County began holding its Golden Delicious Apple Festival in 1972. This year’s event happens Sept. 19-22.
The Northern Spy, discovered around Rochester, N.Y., around 1800, is popular for pies. Also good for juice and cider, it’s considered tart and tangy, according to a postal service news release.
Baldwins were New England’s most popular apple for a half-century, according to the New England Apple Association website, but a devastating freeze in 1934 wiped out more than half of the region’s Baldwin crop.
The sweet-tart variety, named for an American Revolution soldier and politician who helped make the apple popular throughout New England, has become much harder to find.
The Granny Smith is the apple-come-lately among the varieties featured on the new stamps. First cultivated in 1868 in Australia, the green and tart variety – sometimes called the “Green Delicious” – didn’t become popular in the United States until decades later.
The apple stamps, available in sets of 20 or coils of 100, may be purchased at post offices, on the USPS website or by phone at 800-782-6724.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.