Issued on June 22, 1991, the 30-cent multicolored Cardinal (Scott 2480) definitive was reportedly issued to meet the postcard rate to Canada and Mexico. Many speculated, however, that it was issued to meet the 30-cent first-class rate previously denied by the Postal Rate Commission. The United States Postal Service formally filed for a rate consideration on July 2.
Robert Giusti designed the stamp, which was printed in yellow, red, blue, and black by Stamp Venturers on a Champlain gravure press at J.W. Fergusson and Sons and perforated 11˝ x 11 by KCS Industries on an L-perforator.
The Cardinal definitive was distributed in panes of one hundred, ten stamps across and ten down on the pane. Gravure printing cylinders with four hundred subjects were used to print the stamp. A group of four numbers preceded by an 'S' are printed alongside the corner stamp. "©USPS 1991" and "USE CORRECT ZIP CODE ®" are printed in the selvage.
A member of the cardinal family of birds in North America, the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) draws its name from the red-robed Roman Catholic clerics known as 'cardinals'. Its crested head is said to resemble a bishop's mitre. The birds eat primarily seeds, fruits, wastes, small animals, and insects, and almost always live in pairs. If one is seen, its mate will usually be nearby.
Males are bright, deep red with black faces and yellow beaks. Females are lighter with mostly grayish-brown tones. Both possess prominent raised crests and strong beaks. Cardinals are approximately 8-9 inches long, weighing 1.48-1.69 ounces.
Abundant across the United States and Canada, cardinals' range extends west to the U.S.-Mexico border and south through Mexico to northern Guatemala and northern Belize. They have been introduced in Bermuda, Hawaii, and Southern California. Their natural habitats include woodlands, suburbs, gardens, swamps, and thickets.
In the U.S., the Northern Cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky (1926), Illinois (1929), Indiana (1933), Ohio (1933), North Carolina (1943), West Virginia (1949), and Virginia (1950). The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects this species, which also bans their sale as cage birds.
The cardinal was depicted on the four Wildlife Conservation stamps (Scott 1465),
one of the Capex '78 souvenir sheet stamps (Scott 1757a), and seven of the stamps on the State Birds and Flowers 50-stamp pane (Scott 1965, 1969, 1985, 1987, 1998, and 2000).
Linn's U.S. Stamp Yearbook 1991
Scott 2005 Specialized Catalogue of U.S. Stamps and Covers