The 8.3-cent Ambulance was issued at the NEVPEX-TOPEX stamp show in Reno, Nevada, on June 21, 1985, the same day and place as the 4.9-cent Buckboard. The two are often found together on the 338,765 first day covers that were cancelled on that day.
The stamp illustrates a battlefield ambulance of the Civil War era. The untagged precancelled version is overprinted with the words “Blk. Rt. CAR-RT sort” between two parallel bars. It met the minimum rate per piece for third-class bulk mail sorted to individual carrier route. The rate had gone into effect on February 17, 1985, and lasted until April 3, 1988. The stamp was authorized for false franking until October 9, 1988.
It was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on the Cottrell press with plate numbers at intervals of twenty-four stamps. A vertical line marking the plate juncture appears to the right of the plate number. Plates 1 and 2 were paired for the unprecancelled version. The same numbers were paired for the precancelled version as well as plate numbers 3 and 4, which also were paired.
When additional stamps were needed in 1986, the Cottrell press was no longer in use, so the reissue was printed on the B press. Though prepared from the same master die as the Cottrell plates, those of the B press are a trifle smaller and there are other small differences. Plate numbers appear at fifty-two-stamp intervals, and there is no vertical line to the right of the plate number. These stamps exist only in the precancelled version with plate number 1. There was no first day cover ceremony, and only a handful of first day covers were prepared when the stamp appeared on August 29, 1986.
The 8.3-cent Ambulance was designed by James Schleyer of Burke, Virginia. The vignette was engraved by Gary M. Chaconas and the lettering by Joseph S. Creamer, both of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.