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USA 1997 "The World of Dinosaurs"

Issue Date 01.05.1997
ID Michel: 2814-2828 Scott: 3136a-3136o Stanley Gibbons: 3825-3299 Yvert: 2590-2604 UPU: N/A Category: pR
Author Original artwork by James Gurney
Stamps in set 15
Value 32c x15

Eight forming 'A scene in Colorado, 150 million years ago';
Ceratosaurus, Camptosaurus, Camarasaurus, Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Goniopholis, Opisthias.
In the margin a bird (Archaeopteryx), flying Comodactylus ostromi, Mesadactylus ornithosphyos on tree trunk.

Seven forming 'A scene in Montana, 75 million years ago';
Edmontonia, Einiosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Corythosaurus, Ornithomimus, Parasaurolophus, Palaeosaniwa.
In the margin a turtle, frogs, a heron-like bird, Alphadon, Stegoceras head, Lambeosaurus head and nest with young, Quetzalcoatlus.

Size (width x height) 199mm x 260mm
Layout 15 stamps per sheet, divided for two parts
Products FDC x 15
Perforation 11x11
Print Technique Lithography, Multicolor
Printed by Sterling Sommers for Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Quantity 219,000,000
Issuing Authority U.S. Postal Service
Dinosaurs on stamps of USA 1997

"The United States Postal Service has a rule: A person must be dead for at least ten years before they can appear on a stamp," says artist James Gurney. "Dinosaurs have been dead for 65 million years, so they definitely qualify!" In the 150-year history of the U.S. postage stamp, dinosaurs have been featured only twice.

So you can imagine how thrilled James Gurney was to be selected to create the art for the dino stamps--"The World of Dinosaurs"--released May 1, 1997, by the U.S. Postal Service.
Gurney was chosen to create "The World of Dinosaurs" stamps by members of a special U.S. Postal Service committee. The committee asked Gurney to produce a scene that would include four dinosaur stamps. Gurney chose four dinosaurs that actually would have lived at the same time in North America. In September 1995, he quickly sketched a design that included the head of a T. rex and the bodies of three other dinosaurs.
Members of the stamp committee loved Gurney's sketch, so they asked him to do a new sketch that would include more dinosaur stamps. In January 1996, Gurney drew up a new design that included two scenes, each with five dinosaurs. One scene showed dinosaurs of North America during the Cretaceous period; the other showed dinosaurs of the Jurassic period.
James Gurney in Studio At this point, Gurney's stamp project was still top secret. He wasn't allowed to tell anyone one about it! But Gurney wanted to be sure that his artwork was scientifically correct. He wanted to be allowed to talk with a few dinosaur experts to be certain that the dinosaurs and their habitats were accurate. The Postal Service gave Gurney the OK to talk to the experts---but to no one else!
"The scientists provided me with lots of information about other creatures and plants that would have shared the world with dinosaurs," Gurney says. "Those creatures included frogs, turtles, insects, crocodiles, mammals, and birds." In addition, the experts provided information about plants that would have been part of the dinosaurs' world.
One of the scientific advisers Gurney consulted with was prominent U.S. paleontologist Jack Horner. Horner's discoveries have significantly advanced the world's knowledge of dinosaurs. The scientist also served as a consultant for the Steven Spielberg films "Jurassic Park" and "The Lost World." Next, Gurney was ready to begin his final sketch. His goal was to show the rich and diverse ecosystem in which the dinosaurs lived. "There were plenty of plants and animals that looked a lot like what you would find today in Florida," he says.
"I wanted the picture to tell a variety of stories," Gurney continues. "Not only predators looking for a meal, but also babies hatching from eggs and mammals hiding in trees. To show a fossil in the making, I placed a skull of one dinosaur in the mud at the edge of a pond."
The stamp committee gave the OK to Gurney's final sketch, so he went to work on the painting. As he was completing his work, one member of the stamp committee happened to suggest that some of the creatures in the art of the scene's margins might make nice stamps too.
"He was right," Gurney says. "It was a great idea. There were indeed at least five more stamp designs hidden away!"
So Gurney touched up his painting to make the five new stamps.
"At one point we even thought of having yet another extra stamp of the nest full of hatchlings," Gurney says. "Take a close look at the scene and you can see the white egg is set up as a space for the `USA 32.'"
Only one problem remained: Where would the perforation holes be placed that divided the stamps from each other?
"It was very important that a person could tear up the sheet easily to get at the stamps without being confused about what were stamps and what were scraps," Gurney explains, noting that the scraps might be fun to use as decoration stickers once the stamps were torn away.
"Of course, everyone at the Postal Service hoped that people will get a couple sheets, one to use for stamps and another to keep untouched in a drawer or a stamp album," says Gurney.
"As for me, I'd like to stick the whole sheet on my T-shirt and mail myself to the Mesozoic era via Priority Mail," he added.
The World of Dinosaurs stamps were rushed for issue on May 1, to coincide with the release of the Steven Spielberg sequel to "Jurassic Park - The Lost World." This blockbuster movie thrilled audiences with its lifelike depiction of dinosaurs. First Day of Issue ceremonies for the stamps were held at the Dinosaur Valley Museum in Grand Junction, Colorado - located in the heart of the world-famous "Dinosaur Triangle." This Triangle, which extends from western Colorado to northeastern Utah, has produced a wealth of dinosaur excavation sites.

'A scene in Colorado, 150 million years ago'


Ceratosaurus on stamp of USA 1997This medium sized carnivore measured around 20 feet long and weighed up to 1,200 pounds. We do not know its exact range but fossils or indications seem to place it in the Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah area during the Jurassic at 150 million years or so ago.
What is unusual about this dinosaur is that it had a distinctive horn and two bony ridges on its skull that gave it a very fierce appearance. Its name means "Horned reptile." We do not know the exact reason for these horns, but it is somewhat likely that they served as displays to impress the females and possibly acquire either a "harem" or better breading rights through prime territories or some such much like Elk do today. In the same unusual vein this ancient reptile also was the only meat eater to have some armor. The exact function of the smallish armored bumps is unknown and again may have been due to a selection process of the females of the species who may have simply "liked it."
Another unusual feature is that unlike the T rex with two fingers or the Allosaurus with three fingers the Ceratosaurus had four fingers. They do not appear to be strong enough for grasping or tearing so they likely had the same function that those of the T rex did.
The teeth were very sharp and the structure of the jaws tells us this species likely sliced off large sections of its victim and possibly let them bleed to death before feeding.


Camptosaurus on stamp of USA 1997This early member of the Iguanodontids has only one recognized species from North America, Camptosaurus dispar. It reached lengths over 20 feet and maybe weighed up to 1 1/4 tons. Later relatives included the Iquanodon's and Hadrosaur's.
It is highly likely that this late Jurassic plant eater was a favorite prey of the carnivores like Allosaurus. It's name means "bent lizard" which is referring to the fact that the large thigh bone in the leg is curved in order to keep its legs further apart so that they could clear the wide rib cage. This dinosaur because of its anatomy and lifestyle probably spent most of its life walking on two legs. Its shape was rather bottom heavy but because of this the Camptosaurus was likely fairly maneuverable.
The teeth were much like grinders and likely preferred leafy vegetation which must have been retained in the cheek pouches until it was well chewed. They have often been found in the vicinity of Stegosaur and Camarasaur fossils so likely did not compete for food with them but liked the more sparsely available vegetation in this type of habitat so as not to compete with the much larger sauropods.


Camarasaurus on stamp of USA 1997A close relative of the brachiosaurs and titanosaurs, this late Jurassic dinosaur was apparently quite common in North America and some areas of Europe and Africa. Never as big as its closest relatives this dinosaur was 50 to 60 feet in length and weighed 30 or 40 tons. Its name means "chambered lizard" which is referring to the hollowed chambers found in the vertebrae, most likely to cut down on weight.

This sauropod was very heavily built and its head looked a bit like a cross between a bulldog and a horse. Its teeth were very unique in that they looked like ivory spoons and this dinosaur was obviously adapted to eating hard and fibrous plant materials. It likely bit off large portions of trees and bushes and swallowed them hole. The stomach was adapted to grinding up these large bites with the aid of stones. One prominent paleontologist commented that the Camarasaurus should be likened to an elephant but with its head on the end of its trunk and its teeth in its stomach.


Brachiosaurus on stamp of USA 1997One of the largest of all the sauropods was the Brachiosaurus. Who can forget that moment in Jurassic park when they first saw these magnificent creatures walk out of the water and stand up to browse from the top of a tall tree. The name means "arm lizard" which refers to the fact that its front legs or "arms" were longer than the rear legs. In size we find a true giant with lengths to 30 feet and weights of up to 80 ton with heads as tall as 50 feet above the ground.
Like many other large sauropods wherever weight could be saved it was. The head of brachiosaurs were very light weight and had many hollow areas throughout. This creature when full grow would have no competition for food and it is unlikely any carnivore or even a pack of carnivores would not even try and tackle this formidable plant eater.

The species were undoubtedly restricted to areas where tall trees grew in profusion. Fossil recorders from North America are scarce and no complete skeleton has ever been recovered. It is likely that its range was restricted to riverine areas of Utah and Colorado. A slightly more slender species has been found in some numbers in Africa.


Goniopholis on stamp of USA 1997A late Jurassic reptile closely related to the dinosaurs with relatives still living today is the Goniopholis which means "angled scutes." This ancient crocodilian looked very much like many of the crocs found today.
Many people think only that various dinosaurs populate the Mesozoic, but this actually a great distortion. As far as numbers and species count most of the know ancient world was likely to be very much like today in terms of turtles, tortoises, frogs, lizards, crocodilians, and their prey which consisted of insects, salamanders, and even small dinosaurs. The big boys of the dinosaurian persuasion were truly awesome and terrifying, but they were a very small part of the total picture ecological.
Ancient crocodiles have been around as long as the dinosaurs and from their first beginnings about 235 million years ago as long legged running archosaurs they have evolved out into a myriad of forms. For more information on the history of crocodiles and reptiles look here.


Stegosaurus on stamp of USAA Middle Jurassic to late Cretaceous dinosaur that almost everyone knows is the Stegosaurus who's name means "roof lizard" in mention of its plates running down its back that actually grew right out of its skin. In size we find a 20 to 30 foot length with body size similar to present day rhino's. What a traumatic but fascinating scene in Walt Disney's Fantasia scene where the Stegesaurs gets killed to dramatic music by a Rex. Like its close relatives the ankylosaurs, this was a veritable tank when it came to defense. The plates on it's back likely served the function of both heating & cooling as well as protection. They were apparently covered only with skin and many blood vessels rather than the horny protection originally thought. Around its throat were a network of bony studs. And its sideways pointing spikes that were over 3 1/2 feet long served as a powerful deterrent to any would be predator and may have been used as displays of dominance or courtship for mate selection.
For food ornithischians most likely cropped low growing vegetation and possibly reared up to get higher growth in trees. Likely they were like a high lawn mower in that they ate everything within their reach before moving in any other plane or direction. Their stomachs have been described as being "moving fermentation vats that gave off enormous amounts of heat. This may explain another use of its plates, "as heat exchangers."
There were actually two species of Stegosaurs found in North America and the Realm of the Rattlesnake. This is the smaller of the two called Stegosaurus stenops. The other was half again larger and called Stegosaurus ungulatus. There other species found in other parts of the world at different time periods and they were eventually replaced by their relatives the Ankylosaurs.


Allosaurus on stamp of USA 1997Allosaurus was a very successful and abundant theropod dinosaur found through out the world from the middle Jurassic to late Cretaceous. In fact the largest carnivores ever found have been Allosaurs. In North America this ferocious hunter who's name means "different lizard" came in sizes between 30 and 40 feet in length and weighed 2 to 5 tons.
The fossils have been plentiful and South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma have all weighed in with some. One site in the Dinosaur Quarry from Utah contained 44 different individuals from babies to adults. This and other evidence suggests that these animals were highly social and possibly hunted in packs.
It is speculated that the habitats frequented by North American Allosaurs was similar the plains of Amboseli in Africa. These are hot with monsoons and dry periods every year. There would be lots of prey species and often herds would wander in search of water or foliage. this would prompt the carnivores to follow the game. Likely this also meant some established though seasonal home territories for the Allosaurs family, but the ability to seasonally follow their prey if necessary.


Opisthias on stamp of USA 1997One of the most unusual lizards left on this planet is the Tuatara of New Zeland. Opisthias is an ancestor of this true "living fossil" and likely looked very similar. The Sphenodon's are currently represented by only the Tuatara, but that was not always the case. These "lizard-like" reptiles are not true lizards but are in fact a side-path of evolution that started in the Middle Triassic and continue down to the one species left today. Some relatives took to the water and became known as the pleurosaurs. Others were very similar to today's living fossil, in fact the same basic body type and lifestyle has been running virtually unchanged for nearly 200 million years.
Opisthias was a late Jurassic reptile that likely lived on small creatures like insects, worms, and small lizards in a lifestyle similar to modern day New Zealand's last surviving member of the family.

'A scene in Montana, 75 million years ago'


Edmontonia on stamp of USA 1997A member of the Nodosaurus (which lack tail clubs or spikes) the four ton and 20 plus feet Edmontonia, meaning near Edmonton, was the closest thing to invulnerable in the Pacific Northwest dinosaur enclave that existed in the late Cretaceous North America. With its flexible armor, long and sharp shoulder spikes, and a two layer boney head it would be surprising that these subgroup of the ankylosaur dinosaurs were often preyed upon.
Climate and habitat at this time favored certain species of dinosaurs over others. Temperatures were up about 75 million years ago as was humidity. There were peat bogs and bald cypress swamps. Just back from these areas and inland were much flatter areas composed of river systems flowing to the seas. Many feeder and tributary stream channels crisscrossed the region and greatly effected the many dinosaurs in the area. Nearly half the plants found in this region were flowering. Cycads, ferns, katura trees, fern trees, and many types of conifers dominated the flora. The lower and tough members of these plants were preferred by Edmontonia and they were also likely to favor more open scrub land closer to the sea. It would not have been all that usual for them to occasionally see an elasmosaur far up the rivers looking for a fishy meal.


Einiosaurus on stamp of USA 1997Among the strangest looking of the ceretopsian dinosaurs was the Einiosaurus meaning "buffalo lizard." This late Cretaceous horned dinosaur has only been found in Northern Montana and in fact may have been relatively rare and in an isolated population separated from its more common contemporaries such as Triceratops or Styracosaurus. Not much is known about this recently discovered dinosaur but it likely behaved as did most of the other horned dinosaurs.


Daspletosaurus on stamp of USA 1997This coelurosaur, a likely ancestor of T rex, was truly a "frightful lizard." At 3 tons and over 30 feet in length this fast meat eating dinosaur was certainly the king of his late Cretaceous territory. In time Daspletosaurus was earlier than the rex but likely hunted the same prey in much the same manner. Another formidable carnivore at the same time and place was the somewhat more slender tyrannosaurid Albertosaurus. It is likely that little competition existed between these two species, much like lions and leopards coexist on the same African plain.
Like all tyrannosaurids this meat eating creature had only two arms, powerful jaws, and thick sharp teeth able take very large bites out of its prey. The size and depth of these bites may well have killed the victim from shear shock rather than actual attach trauma or blood loss.


Palaeosaniwa on stamp of USA 1997A close relative of monitor lizards Palaeosaniwa "before Saniwa" (another true lizard form the start of the mammals reign) was roughly the size of the more modern Komodo Dragon. This puts it in the 10 to 11 foot and 350 pound range. The varanoid lizards of the past included forms like the ocean going mosasaurus which grew to lengths up to nearly 50 feet and Estesia which is believed to be venomous and related to today's Gila Monsters. Some scientists believe that snakes evolved from varanids like Palaeosaniwa but currently there is debate on whether that is the case or not.
Monitor lizards are true opportunists. They will usually eat almost anything from worms and fish to mammals and carrion. Some like the Komodo are ambush hunters and some are simply opportunists that will eat literally anything that is edible and will fit in the mouth. It is very likely that Palaeosaniwa lived a lifestyle very much like today's more modern but not very much changed from their earlier ancestors.


Corythosaurus on stamp of USA 1997This hadrosaur from the late has a crest much like Grecian warriors and thus its name means "Corinthian helmet lizard." It is closely related to Iguanodon and is called a duckbill dinosaur because it had no teeth in the front of its mouth and instead had a horny duckbill look. The teeth started way back in the jaw which is highly unusual as plant eating dinosaurs as a whole just swallowed plants whole and let the stomach digest the mass. In addition these teeth were self sharpening and self renewing.
There has been a little debate as to how much time the duckbill dinosaurs spent walking on 2 legs versus all 4 and no real determination has been made. But the shape of the front feet indicate that they certainly could walk on all fours. There has also been much speculation on exactly what the high crest on the head was for. Modern research with catscan x rays seem to show that the hadrosaurs used these unusual shaped head ornaments to produce various sounds for either communicating or attracting mates or both. One can well imagine that several herds of different hadrosaurs may well have sounded like an unruly orchestra warming up with a clashing of different sounds. It was likely to either attract or drive of the meat eaters of the day depending on whether they were very hungry or music critics.


Ornithomimus on stamp of USA 1997Meaning "bird mimic" this extremely fleet ostrich dinosaur was about the size of or slightly larger than today's flightless ratite ostriches. At fifteen feet or so in length and over 300 pounds of speed these Cretaceous omnivores were perhaps the fastest family of dinosaurs ever seen on this planet. Close relatives were Struthiomimus, and who can forget that scene in the movie Jurassic Park where T rex grabbed the Gallimimus from ambush. This was a very good idea of how an ostrich dinosaur could become prey as they could easily outrun even the fast Tyrannosaurs.
Ornithomimus had a toothless jaw and what can only be described as a horny bird like beak. Because of their large brain size relative to other dinosaurs and their large eyes it is thought that they were among the most advanced dinosaurs ever to come onto the scene.


Parasaurolophus on stamp of USA 1997Truly one of the most unusual looking of all dinosaurs this duckbill dinosaur's name means "like or beside Saurolophus" and was a member of the hadrosaur lambeosaurid family. Very few skeletons of this trombone crested late Cretaceous dinosaur have been found and it may have been much rarer than its more common cousins but was definitely in parts of Western Canada, Utah, and New Mexico. This plant eating Ornithopod ran on two legs but likely browsed on all four and was at least 33 feet long and a head crest of 5 to 6 feet that was possibly attached to the neck or back with a skin frill.
It is highly likely that the crests on all the hadrosaur family dinosaurs was used to sound alarms, troll for mates, and generally communicate with each other. It is thought that they were all very social animals and possibly migrated together in large herds for protection from the many hungry carnivores just waiting for an opportunity for a duckbill steak.

Other psrehistoric animals on the sheet margin:


Archaeopteryx on stamp of USA 1997Archaeopteryx ("original bird" or "first bird"), is a genus of theropod dinosaur that is closely related to birds. Since the late 19th century, it has been generally accepted by palaeontologists, and celebrated in lay reference works, as being the oldest known bird, though some more recent studies have cast doubt on this assessment, finding that it is instead a non-avialan dinosaur closely related to the origin of birds.
Archaeopteryx lived in the Late Jurassic Period around 150 million years ago, in what is now southern Germany during a time when Europe was an archipelago of islands in a shallow warm tropical sea, much closer to the equator than it is now. Similar in shape to a European Magpie, with the largest individuals possibly attaining the size of a raven, Archaeopteryx could grow to about 0.5 metres (1.6 ft) in length. Despite its small size, broad wings, and inferred ability to fly or glide, Archaeopteryx has more in common with other small Mesozoic dinosaurs than it does with modern birds. In particular, it shares the following features with the deinonychosaurs (dromaeosaurs and troodontids): jaws with sharp teeth, three fingers with claws, a long bony tail, hyperextensible second toes ("killing claw"), feathers (which also suggest homeothermy), and various skeletal features.

Comodactylus ostromi

Comodactylus ostromi on stamp of USA 1997 Comodactylus is a genus of "rhamphorhynchoid" pterosaur from the Kimmeridgian-Tithonian-age Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Wyoming, USA, named for a single wing metacarpal.

Not to be confused with a Wyoming LLC formation used by small business owners in Wyoming, the Wyoming Morrison Formation is a distinctive sequence of sedimentary rock where many dinosaur fossils have been discovered.

In 1879 collector William Harlow Reed sent some fossil material he had dug up at Como Bluff in Quarry N 9, or the "Mammal Quarry", to his employer Professor Othniel Charles Marsh at New Haven. Among it was the bone of a pterosaur, that was subsequently filed, stored and forgotten.
However, in 1981 Peter Galton named, based on this bone, the genus Comodactylus. The type species is Comodactylus ostromi. The genus name is derived from Como Bluff and Greek daktylos, "finger", referring to the wing finger typical of pterosaurs. The specific name honours John Ostrom.
The wingspan has been estimated at 2.5 metres, exceptionally large for a pterosaur not belonging to the Pterodactyloidea. Comodactylus was also the first pterosaur outside of that group, that was found in America.


Alphadon on stamp of USA 1997Alphadon (meaning first tooth) was a genus of small, primitive mammal that was a member of the metatherians, a group of mammals that includes modern-day marsupials. Its fossils were first discovered and named by George Gaylord Simpson in 1929.
Not much is known of its appearance as it is only known from teeth. It probably grew to about 12 inches (30 cm) and may have resembled a modern opossum. Judging from its teeth, it was likely an omnivore, feeding on fruits, invertebrates and possibly small vertebrates.
Alphadon lived during the end of the late Cretaceous period, alongside dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. Its fossils have been found across North America, ranging from as far north as Alberta, Canada, to as far south as New Mexico in the United States.
Stegoceras on stamp of USA 1997Stegoceras had an estimated length of up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) and weighed 120-150 lbs. It had a relatively large brain that was encased in a dome of 3 inches (7.6 cm) of thick bone divided into two parts. The dome had a fairly smooth surface, but was irregularly pitted by foramina which gives an entrance to channels within the bone. Stegoceras (at least S. validum) can be disingushed by having a prominent parietosquamosal shelp with open supratemporal fosse, incipient doming of the frontopariental and minute node in clusters on postorbital and squamosals.Stegoceras had rounded eye sockets that faced forward, which suggests had good vision and was capable of binocular vision. The teeth are small and curved with serrated edges. The head was supported by an "S"- or "U"-shaped neck. When a partial skeleton of Stegoceras was first discovered, it was thought to have gastralia, or belly ribs, not typically found in other ornithischian dinosaurs. They were subsequently found to be ossified tendons. The legs were more than three times the length of the arms.
Stegoceras was first named by Lawrence Lambe in 1902 and the type species is Stegoceras validum. All specimens of S. validum (about 40) were recovered from the Belly River Group of Alberta, Canada, with the majority of specimens from the Dinosaur Park Formation (late Campanian, 76.575 ma) in the Dinosaur Provincial Park, while the rest of the specimens were recovered from the Oldman Formation (middle Campanian, 77.5-76.5 ma).


Quetzalcoatlus on stamps of USA 1997Quetzalcoatlus was a pterodactyloid pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous of North America (Maastrichtian stage, about 6865.5 million years ago), and one of the largest known flying animals of all time. It was a member of the Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks. Its name comes from the Mesoamerican feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl. Skull material (from the unnamed smaller species) shows that Quetzalcoatlus had a very sharp and pointed beak, contrary to some earlier reconstructions that showed a blunter snout, based on the inadvertent inclusion of jaw material from another pterosaur species, possibly a tapejarid or a form related to Tupuxuara. A skull crest was present but its exact form and size are still unknown.
The first Quetzalcoatlus fossils were discovered in Texas, from the Maastrichtian Javelina Formation at Big Bend National Park (dated to around 68 million years ago) in 1971 by a geology graduate student from the University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences, Douglas A. Lawson. The specimen consisted of a partial wing (in pterosaurs composed of the forearms and elongated fourth finger), from an individual later estimated at over 10 m (33 ft) in wingspan.

Modern-like animals on the sheet margin:


Turtle on stamp of USA 1997


Dragonfly on stamp of USA 1997


Frogs on stamp of USA 1997

Heron-like bird

Heron-like bird on stamp of USA 1997

FDC Used cover
FDC of The World of Dinosaurs stamps of USA 1997 The World of Dinosaurs stamps of USA 1997 on used cover

References: Education World Everett Spruill Biopark Wikipedia Stampedout Mysticstamp Wikipedia


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