The American Design Series is an ongoing low-value definitive set. Stamps in the series have face values ranging from 1-cent to 10-cent and depict early American decorative arts masterpieces. The first issue in the series, released on May 31, 2002, featured a circa 1850 toleware coffeepot from the collection of the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.
Low value stamps help postal customers to pay unusual postage rates for overweight mail pieces or for special, added services. They are also useful when postage rates change. For example, the 2-cent value in this series, which features a mid-twentieth century Navajo silver and turquoise necklace, found widespread use when postage rates rose from thirty-nine cents to forty-one cents on May 14, 2007. A new printing of the stamp was ordered to meet the demand.
The stamp designs were originally created by Lou Nolan during the early 1990s for a projected stamp booklet that had a working title of "Made in America." The booklet was never issued, and the designs, which were done in watercolor on illustration board, were mothballed until used for this series. This was not the first time that an unused design was later put into production. The 1-dollar Surrender at Saratoga stamp, issued in 1994, used a design that had been prepared but not used for the pictorial series of 1869.