An up-close look at the map's detail
An up-close look at the map's detail Credit: Andrea Bauer

Dan Orkin deals in vintage instruments all day every day for, an offshoot of the Chicago Music Exchange, pricing out old-school guitars. He was a history major and maintains an interest in folk art—not to mention being a self-admitted Antiques Roadshow junkie. So it was a relatively safe bet that a map carefully crafted by his great-aunt in the 1960s, depicting the United States carved out of stamps, was going to head home with him.

When Aunt Vivian, whom Orkin describes as a “craft queen,” passed away, the map ended up at his grandmother’s along with other projects. Once Orkin showed interest in it, she passed it along to him in order to thin her clutter.

He tells me that the map, nearly four by five feet in size, is rumored to have won a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair in 1964. (Orkin and his girlfriend, who works in the special collections department at Northwestern, hope to dig through the fair’s archives in the very near future.) And not only is it incredible in its craftsmanship, each stamp represents the state in which it appears. For instance, Wyoming is cut solely from Devils Tower stamps.

Reframed at April 7s in River West, the map is often mistaken from afar as a print, Orkin says. But once guests approach it, they can see the depth and color, much of which hasn’t faded. “It was obviously a labor of love,” he says of his late aunt’s work.