NEW JERSEY, the Rodney Dangerfield of states, is about to get some respect from the Postal Service.

The new stamp honoring the 200th anniversary of New Jersey's ratification of the Constitution shows the USPS flair for the unexpected. No turnpike jokes here.

The stamp, to be issued in Trenton on September 11, features an image of New Jersey from times past. The vertically designed 22-center features a painting by artist Jim Lamb of Issaquah, Washington, of a colonial farmer leaving his fields with a basket of produce.

But then this is a commemorative recalling that New Jersey was the third state to join the union. And in 1787, New Jersey was, indeed, the garden state.

While that stamp shows the Postal Service's capacity for graphic surprises, the third stamp in its statehood series, one honoring Pennsylvania's admission to the Union, is a tribute to the obvious.

This commemorative, to debut August 26 in Harrisburg, features Independence Hall, where the Constitutional Convention was held.

The 22-cent stamp, designed by Richard Sheaff of Boston, one of the Postal Service's favorite artists, will be the fifth U.S. stamp showing Independence Hall. It also was featured, as it appeared without a steeple in 1787, on a commemorative postal card issued earlier this year.

The series ultimately will feature all 13 of the originial states. All will have the same format, probably be vertical in design and with a white border featuring the state's name and the date of its ratification of the Constitution.

When the service decided to honor author William Faulkner with a stamp this month, it didn't mention that he once was a postmaster.

From December 1921 to October 1924, Faulkner ran the post office in Oxford, Mississippi, and, according to The Associated Press, infuriated customers by ignoring sacks of mail while he read, wrote, drew or played cards with friends.

He quit, he supposedly told a friend, because he didn't want to be "at the beck and call" of anyone who had two cents for a stamp.

Author Eudora Welty, speaking at the Faulkner first-day ceremony August 3, said she wondered how Faulkner would have reacted to the commemorative.

"Who knows what the good man would have said," she said. "He might have suggested that the portrait painted by his mother would have improved the stamp. He might have observed that stamps have gone up from two cents to 22. Or he might have gone on smoking his pipe, not saying anything."

Sometimes the competition gets tough, even for the USPS. Last month it barely had announced it was planning a set of stamps honoring polar explorers, including Virginia's Richard E. Byrd, before Hungary announced it had beaten the USPS to the punch.

The admiral was one of four explorers the Warsaw Pact country honored with a set of four stamps on June 30. Neither the six-forint (13-cent) stamp, which features Byrd and a Ford trimotor plane, nor the country's news release hints at Byrd's ties to the military.

Hugh McGonigle, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said he wasn't surprised. Hungary has issued stamps that celebrated the U.S. space program, issuing some "before the flight gets off the ground," he said.

The polar explorers are popular philatelic topics worldwide, and in Hungary it may be a case of "whatever sells," McGonigle said.

Collectors seeking Pennsylvania first-day cancellations have until September 25 to send envelopes with the stamps affixed to Customer-Affixed Envelopes, Pennsylvania Statehood Stamps, Postmaster, Harrisburg PA 17105-9991. The service will affix stamps for 22 cents each for collectors sending addressed covers to Pennsylvania Stamps, Postmaster, Harrisburg PA 17105-9992.

Requests for the New Jersey stamp first-day cancellation should be sent to Customer-Affixed Envelopes, New Jersey Stamp, Postmaster, Trenton NJ 08650-9991. The stamps will be applied at a price of 22 cents each at New Jersey Stamp, Postmaster, Trenton NJ 08650-9992. The requests must be postmarked by October 11.

Bill McAllister is a member of The Post's national staff.