• on Nov 24th, 2014 in Products & Services | 19 comments

    It’s been more than 3 years since the U.S. Postal Service changed its rules on postage stamps, ending its long-standing tradition that people on stamps had to be deceased. At the time of the announcement, the Postal Service said it would consider stamps for acclaimed American musicians, sports stars, writers, artists, and other nationally known figures.

    The policy change led some people to worry that stamps were becoming advertisements, not carefully considered subjects of cultural relevance. Others worried that honoring a living legend could backfire. What if that person went on to do something embarrassing or, worse, illegal later in life? That’s no small concern as recent headlines from the sports pages suggest.

    Yet, 3 years on, none of the major stamp releases have featured any living “celebrities,” unless you consider the fictional character of Harry Potter to be a celebrity. (While the stamps featured the actors from the movie, the stamp honored the films, not the actors.) That release stirred up a good deal of controversy – and publicity – primarily because many philatelists felt it commercialized the stamp program. And, they noted, Harry Potter isn’t even American. Others, however, applauded the move as an attempt to make stamps relevant to a younger generation.

    The large response to our blog on the topic got us wondering: Who would you like to see on a stamp? Would you send more mail if you could buy stamps honoring Bruce Springsteen, Justin Bieber, Michael Jordan, or Julia Roberts? Do you think living celebrities should be allowed? Yes, but with certain criteria? Is it important to you that the featured individual be American?

    You can find out more about the Postal Service’s stamp program by visiting http://uspsstamps.com/ 

  • on Dec 2nd, 2013 in Products & Services | 228 comments

    Young or old Elvis? That was the question 20 years ago when the U.S. Postal Service considered artwork for the Elvis stamp. The Postal Service put the vote to the public and controversy soon followed. Members of Congress debated the worthiness of an Elvis stamp, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton weighed in, and the whole thing became fodder for cartoonists and late-night comedians, according to the National Postal Museum.

    Elvis Mania paid off and the Elvis stamp went on to become the most popular U.S. commemorative stamp of all time.

    Now comes the Harry Potter stamp. He may not be the cultural icon Elvis is, but he’s created no less controversy. The Postal Service hopes the stamp will be a blockbuster to rival the king of rock n’ roll. The organization also hopes a Harry Potter stamp – and other youth-themed stamps – will spark interest in stamp collecting among the younger generation. But some philatelists think the idea of a Harry stamp is all wrong. For one thing, Harry Potter isn’t even American. Philatelists tend to view stamps as works of art and small pieces of American history. They balk at images that are blatantly commercial.

    The disagreement has put stamp collecting and the entire process for choosing a stamp in the news. The news reports also raise the issue of the future of stamps. Stamp collecting is seen by some as a dying hobby, as fewer young Americans participate. The stamp controversy actually underscores a larger Postal Service dilemma: How does it stay relevant among a generation that doesn’t really think too often about stamps or even hard copy communications? The postmaster general, for one, has said the Postal Service needs to start thinking differently. In an interview with the Washington Post, he said the agency “needs to change its focus toward stamps that are more commercial” as a way to increase revenue to compensate for declining mail volume as Americans switch to the Internet.

    Tell us what you think:

    • Should the Postal Service market stamp images that focus on a younger audience in hopes of reaching beyond traditional collectors and generating sales?
    • Should the Postal Service be allowed to develop themes and images that do not focus on American heritage for the sake of sales?
    • Or, should stamps be works of art and pieces of history and not based on fads or celebrities?
    • What stamp images would you like to see?