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/ 

Comments (24)

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  • anon

    Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil should be on a stamp.

    Oct 17, 2017
  • anon

    Definitely do not think that living people should be featured on stamps.

    Jan 25, 2017
  • anon

    I sent my application in for REM to be featured on a stamp three years ago, and that request was totally ignored, so I guess I don't really care one way or the other. The Postal Service will do what it does and not try to meet a wider audience of those who pay attention to culturally significant American icons.

    Apr 03, 2016
  • anon

    Can a person just put the mail that they want to be delivered in the mail box ? Also is it possible to give the mailman the money for a stamp instead of getting it myself?

    Dec 01, 2015
  • anon

    Can a stamp honor a deceased USPS employee?

    Oct 19, 2015
  • anon

    Definitely highlight special events... New Horizons visiting Pluto Summer of 2015. Could have a neat issue like the large Mars sheet a few years back. Reprint the 1869 series 1 cent through 90 cent. It is one of the only classic commemoratives that have not been reprinted yet (Except for the 90 cent.) Dog and cat stamps always sell well, but there are only so many of those you can do. Rudolf is a good step. Charlie Brown Christmas could be next. Could also issue Charlie Brown Halloween for October Stamp Collecting month. Celebrities? Hard to say. NFL stamps would probably sell well, if one could get permission.

    Dec 02, 2014
  • anon

    How is this question, or acting upon it, within the authority of the OIG? It does relate to investigation of fraud or abuse in the USPS. The stamp advisory committee and it's citizen representatives are already investigating this issue.

    Dec 02, 2014
  • anon

    Personally, I think the minds behind stamp design need to take a lesson from years past. Subtle changes in basic stamp designs are clever and peek interest in stamps. A good old fashioned 20 versions of an eagle head stamp would make my day.

    Dec 02, 2014
  • anon

    Named individuals should be deceased when they appear on stamps. Unnamed individuals may appear in cases in which the achievement is singularly important. For example, the Apollo moon landing. We all knew it was Neil Armstrong, but the stamp was about the achievement, not the individual. The individuals need not be Americans, nor do the events need to be exclusively American, but their significance to history must include an important American tie. Winston Churchill is a good example of an individual, and the Olympics are a good example of an event. Not a big fan of celebrities on stamps. I prefer figures and events that are educational or enlightening, and actors and entertainers generally do not fit that description. Elvis, Bob Hope, and John Wayne are notable exceptions because of their stature as enduring American icons. Also not a fan of ugly stamps. With so few produced each year, we should be able to make nearly every issue a work of art. The $5 "Waves of Color" is an example of an abhorrent stamp that should not have made it off the original proposer's drawing board. Stamps that look like a child in first grade drew them, such as the recalled Michelle Obama fitness stamps, should not be allowed, unless in fact a 1st-grade child did draw them as part of a special children's issue. Bottom line is that stamps reflect, and even become part of, our heritage, and when their designs are squandered on inconsequential subjects, our society is a bit worse for it.

    Dec 02, 2014
  • anon

    I believe the USPS would be ill-advised to put living persons on stamps no matter how well known nationally the individual may be. A case in point. Suppose the USPS issued a stamp honoring Bill Cosby then discovered he was a rapist. It would not place the USPS in a good light to have a rapist honored on a US postage stamp.

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    No to living people. Stamps should feature those who made significant contributions to our country - be that as an individual or as an occupation as stated earlier. Pets, birds, flowers, landmarks, state flags, and series like the old transportation stamps or the new Civil War stamps are also good choices. Abstract art - yuck. Black History - pertinent and important. Presidents - OK. While everyone has an opinion about what is pretty or interesting, if I cannot figure out what is on the stamp, I don't want it. Cloudscapes - neat. Even the Harry Potter stamps were good - they interest kids and promote reading. Don't think we need as many stamps issued each year though and stop duplicating denominations that aren't used that much: who needs another reprint of the $2 waves when there are still so many unsold Jenny inverts?

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    There are two things that should definitely NOT be presented on postage stamps; One , Living people til ten years after their demise, except presidents and vice presidents. Two, Stamps that identify the symbols of specific religious organizations. Rather than Movie stars or other popular but illusory entertainers, how about the common man (Or woman) who provides the goods and services, farmers, drivers, doctors nurses, teachers, mechanics, various technicians, all the diverse trades that actually make the country function. And do not forget the aging veterans, the guys who served the country and are now in wheelchairs or hobbling around on crutches. Charlie, Florida

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    I find myself preferring sets of "things, events, places" over commemorating specific people, and I prefer a sheet that commemorates a group of people linked by a common thread (ie, Celebrity Chefs) to a sheet that commemorates a specific person (ie, Harvey Milk). Definite preference for deceased and American, although someone just used an 8-cent Gandhi stamp to send something to me. I think "Mystery Writers of America" would make a great themed set-- Raymond Chandler, John Dickson Carr, Leslie Charteris (a naturalized American), Ellery Queen (actually two people), Joan Lowery Nixon, etc... just a nice cross-section of people who were intrinsic to the genre.

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    I'm not crazy about honoring specific living people - especially non americans like juvenile delinquent Bieber. I'd like to see stamps honoring good role models and heroes. Like America's firemen and policemen who risk their lives for us every day. Or doctors and nurses. Perhaps a series honoring those who serve - teachers, soldiers, postal workers, veterinarians, garbage men, linesmen, plumbers, cooks, mechanics, - everyday people who keep our country safe, clean, healthy. Those are REAL heroes and great role models. I think the stamps would be really popular too!

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    Deceased Only. No living persons on a stamp - period. Primarily Americans, but also foreignors (without citizenship) who have contributed significantly to the culture and history of the U.S.; however, not any person or topic that can be tied to any commercial interest(s).

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    Deceased only. Victor Borge, Dan Fogelberg, Arlington National Cemetary, Parthanon in Nashville, TN, State Flags, State Capitals, US Possessions, Labor Leaders, Moments in Labor History. I collect panes and use Forever Stamps and postcard stamps. I enjoy the preprinted envelopes and postal cards too.

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    I placed a single letter in my mail box with the money for a stamp on Monday, November 24, 2014. The single letter had One (1) week to arrive at its location.. I left town-on Sunday November 30th, when I arrived back at my home, the red flag was down and the letter was still in the mail box, along with an orange envelope.... Now what the what is this all about. I have always used the US Postal Service mailing one letter (at the most once a year). How stupid is this and this letter was of the utmost importance, paying an insurance premium for my disabled son....Now the letter remains in the box with the flag up...Want to see what happens in Valdese, NC today... It is no surprise to me that the US Postal Service is loosing money....

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    Hello Rena, We are sorry to hear about this incident, but we are appreciative that you have brought it to our attention. The USPS Office of Inspector General investigates waste, theft, fraud and abuse within the Postal Service (USPS). We recommend contacting the USPS customer service office: you can call them at 800-275-8777 or email socialmedia@usps.gov. Once they have received your claim they can look further into this matter.

    Dec 01, 2014
  • anon

    Do another series of state stamps. Or stamps depicting our armed forces. Or historical landmarks in the US. People love their pets-cats, dogs. Definitely need something to interest younger people.

    Nov 30, 2014
  • anon

    The Postal Service is a JOKE. Can't even deliver certified mail.

    Nov 29, 2014
  • anon

    Stamps probably should not include living celebrities. Recent news headlines illustrate how the public's perception of a celebrity can change as allegations or other information come to light. What migth be interesting to the general public is to learn which stamps or series have been most popular. I think some people would be surprised to know that one of the top commemerative stamps of 2013 was lighthouses of New England. Sometimes a classic image appeals to the public more than the current A-lister celebrity.

    Nov 25, 2014
  • anon

    I think the twin towers of 911 after they had fallen. Yes I would buy them.

    Nov 24, 2014
  • anon

    Yes, important that they be American. Yes, I think deceased only. No, it won't make me buy the stamps(I get Forever or Breast Cancer stamps only), but it would be good for collectors. I think they need to honor people who significantly contributed to something. For ex: Justin B is just popular now because he's an a$$. Definitely wait until he is (and I am) dead to consider that one. But Paul Newman? Oh, yes.

    Nov 24, 2014
  • anon

    I appreciate the opportunity

    Nov 24, 2014

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