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?


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I think if Bart had worn funny glasses and Homer wore a cape and pointed wizard's hat, we could have sold more Simpson's stamps...

I'm just kidding. :) I hope this interests young people to buy stamps to pay for postage on thank you cards and letters, and inspires collectors to buy and keep the stamps. Good luck to the Postal Service in their efforts!

Trying to get Young new stamp collectors is a great way to help the USPS, and I am all for that. There is also another way we try to get stamps sold, and that is to Honor the past and to educate through them. The Beirut Veterans of America (BVA) have attempted to have a stamp to Honor those Servicemen who lost their lives in the US Marine Bombing Oct 23, 1983 for over 10 years only to be told it is not of National Interest. I would love to convey how this is indeed just that because it was the FIRST major attack on US in the War against Terrorism. If you would need more knowledge on this subject, please let me know and I will provide any background needed. That goes for the History and the Records of the 10+ years of NO ACTION for this endeavor seeking a stamp to Honor the men WHO CAME IN PEACE. I am a member of the AFDCS and have collected stamps all my life. New subjects are Great, but the Past must be Honored.

Designing most stamps in the hopes of getting young users or developing young collectors is a waste of time and money. Most young people don't even know what the Postal Service is all about. And when it comes to communicating they rely not on stamps, but email, twitter, cell phones and other modern means of communication. To the extent that USPS moves away from the more traditional criteria for selecting stamp designs, it will further contribute to its own demise. I have been collecting stamps since 1945 and have been purchasing fewer and fewer because I am not interested in the design-subjects selected. Traditional stamp design has contributed much to telling the American story. Designing stamps picturing the Harry Potters of the world adds little to that tradition. For instance I have recommended on several occasions that a stamp series be issued featuring President and Vice President on one stamp, but what do I get instead--Donald Duck or Harry Potter! YOu are destroying your own market and turning your back on the tens of thousands of stamp collectors who have supported you over many, many years.

I bought the Harry Potter stamps for my four children for Hanukkah. It has been a long time since I have really seen them excited about a gift and they were thrilled! I read the criticism of the stamps in the press and just did not get it. I have collected stamps for years and this was a wonderful way to share this hobby.

Should the Postal Service market stamp images that focus on a younger audience in hopes of reaching beyond traditional collectors and generating sales?

Yes, print what sells and stop auto-shipping what doesn't! These will fly out the door while the inverted Jennies seem to be grounded.

Should the Postal Service be allowed to develop themes and images that do not focus on American heritage for the sake of sales?

Yes, absolutely. Customers keep asking for fall stamps. Their only option has been Zazzle.com which charges over $20 for a sheet of 20 stamps! Make some fall booklets, they will sell.

Or, should stamps be works of art and pieces of history and not based on fads or celebrities?

Can't we do both.

What stamp images would you like to see?

Fall stamps, what customers call "pretty stamps," and please stop the auto-shipments.

Definitely more interesting to young people, and these stamps were nicely done all around. I find very few young people today who care anything about stamps (or writing letters), so this is badly needed.

I would like to think that your comment to make stamps more interesting would make a difference, but I don't believe it will as most young (er) adults, under about the age of 40'ish, have migrated to electronic mail for just about everything....I believe the market to sell more stamps continues to remain with older citizens, especially collectors. As a collector myself, I have found even I have succumbed to electronic communication when I started ordering my collector stamps via the USPS web site. I am going to make a suggestion - comment myself later and maybe you will comment on my thought.

I am an adult woman and love Harry Potter. Although I see the point of not being American, Harry Potter became an American phenomenon and is well-known throughout the world. The stamp would receive great exposure and spark continued interest. I do collect stamps.

Stamps that appeal to a younger audience -- great idea!

Non-American themes? It's initially surprising to see something outside of the tradition of "American" stamps, but personally I don't see that as a fatal flaw. What's non-American? You can buy a Toyota made in Tennessee or a Ford made in Mexico. The Harry Potter books may have a British author and characters, but the movies came from Warner Brothers, with an American co-writer for the scripts.

Art & history vs fads & celebrities? There's room for both. Let the market say what it wants to buy.

What would I like to see? Personally, I buy whatever my post office has in rolls. :-)

What would I most like to see? A solution to the USPS's financial problems that doesn't involve raising rates. In that context, without meaning any disrespect toward the people objecting to these stamps, the more energy we can focus on the big issues, the better.

I think the USPO should issue the Harry Potter stamps. Those books and movies had universal appeal and are true works of literature. I also think the USPO should recognize any significant person or topic that will interest the stamp-buying public.

I think these stamps will be very popular-what you are aiming for is perfect. Many of the stamps seem dull, and Harry Potter stamps will bring the Postal Service a step up!
I don't collect stamps, but HP stamps look pretty cool to have

I would totally buy Harry Potter stamps. Every medium has had to change with the likes and dislikes of the general population. Yes... make the Harry Potter stamps. And Super Heros, Pop Stars, Actors, anything... staying relevant is a great way to stay solvent.

The USPS has to do anything it can at this point to stay relevant and get more people to buy stamps. The Harry Potter stamps are a great idea and I don't see anything wrong with issuing stamps that may have a British actor on them. Who cares? People in the USA will find anything to complain about. If you don't like the Harry Potter stamps, don't buy them. There are many others to chose from.

Yes yes yes!!!! Harry Potter has been a massive movement for pushing children of all ages from 8-80 to read and believe in the magic of writing! I grew up with Harry Potter the books and movies and by far it will be one of the happiest memories I have that brought joy to my youngimagination for years to come!!! I'm sure hundreds of thousands of others would agree with me!! Bring on the Harry Potter Stamps!! I would buy them!

I think this would be a great revenue source for the USPS. HP fans are a zealous lot, and I think they'd buy a lot of stamps. I know I would.

I vote NOOO!!!! We have a lot more of History, factors we could contribute our US stamps too. They have character stamps, historian, nature, love, Disney etc... You want to sell stamps, put Michelle Obama, President Obama, the planets, Jesus, Angels something educational, etc .. but if Harry Potter tugs your chain...so be it

As a 32-year Fed, the role of the IG is to apply the law, not run a popularity contest to determine which way the wind blows. You should be directing your attention to the problems created by the unique accounting burden imposed on USPS by the Congress, but they are your masters, aren't they? The USPS has to do whatever it has to do try to keep its head above water. These stamps are likely to appeal to people who do not buy stamps. Maybe they will be inspired to buy stamps and not use them. Maybe they will buy more and send them to friends just to use them, creating new customers for First Class instead of sending text. Maybe this will create new stamp collectors. I do not see the downside to anything that will allow USPS to seen a square inch of paper for 44 cents.

NO to Harry Potter stamp. There are far too many issues to help share awareness such as Scleroderma or other invisible in curable diseases.

Movie characters like Harry Potter have become part of Americana and our history. Harry Potter books stimulated a whole generation to begin reading again. We have all kinds of heroes - some from iconic stories that are shared from one generation to another. I think the Harry Potter stamps would be a hit.

I think the stamps will interest young people and they will start collecting stamps. The stamps are not expensive. If you use the characters from their favorite movies or games they will buy them. The post office should put out more products to advertise the USPS.

Why not continue choosing real young persons under interesting categories: young female poets during the Civil War, young instrument makers & composers, or perhaps even better have a contest with young people proposing their most interesting & worthy, young accomplished persons? That way they are engaged and involved in the process, researching their favorite & strongest subject area and rewarded for their efforts.

Please do not have a Harry Potter Stamp. Harry Potter isn't even an American fictional character. He is English, so let Great Britain give him a stamp. Thanks!

I bought the Harry Potter stamp sets for my godchildren, and some to use for sending them cards. Normally they aren't interested in sending mail (although they like receiving it), but they love Harry. If it gets them started collecting stamps, that would be great! I'm also happy if it gets them started writing more real letters. I see nothing wrong with stamps with popular images and I appreciate themes that I can use when I send mail. In fact, I miss the Happy Birthday stamps that used to be issued, and I always buy a ton of Christmas stamps -- this year I especially love the global stamp Christmas design with the wreaths. Way, way back the postal service issued stamps with poisonous plants on them and I used to use them to send my bills. Bill paying is now all electronic, but it is a fond memory. I think a balance can be achieved between popular images and more classic themes.

I find it difficult to believe that more engaging stamps, however that is defined, will make a significant on USPS revenue. The budget issues are much more structural. Stamp collectors are not going to save the USPS.

I believe that stamps should reflect US heritage, culture, history, places, etc. Many anniversary events for significant history can be commemorated. US national parks can be. Native American tribes can be.

Stamps should avoid depicting living persons.

I believe the USPS should offer stamp images from as wide a spectrum of topics as they feel are marketable. I'll buy some and not others. Other people will have different tastes from mine, and will therefore buy other topics. Let the market decide.

I think the USPS should stick with Art and History subjects and not go commercial.
The Harry Potter stamps might bring in some needed cash, but not necessarily bring in new stamp collectors.
I have been collecting stamps for fifty years and marvel at their beauty and interesting subjects. Thank you.

Yes, yes, yes. The USPS needs to stay current and by offering stamps which are exactly that, they will attract not only younger collectors, but also older users of the "stamp" generation who find current offerings boring and lacking in originality. There is no history to be learned with stamps as most of the USPS offerings are totally without context. This is a global society ... no harm whatsoever in adding some international flavor to US- bound envelopes. Good luck with the venture and may the staid members of the Advisory Board become less staid.

I'd like to see more stamps supporting pet rescue, and with dogs and cats in general. The SPCA stamps with dog and cat images sold out a few years ago, and so did "Owney the Postal Dog" As those were huge sellers, i don't understand why the Postal Service didn't issue more / repeat them. Please bring those back, as you did the popular and beautiful "Purple Heart" stamps.

I would be interested in buying these stamps. I think the stamps should reflect pop culture, and Harry Potter would certainly qualify.

I rarely buy stamps - they are something I use only when I pay a few bills. However, I do like using the Christmas themed stamps for my Christmas cards. I went online to purchase and have them delivered, and was amazed by the number of different stamps there were beyond what my grocery store carries. I bought several types that I ordinarily would not have - including the Harry Potter stamps. So, yes, I would say appealing to pop culture will truly help sales and that is a great thing. I would say to focus more on "lasting" pop culture than fads though. We already know that Harry has been around for awhile and will remain so for years to come.

The Postal Service's mission is to deliver mail. It's nice that people collect the stamps, too, but if the USPS can't get the money to fund itself, then what is the point of having "works of art"?? It would be nice to find a balance between the two, but first and foremost, the goal should be to generate sales, if pop culture can help that, then I'm all for it. Additionally, the US is such a diverse group of people, I think it is hard to say that one thing is American heritage and exclude all of the different cultures that make up our country. I don't have any problems with stamps that are not grounded in American heritage. Personally, I'd like to see Doctor Who stamps like the Brits just had for the 50th Anniversary. There are all sorts of fandoms out there - why not explore some of them?

The post office should stick to stamps that feature USA, historically, arts, environment, sports, presidents, military, technology and national holidays. Forget featuring other countries history and stick with stamps that people who use stamps want to have on their envelope . Young people use the social media to communicate more frequently than snail mail. Stick with our American Heritage, no fads or fly by night celebrities.

I love the Harry Potter stamps. (For demographics I am a 31 yom.) Even though I hardly ever send mail (I tend to send packages by FedEx or UPS, pay all of my bills online and only send cards by mail for Christmas/Hannukah), I bought a number of Harry Potter stamp sets because they looked cool.

Most of the USPS stamps are boring. Often, I don't even understand what the stamps are getting at or what they are portraying. The Postal Service needs to end it's losses and its not going to do it by offering boring, artsy stamps that only appeal to a few old, gray collectors. They need to have designs that appeal to young people (such as myself) that hardly ever even use the mail. The Simpsons and Harry Potter are a great start. I hope the Postal Service continues picking stamp designs that mean something in today's current Pop Culture.

T his "Harry" stamp was a fantastic decision, an unusual and gutsy decision for a government entity.

How about a /1/ GAGA stamp, or /2/ Elton Jon, or /3/ global warming stamp showing four glacers then and now, or /4/ four stamps showing the plastic pollution of our oceans and water ways, e.g Washington State beaches with the Japanese tsunome garbage, or the dead zones in the Chesapeake, or /5/ our returning solders from Irac and Afganistan,---Army-Marines-Navy-Air-Force, one stamp for the men and one for the ladies.

I belatedly began collecting commemoratives: wonderful souvenirs of our culture. One suggestion about the USPS program: Young people (and some oldsters too) have limited funds for this sort of thing. Why not make it possible to buy **on line** or from USA Philatelic a single plate block with the plate number? Purchases at post offices are hit and miss: many do not offer all the issued stamps. I forego buying many commemoratives from USA Philatelic or on line just because I cannot buy a single plate block. That includes Christmas and holiday stamps (I'll spring for four, but I'm not buying a whole book).

If USPS packages the stamps so that collectors - including young people - have the option to buy as few as a block, I humbly suggest that it's more likely to attract buyers and thereby keep collecting alive. Just sayin'....

Harry [Potter] was a great read and movies were fun ... but real living English actors on U.S.A. stamps was Wrong. This period of American history is full of events that should be honored on U.S. stamps. But of course as is the case ... no-one-is-home to read how I feel or cares. I have collected stamps for years and as with the current generation, if it is not face book or has keys to push there is No Interest.

I see no problem with the USPS releasing stamps on themes that attract a wider (and younger) audience. I also have no problem with the USPS releasing stamps on themes that are not strictly "American" in nature. Limiting stamp topics to strictly American arts and history tends to result in drab, boring issues, not to mention inevitable rehashes.

There is frequently the perception that the topics and imagery chosen are decided by stodgy old fuddy duddies. That needs to change. Some "fun" injected into each year's issues, e.g., the Harry Potter set, keeps some semblance of vibrancy and modern cultural relevance in the program.

That said, I wouldn't go overboard, and keep it tasteful. A stamp series on The Kardashians, Paris Hilton, or Beyonce would go a bit too far (although depending on the imagery used, might sell well...).

Celebrating iconic films, TV series, or personas is perfectly fine, in my opinion.

I think the postal service should print whatever stamps they feel like. This latest concern is a waste of time…since the postal service is is such dire monetary straits, how do they have the money to pay someone to actually worry about this issue, and someone to sit and read all the blogs in order to gather the statistical response to the questions? QUIT WASTING MONEY on these ridiculous "problems"!

I'm 33, and have collected stamps since I was 11. These "stamps" look blatantly cheap. They are downright tacky, and they look like stickers you find in the discount bin at the dollar store. To me it seems like this was a quick and dirty rush job to get these out before Christmas. I think these could have been better made had you not used generic stills from the movies that the studio provided to you. What about stylized interpretations of the actual book covers? What about deep, rich, colorful stylized painted portraits of the main characters?

My wife is a huge Harry Potter nut, and she said she wanted the set of First Day Covers for Christmas, but I absolutely refuse to buy these for her. I think my money would be better spent buying these same exact stickers from Dollar Tree for 1/3rd the price and make my own "covers" with them. I'm not against the USPS moving in a more commercialized direction at all, as there are many products and brands that I would like to have stamps for, just don't be so damn tacky about it.

I think the USPS needs to go back and reexamine the designs from the Celebrate the Century series. There are TV show stamps, toy stamps, movie poster stamps, music album cover stamps, pop culture stamps and general use merchandise stamps. These in my opinion are tasteful. They are mostly subtle, refined, and well designed. If the Harry Potter stamps were done more in this general style, I'd have bought a dozen press sheets to stockpile for all my future postage needs! Come on guys, take some time, slow down, and actually put some pride and thought and effort into what you do!

The Postal Service pays tribute to an individual or movement by placing the image on a stamp. The selection process is not easy, you have to go through a long vetting process to be selected. Being selected to be placed on a stamp is of the highest honor; at least in the Postal Service world.

If the Postal Service really wants to get young people to buy stamps, then you need to put the artist/actor/comedian they currently like on the stamp. This will not go over well with the traditionalist, but young people will love it.

Image if we put Mailey Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Hilary Duff, or One Direction (I google this list) at a local post office. The line will be crazy and the amount of stamps sold will be equally crazy. Even better, stamps can be made from the winners of the 2014 Teen Choice Awards which teens select to honor the best stars of movies, TV and music. The Postal Service needs to connect to the young generation, as many of them don't even know where their local Post Office is located.

Is the Postal Service in the business of commemoration or in the business of selling stamps?

If stamp sales are slumping, perhaps the Postal Service can appeal to the broader audience;
• by offering stamps with logos from Twitter - Facebook - YouTube that would appeal to a younger crowd
• if permitted to issue stamps that do not depict American heritage, perhaps a boost in sales can be achieved from the non-conventional audience, and
• issuing stamps depicting themes and images that appeal to philatelist, makes sense and probably most profitable since the stamp is rarely used

The first living people on US Postage and they’re Brits and Irishmen???!!! This is absolutely appalling. The Transformers, 101 Dalmatians, Peanuts, Sesame Street, or Nora the Explorer couldn’t have been chosen? An AMERICAN creation is what deserves to go on a stamp, not a British novel gone cinema.

The people making the decisions on stamps need to listen to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee and not just fly by the seat of their pants. What appears on US Postage is important and sends a message. The message sent by the Harry Potter Stamps is “we don’t care what we put on a stamp, we just see dollar signs.” Wonder if these stamps will even sell. If someone had done their research, they’d have found out that kids consider Harry Potter to be “very last year.”

This won’t go down in Postal history in a good light and may be looked at as “the desperate period” for stamps.

Anything that the USPS can do to earn money so as not to keep raising the price of stamps is fine.
There are times when you just have to mail something so the USPS is here to stay.

I believe the primary focus of new stamps issued by the USPS should be on the history & heritage of the USA. Harry Potter was a mistake, at least as a 20 stamp issue. I think it is a disgrace that no stamp was issued for the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address, perhaps the most important speech in our history. Certainly some pop culture is warranted but multi-stamp issues for Star Wars, the Simpsons, Harry Potter are overkill. An occasional foreign person such as Churchill, Mother Theresa, etc is warranted but our primary focus should be on citizens of the USA. Thanks for asking for comments.

The stamps should be limited primarily to USA important historical events covering people who achieved important and valuable achievements. which contributed to the welfare of the USA and the world. who created a niche for themselves which other people would like to emulate and thus are worthy of being remembered. For example these would include the founders of our country such as Christopher Columbus, Americus Vispucious (sic), the Vikings who sailed upon our shores prior to Columbus etc. Definitely important presidents like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, TR, Roosevelt, Truman and even Obama at the end of his presidency if he comes through as a honorable effective president who did the great things he promised, It should promote the arts, science agriculture, historical events in the USA, e.g. the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WW!!, Vietnam etc. It should emphasize education aspect amounting to a source of knowledge which will aid and assist in educating our young people about our country.. Many people do not realize that democracy is the best form of government anywhere in the world primarily practiced in the USA more so than most countries. From the above the sales will come because people buy what interests them . The object to is develop interest which brings sales. The system for approving a stamp for collection should be a point system where points are allocated for each category. While promotion of profit is important; it should not be the sole goal; Yet, it can be assigned points which can be used to break a tie when all factors are considered, I am not a stamp collector although I do have some of the First offering of President Kennedy and some other important t stamps that I found interesting.. Potter is ok, but not to consider him primarily.

Why? Why cannot stamps be fun, and help keep the USPS solvent in the process? I strongly support issuance of the Harry Potter stamps.

I think that the postal service is denigrating its brand by choosing pop culture images for stamps. Important historical figures in US history, cultural landmarks, and heritage sites are more appropriate in that they offer opportunities for young people to learn about the US in a meaningful way. Elevating Harry Potter, Elvis Presley, and their ilk to postage stamp status is just plain wrong.

Whose Big Idea was it to put Harry Potter on an American Stamp?
I'll never buy that stamp. No wonder you're in debt. Do some research.
I totally oppose using any one other than an American on our stamps.
I realize in the past this was probably done.
How many kids collect stamps? They don't have time because they're too busy texting
or on twitter, or what ever.
Why not ask the public for suggestions. I'll probably see Breaking Bad characters
on future stamps. Good Bye America.

I am a stamp collector and think the USPS is wrong to issue stamps like Harry Potter because it is purely to make money with a goal unlikely to be achieved, getting kids to collect stamps. Let the CSAC be the ONLY ones to decide stamp topics!!! American stamps should be representative of America. Fie on the USPS morons who think stamps should be commercial vehicles issued for revenue only. Fire these idiots and fast!!!

I I am convinced that J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter is an important contribution to
literature for young people (and old people like me [82 years]). I predict that
the seven books in the Harry Potter series will remain popular well into the
22nd Century. They may even be added to the lists of required reading to
counteract the move to all-digital text.

Further, the Harry Potter books emphasize the virtues of courage, friends and
loyalty -- not bad for what has been disparaged as merely children's literature.
and honesty. The fact that they were written by a talented English author
merely points our how poor the selection of American authors of children's
books is. Is the best we can offer the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"?

I understand that some decisions are difficult and also understand the Post Office's need for additional revenue. However, the Harry Potter stamps appear to benefit the commercial interests of others in addition to the USPS. I much prefer stamps that commemorate U.S. history, important figures from our country's past and to maintain traditions that make philately an enjoyable hobby. The post office's decisions to issue stamps whose purpose is to generate revenue from collectors is a short term solution to a long term problem and is not likely to encourage youngsters to collecting stamps. In fact, I had been collecting for many years but stopped when I felt that too many stamps were issued with insignificant historical value. The Harry Potter series certainly fits that category. Further, the advice of the advisory committee appears to have been disregarded in the quest for some quick cash.