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?

Comments (230)

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  • anon

    How much is the Postal Service paying for the licensing for using Harry Potter and is this a prudent expense given the financial state of the agency? Most people who buy stamps buy them out of need and not for whom or what is on the stamp. Harry Potter is a franchise that has run its course, all books and movies have been released. Any profits realized from stamp collectors from the Harry Potter stamp would more than likely not offset the licensing cost. Stamp collecting is not the answer to bring the Postal Service financials back in the black. Face the facts mail volume is not going to increase now or in the future. The agency is overstaffed for its current mail volume and obviously mismanaged. The Postal Service would be better served improving delivery services, reducing over time and standby time, combining duplicate services and reducing the use of contractors by substituting them with current Postal staff. The Postal Service has employees with the skill sets to perform any activity currently provided by high paid contractors at a much lower cost. We owe the employees the respect to use their talents and skills

    Dec 06, 2013
  • anon

    Brilliant! That is what I think about the Postal Services latest choice to use Harry Potter on Forever Stamps. It's simply a natural thing to associate mailing letters with the Harry Potter fandom. The image of all Harry's acceptance letters whizzing about the boy wizard is hardwired in more than one generation of fan's minds around the globe. The world J.K. Rowling created is alive and growing, and for the US Postal Service to want to be a real life part of it is a perfect fit. I prepurchased sets in fear that my local post office wouldn't get them, as has happened to me in the past. For example, I was never able to buy this year's Chinese New Year stamp, a personal tradition of mine. The Harry Potter stamps are fantastically designed. A simply beautiful foldout presentation, and they show so many of my favorite characters, not just a few images repeated over and over. And I love the little bonus they created by placing a little red wax seal image in the middle of each page of four stamps. These little red seals are terrific to use on the back of an envelope. Sort of like a "gift with purchase". I am a huge fan of anything Potter, and I even went to Universal Studios Florida, to see the grand unveiling of the stamps where the actress Ivana Lynch (who portrays the character Luna Lovegood) was the highlight of the ceremony. It was wonderful to witness all of that in person in Hogsmead Village, with the Hogwarts Castle in the background, and then to wander into the Hogshead for a delicious Butterbeer. I am sending First Day of Issue stamps to everyone on my Holiday list. What a perfect gift to bring in the new year, but a timeless classic that will endure forever. The US Postal Service designers have made magic, and I am hopeful the spell is never broken.

    Dec 06, 2013
  • anon

    If Elvis was the best selling stamp ever. I suggest a JERRY GARCIA stamp. Like Elvis he was an American Icon, a Musician, and would likely inspire similar debate. i.e. Young Jerry, or Old Jerry etc.. A 9/11, World Trade Center stamp might (definitely) be a hot seller..

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I find it curious that "young audiences" are being referenced repeatedly with regard to Harry Potter. The first book was released in the late 90's, when some of that audience was still in diapers. You're not going to create a new generation of stamp collectors, if that's the goal. You're going to please Harry Potter fans with recognition of their cultural icon. If the USPS is looking for a way to make money, current iconic figures on stamps might supplement that.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Yes to Harry Potter stamps! They honor Britain's excellent contribution to the arts. They will be welcomed as gifts to young and old fans of the Wizarding World. And yes, they might spark a new interest in stamp collecting. Next year you can comfort the traditionalists with a more historical design but for now let Harry soar to new heights.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think the postal office should make kid stamps like soccer players, football players, and cars. Kids and parents would like to buy them.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Postal Service,I think the idea of having icons from any country is a great.Having these things will help sales.Having people like Drake,One Direction and other international on stamps will help sales a lot. From, Anonymous

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Yes, I think the postal office should have up to date stamps. It will help a ton if they start to put celebrities on stamps, but in my opinion they shouldn't put Harry potter on stamps, they should put people like One Direction. Evan though there not American it would help their sales of stamps sky rocket

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think kids should buy stamps. This would help because little kids would love to see cartoon characters on stamps and that will help them make more money.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Postal service I think you should make stamps of celebrities and children because it will draw more attention to more people.Also it would be nice if you can put more than one person on stamps.This will help your postal service by makeing more people love stamps.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    yes, i think the post office should keep on selling stamps for any age. it will help you guys get more money.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Dear post office, I think that you should make newer and younger stamps. you should try to apeal to the younger generastion. if you were to make those younger stamps , kids would probly start to collcet stamps again. This would help because your profit would rise and maybe more letters would be sent. There would probly be kids,teens,and maybe even some adults buying them.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Dear,post office I like how you tried to put a stamp that children would be interested in. I think that you should not do that ,because that is not what stamps are for. they are for post cards and envalopes.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think you should sell stamps that appeal to a younger audience. You should make stamps of popular books or movies like The Hunger Games or Uglies and popular actors like Javier Calvo. People are going crazy over the The Hunger Games and One Direction, and they would go crazy over a Hunger Games or One Direction stamp. :)

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think the post office should make stamps with picture from other countries. One reason is because it will teach people about other countries. It will also help make more money again.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think the post office should make some cartoon stamps or movie stamps to get kids attention and adults. I know kids like cartoons and adults like movies so this will make them collect and buy stamps.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they should sell Harry Potter stamps and other stamps with characters they like too. First, there ate a lot of series that people like. Finally, it will increase money. I hope you guys earn more money.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they should sell harry potter stamps and why not Harry potter,the Hunger games,Pacific rim,or batman for kid to have fun again and they can more money again too,and we can save the U.S poster office.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think the post office should still send mail and sell stamps because some people don't have internet or computers in some countries. Stamps should have better pictures on images so people would have more attention to the stamps. The Harry Potter and the Elvis stamps got popular because of the image or the theme. If they changed the stamp image it will cause a lot more attention and will start collecting again.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    You can make Harry Potter stamps if you want to,but I think you should make stamps with different people on it. I think this because a lot of of children don't like to see the same thing every day. You can put Harry Potter on it, just dont use the same thing, so make Harry Potter and Percy Jackson stamps.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think you should make stamps. if you make stamps that kids like then they should be able to chose which one they want. most kids like cartoon picture. you should make more stamps that they could pick from. I think it would help you raise money.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think The U.S postal office should not sell Harry potter stamps.one reason is Harry potter is not american and it is bad to take advantage of kids and their money.in my opinion I think they should put presidents on postal stamps.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I don't think they should put kid pictures on stamps because it won't help them sell any. Not to sound harsh,but no one really uses stamps any more ,my parents do, but not everyone. Stamps can sometimes be nice looking,but even if they do look nice, kids won't really care. So I say no.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Yes,yes you should make Harry Potter stamps. Most kids love Harry Potter. Also,you should range from food to real people. I would love to have a hello kitty stamp in my collection. Then again,you have to remember the good old days like Michael Jackson and some old kid shows like cat-dog. Other than those ideas, I would like if you made new stamps.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think stamps should only be for serious purposes and not for collecting.I also think its not worth when yournever going to actually use them.Its also a huge waste of money.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they should not make stamps with kid pictures on it.If they make stamps with kid pictures and nobody buys them they will lose money.If they make kid picture stamps that kids don't like no more or parents think the stamps are bad influences they will lose a ton of money.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    What I think should happen is that they should do whatever makes them money. It's not about what kids or teens like, it's about making money. For example, fast food places doesn't care about your health, they just care about their profit on what they're making.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they should make stamps about Harry Potter and other movies like the Hunger Games, Despicable Me 2, Transformers, Avengers, etc. I think they should make these kinds of stamps because these are good movies and it will make people buy them. From, Anonymous

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they should sell stamps with cool stuff on it. I would actually design one of my own . That would be very cool. Then they would be very rich in an instant. I don't get why the U.S postal service tells people. Then they would go crazy for this stuff in a second. They could be lots of more money.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think putting stuff that appeal to kids is a great idea! They should make stamps of famous things like famous people,memes,movies,cars,brands,and others famous stuff. I would start collecting if I saw those stamps.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think that the government should start putting kid pictures and things that people like on stamps.I think this because kids could buy them, but they don't have to use them for letters.They could just use them as stickers.And at least they would buy them.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think the post office should make a Bugatti stamp. This will help because a lot of people like Bugatti because it is the worlds fastest car. And Bugatti might give a sponsorship for extra money because It supports the company.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think the postal service should make the Harry Potter stamps.They should also make newer stamps rather than the traditional historical figures.Stamps should not just be works of art or history,because while they are beautiful,they don't generate a lot of money.A stamp I would like to see would be either a Hunger Games stamp,or a stamp with modern authors and poets on it.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Yes to Harry Potter, and why not tie in to current buzz like The Hunger Games, or genres like steampunk, or recognize famous Broadway musicals and shows. And to save money, please discontinue discount rates for pre-sorted mail. This junk mail costs as little as 11 cents to 26 cents apiece, yet demands as much work (sorting by route and delivery) as the 46 cent mail. Catalogs and charities are the biggest abusers, most sending junk every month. When I came back from a two week vacation, I had 8 1/2 lbs of mail...8 1/4 lbs of which was pure junk and my poor dedicated carrier had to deliver this at less than half the going first class rate! No wonder the post office is in the red and as magical as is Harry Potter, his stamp won't make up for a bad business model. Thoth The Raven

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I have been collecting stamps for 60+ years. In my opinion, along with the booklet, this is the most awesome collection of stamps the post office has issued in decades. Thank You! Keep up the good work!

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think that they should make stamps with Harry Potter. One reason why I think this is people will buy them and kids would love to collect them. I also think that they should put other pictures.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Dear USPS, An estimation that 400,000 people use stamps. The USPS should make Harry Potters stamps. The stamps will be a blockbuster and it is a good way increase revenue. The stamps will spark young kids interest in stamps also some kids like to read Harry Potters books and watch his movies. Also stamps help you send bills and other letters. I think the USPS should also make stamps of pop stars, actors, super hero's, and other famous people. From, Anonymous

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think that there should be stamps with people like Harry Potter on them. There doesn't have to be JUST Harry Potter on stamps. Stamps could be a big hit if they have more than just american history on them. I understand that american history is important but why not change it up a bit. Thanks for reading (if anyone did :D). From, Anonymous

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think there should be USPS stamps with famous people. One reason is that if there is not famous people no one would buy the stamps because they might think it's boring. Another reason is that people don't really use mail so if they put famous people,people might start using mail again.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    The Postal Service shouldn't use Harry Potter for one reason. He isn't American. If he was young kids would buy stamps.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think the USPS should have stamps! But Harry Potter really ? My opinion is that they should sell stamps but of : Christmas ,thanksgiving,Valentines day Etc but I think it would be a good idea even though i don't sell letters but I would if they would post stamps of holidays . Anyways Some people do like Harry potter they should have that as a stamp in matter of fact some people have different tastes but it also would be a good idea to have different artists . ~Anonymous

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they shouldn't sell Harry Potter stamps because they are trying to get kids to get them and end technology. Another reason is to get kids into Harry Potter.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think a idea to put in a stamp is Spider pig from The Simpsons

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they shouldn't put Harry potter on a stamp because it's kind of bad because Harry Potter has no American background what so ever the stamp . I think they should have put old american tv shows, movies, and plays we used to see.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    They should put like cartoons on stamps or a picture of the military. They should put season stamps. Or like all kinds of stamps. So I think they should put all kinds of pictures on stamps. Do you?

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think that the Postal Service should not make Harry Potter stamps because he is not American. They should focus on American idols like Hello Kitty or other children things they seem to focus on. Or they could focus on American heritage or history.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    Should you sell stamps with celebrities?I think you shouldn't sell stamps with celebrities like Harry Potter because not a lot of people like Harry Potter and other celebrities.They should have history stamps about everyone's history.Not a lot of people watch T.V. because they are playing video games half the time!Another reason is,that if you put little pictures of video games stamps,and people might buy a lot.I think celebrity stamps are not going to be bought a lot.Video game stamps could be a hit.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I claim that people will try to buy the Harry Potter stamps. I think this because a lot of people love Harry Potter and it's a popular franchise.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they should put a great picture on a stamp.A reason is history is boring for people ,so they could make it buy it.

    Dec 05, 2013
  • anon

    I think they shouldn't have Harry Potter stamps because he isn't even american. If the Harry Potter stamp is going to be made, at least give the stamp to the UK. I know that younger children like to collect stamps, but at least give them stamps that has something related to the US. If I were to make a stamp, I would put a picture of something beautiful, unique , or maybe something fun!

    Dec 05, 2013

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