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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Stamp images should glorify the U.S.A., by showing its history, people, places, goals, and accomplishments. They should help educate people about the best of this country and its history. They should show pictures of U.S. people, places, things, literary figures, inventions, artistic and scientific accomplishments, etc. that accomplish this glorification. Besides these, there are many potential simple stamp designs of U.S. items like national and state birds, capitals, maps, and parks, as well as sports, literary, and scientific figures to provide more than enough pictures. Every stamp does not need a picture, some can be words only. But, under no circumstances should they show either pictures of Harry Potter, Adolf Hitler, Queen of England, or other foreign people, literary figures, or objects or gangsters or refuse piles.

I'm 68 years old and Thrilled!!! with the HP stamps! Ordered four sets on line as soon as I learned they existed, and hit the PO the next day to buy more. Will send them as pressies to all of my HP fans, ranging in age from 25 to 79:-). So enough of the 'youth appeal.' HP is just a huge part of our culture and thus a brilliant idea. Do wish USPS would reprint some of the more popular recent stamps--loved the 'flowers' and 'bonsai trees' -- they seem to have disappeared. Tho
not a collector, enjoy checking out the new releases and buying whatever connects to me personally...so will definitely stock up on Harry. Thanks for asking.

Should the Postal Service market stamp images that focus on a younger audience in hopes of reaching beyond traditional collectors and generating sales? Yes. I am the mother of three young children and for the first time they are getting stamps in their Christmas stockings--per their request! They are now talking about pen-pals and mailing Nana homemade cards. Will it last? I'm not sure, but you've got their attention and a little extra revenue.

Should the Postal Service be allowed to develop themes and images that do not focus on American heritage for the sake of sales? I think the USPS should be allowed to focus on themes that are significant to American culture even if they're not of American origin, including Harry Potter. Although HP has British origins, Americans embraced Harry as a universal character. Young and old were reading these books everywhere. Remember the erudite-looking adults on the Metro reading these books with other dust jackets on the outside to cover "the boy who lived" books?

Or, should stamps be works of art and pieces of history and not based on fads or celebrities? I think there can be a mix. I foresee controversy with fads or celebrities certainly, so perhaps there should be a "waiting period" as a litmus test of enduring staying power.

What stamp images would you like to see? Well, this may seem odd but when the time comes, I would like to see Louis Zamperini on a stamp. I hope he's with us for many years to come, of course. When the time is right, he's an American deserving of recognition.

I think the post office should worry more about delivery of mail and maintaining a high service level ,

Stamps were no longer works of art when they stopped using engraving to produce them.

Stamps that collectors don't use are not a huge financial lift for the post office.

The post office is collapsing and they are worried about what goes on a stamp????


Yes, I support the Harry Potter stamp series! My father collected stamps and I inherited his stamp collection and have added to it. I would very much want Harry Potter stamps to add to it.

I started stamp collecting when I was about 10 years old in the late 1960s. I enjoyed learning history and geography through collecting (yes, I was a nerd and still am). But I was also interested in topical collecting and wondered why the U.S. didn't have the "colorful" and "commercial" stamps that other countries did. I would have loved to have had U.S. stamps with Looney Tunes or Hanna Barbera characters on them, so I applaud the USPS for having eventually done that. But once postal rates started increasing and the number of stamps issued each year started going up, I could no longer afford the singles, plate blocks and FDCs, so I essentially stopped. However, I do still buy stamps that interest me. And I will be buying the Harry Potter stamps, to add to my collection.

I am a big hockey fan and absolutely love what Canada Post has recently done with their hockey uniform issue. I'm also a fan of their recent series of stamps for each team in the Canadian Football League. I think the USPS should follow with similar stamps to honor sports teams in America, both professional and amateur.

With the USPS losing money every year, encouraging collecting is certainly a fine way to increase revenue. And to do that, you need to give the people what they want. If that includes commercial American and non-American topics, I'd say GO FOR IT!

While celebrating American works of art and pieces of history are very important, not every stamp issue should be restricted to those kinds of topics.

I am 24 and the Harry Potter stamps were the first set I have ever purchased. I know that seeing Harry Potter stamps will make several of my friends and family very happy so I bought them and am now looking for reasons to write a letter. So, this marketing strategy worked perfectly in my case.

I support the use of literary characters and things that are culturally significant to Americans even if, like Harry Potter, they began outside the US.

I also believe that this stamp will be successful because it touches on a fandom. If the post office were to release stamps based on a fandom about once a year I believe it could be a successful project. Ex: 2013 is Harry Potter, 2014 is Lord of the Rings, 2015 is Hunger Games, etc. People would be excited to wait for what is next and while I don't need tons of stamps I'd buy one book a year for the sake of having a stamp I was excited about.

If the post office is expected to perform like a business then it needs to give the consumer what they want to make money. And it seems like that might be more modern stamps.

As a long time philatelist (stamp collector), I wish the USPS would go back to the "lick and stick" stamp instead of the self stick. Look at the Swedish Postal Service (Posten). They still use engravers (artists in their own right), issue gummed stamps (lick and stick), have sheets, coils and booklets, and their modern stamps are highly collectable. There is nothing keeping the USPS from going back to the classic stamp. Keep the "self adhesive" stamp for the "Forever" stamp, and create worthy commemorative stamps in the "old fashioned" manner. I understand that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing no longer prints stamps, but couldn't the private printers create some engraved, artistic stamps?

The "pop culture" subject matter of Harry Potter stills is not so much the issue, as a fair amount of these stamps will sell to the non-collecting public (just as did the Elvis, Looney Tunes, Star Wars, Disney characters, etc.).

The real issues in my mind are the following:

1. We should not be depicting living persons (even in character) such as in the Harry Potter series of stamps. And certainly one of the first issues depicting living people should not be citizens of another country. What if one or more of these actors later commits a crime during their lives? The USPS will then be in an embarrassing position by having those "Forever" stamps in circulation.

2, The poor distribution to only to "premier post offices" or online is a bad thing, and will only turn many collectors away from the stamps after they stand in long lines at their local post office only to learn they don't have the stamps to sell right now.

3. The USPS needs to get back to depicting images of people, places and things to promote American culture and that will "stand the test of time", not that of a popular series of books and movies that could very well be forgotten a few decades from now.

The USPS needs to get off of the idea of "commercializing" the stamp program only to "sell stamps", as they are of a mistaken opinion that the world will collect more stamps because of it. Sure, Harry Potter fans will collect a certain number of stamps that will never be used for postage, but so did Elvis fans and Looney Tunes fans and Disney fans and Star Wars fans -- and the Simpson stamps would have sold better had there not been a postage rate change shortly after they were issued.

Although a few "pop culture" stamps are not out of place, the history and people and culture of the United States should take priority.

Also, here we are in early December and absolutely no schedule of dates for 2014 US Stamp Issues has been released. What's the hold up? Pending postal rate increase decisions should not hold up the announcement of "Forever" stamp issues. The USPS should be embarrassed that they have now taken a back seat to the UK and Canada and many other stamp issuing postal authorities by not yet announcing their 2014 stamp issue schedule of dates and locations of issue.

Nothing has discouraged stamp collecting more than the proliferation of new issues in such numbers that few collectors can afford to keep up. The USPS hopes that collectors will buy these issues and store them away so that they never do postal duty, resulting in pure profit for the USPS. As the subjects shown on stamps have become more childish and more faddish they have only served to bring discredit to our country. They show that the USPS is driven by a crass commercialism, struggling in vain to balance its hopelessly indebted budget, rather than by a desire to promote the important historical and cultural achievements of our country. Quality control of design and subjects chosen has been thrown out the window in the race toward ever more inane subjects. It's time you returned to the more traditional values (and topics) that governed our stamp issuing policies in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. And twenty new stamps a year would be sufficient. THAT would be progress.

As a former 30-year postal veteran and PCES Manager I have seen a lot of revenue generating ideas and repeated campaigns attempting to promote the relevance of mail to a younger generation. As with Harry going off to Hogwarts, this train has left the station. Kids are not going to collect stamps. Get over yourselves. There are simply too many electronic distractions available that are more exciting, appealing and engaging. Buggy whip manufacturers would love for young people to get reengaged with the horse drawn carriage too, but unless you are of a certain religious belief, this is so highly unlikely that no one in that industry wastes energy thinking about it, let alone investing large sums of limited funds chasing it. I can only imagine that an inexperienced marketing manager arrogant enough to refuse the guidance of the ample data surrounding this issue must have green-lighted this campaign, probably against the wishes of subordinates. The Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee was perfectly justified in being incensed by management's imperious actions here. Not only is the alleged objective misguided, but the stamps themselves reflect nothing of the beauty, power, and influence that America should be celebrating on these little patches of widely distributed art that Postal Service management has been entrusted with preserving. The subject matter as well as the artwork is ill conceived, appears hastily and poorly executed and devalues stamps. While Warner Brothers and Heyday Films must be flattered, they must also be incredulous at the amateur image choices, which surely would not have survived review as even a cheap promotional poster. One can only hope we secured rights to the images this time.

I am dead set against enriching commercial interests with stamps such as these. It would be far better if the customer service personnel in the Postal Service, especially clerks that meet the public were more cognizant of potential stamp collectors' needs. Just try to get a clean local postmark on a piece of mail today - and further, how about actually _USING_ stamps on packages instead of the PVI or meter postage?

I also do not appreciate this end run around the CSAC (Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee.)

While Harry and friends have had a positive effect on young people, the series is not yet iconic. It's too easy to seize on some hot Pop artist or movie character and use the public attention as a way to sell stamps to non- stamp users. That one- time buy will not change their behavior in the future; the temporary increase in revenue will prove irrelevant in the next quarter. A stamp is an honor, an act of recognition for something remarkable, extraordinary and worthy of attention. For example, the poet Joseph Brodsky was featured on the series on Poets, and because I knew him and his remarkable creative talent, it was particularly moving that this country honored him in this way. I bought several sets and sent them to friends. Please focus on real people and places of beauty, not fictional characters or cartoon heroes.

The USPS is increasingly ignoring the published stamp selection rules and now bypassing the CSAC group entirely. They have already issued several stamps featuring Disney content which is a commercial enterprise. Repeating the theme violates the rules. Not one, but two Yoda stamps appeared in the same year. There have been several non-US subjects. If I were on the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee I would resign as a result of this high-handed move.

I fail to see how the issuance of the Harry Potter stamps does anything to further American subjects and doubt that it will have any measurable effect on enlisting youths to stamp collecting as a hobby. Most young people don't even think about using postage stamps in this digital age.

My Suggestions for stamps:
1. 12 Birthstones .
2. Invertebrate fossils of the US.
3. A series about National Parks and National Monuments which have not previously been featured.
4. Indian tribes of the U.S.

Wendell C. Mohr

I am against using popular culture icons (like Harry Potter) on US postage. These fads are ephemeral. The tendency lately has been to revert to cartoonish artwork without much meaning to them. The 100th anniversary of the completion of the building of the Panama Canal comes in a few weeks. This was a tremendous undertaking by our country, but instead we get Harry Potter. In May will be the 100th Anniversary of the official establishment of Mother's Day in the US.

The USPS should do what it can to raise revenue and to interest young collectors. Harry Potter and other popular themes may well appeal to the 6-12 age crowd and get them started on a lifelong love of stamps. Does the USPS get paid by Scholastic Books/Warner Bros /Disney to use their images? So much the better.
I think stamps should be broadened beyond the American Heritage criteria - why not include international themes as well? Other countries have wonderful American themed stamps.
I collect animal/bird stamps, so would welcome more of them. Do consider reviving the Nature of America series; I'd collect them forever. Also, I support the fella who wants 1982 Beirut Bombing Commemoration stamps issued, altho I get that the USPS and the public might perceive them as negative and they wouldn't get sold. So maybe it's more a financial decision, rather than a deny/ignore-our-history one.

I am against this idea. Stick to American History. If you persist in chasing the almighty buck you might as well go right to selling advertising on the stamps - and thereby kill what you say you are trying to save.

I see nothing wrong with having a Harry Potter stamp (they looked good) because the movies and books did so well in this country. They perked some peoples interest in reading again, especially young children. I still send mail and every once in awhile put a collection of stamps together of various postage to add up to the correct amount. I love seeing envelopes with interesting stamps on them. When I receive mail the envelopes that get my attention are the ones that have different stamps on them. I would like to see better religious Christmas stamps because the past several years the selection has been bad. We are trying to help the post office out by sending mail and buying stamps. Besides bills, I send cards to my grandchildren at least once a week and to friends for special occasions or just to say hello. I miss having the stamp backs that you just lick. I used to collect stamps and still put ones that interest me on the side or purchase them from the post office when I see ones I enjoy. But frankly, how do you insert a mint self-adhesive stamp into an album?

Should Post offices make fun and interesting stamps?
yes ,Because if kid or adults see something they like they will surely star collecting it.For,Instance Since I like angels i would like to buy a stamp of what I like .I think a good idea would be celeberties,history,some thing we like, like christ so we should get more stamps.

I think that the USPS should have stamps with famous people in it. One reason I think this is because the USPS just wants to make money on stamps. Another reason is that people rarely use mail because using email is faster and easier.

I think people won't even buy the stamps.One reason is because we have cell-phones now.Second reason is because why waste your money when you can text/email them.

I think they should do those types of stamps.First of all its true right know the internet is taking over.
Second of all the young are concentrating on electronics.
And last but not least it could give them one new hobby to do.

I think they should focus on the younger audience.the first reason i think this is because it will help younger people focus on something else and not be in their rooms all day.Next i think it will help the postal service.These are some of the reasons I think they should focus on the younger audience.

I would agree and say yes, they should create Harry Potter stamps. They should focus on younger things like Diary of a Wimpy kid, the Simpsons, etc. It would get kids to get stamps and kids would love them!

I think they should try to get younger people into stamps because what if you know someone from far away and they don't have internet or a phone and you want to talk to them but you cant.I also they should try to get younger people into stamps because they can try to get them of there phones and laptops.

I agree with the idea that the USPS should definitely market stamps toward a younger audience. Older people who collect stamps will not live forever, but with younger-skewed stamps (like the Harry Potter ones) grandparents can give a gift to a grandchild and create a mutual hobby that can cross generations.
I don't think having non-American heritage stamps will lessen the quality or "specialness" of the American stamps, and it also teaches a non-isolationist idea for younger generations. Of course it's good to love your country, but there is a whole world about which to learn.
Or, should stamps be works of art and pieces of history and not based on fads or celebrities? Elvis. That's all I have to say about that. Okay, Marilyn Monroe. Johnny Cash. All of them icons, and I think preserving an extremely popular (and extremely important literary empire) moment in time is a work of art in itself.
What stamp images would you like to see? I would love to see more literary characters, authors, films, international foods (like the baguette as "the food" of France, or a vegetable curry dish for India), Values (like the values.com posters)

They should put like cartoons on stamps or a picture of the military. They should put sesson stamps

I think they should put celebrities on stamps because nowadays kids are into a lot of technology , and they should focus on working; not just pressing a button and your done. If they put celebrities on stamps kids will start writing letters and not be on their cellphone all the time.

I think they should put cartoon characters on stamps because children think history is boring. Secondly,children are attracted to bright colors. Thirdly,children like watching cartoons so why dont they put like Spongebob or something. In conclusion,if you want children to buy stamps put cartoons on them and bright colors.

I think they should put sport players,and celebrities on stamps because nowadays kids are into T.V. and the internet. Kids these days like to text, go on Facebook, or on Vines. If you want stamps to be a blockbuster follow my idea

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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

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.

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 .


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

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.

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).


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.


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.

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!

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

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.

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.

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.