Stamp enthusiasts share mixed but passionate views on future of stamps

December 11, 2013

The U.S. Postal Service’s watchdog has asked Americans who care about stamps to weigh in on their future: And hundreds have.

Since Inspector General David Williams’s office asked for opinions on its blog about whether stamps should become more commercial to draw young collectors or hew to traditional cultural themes, philatelists have, as one would predict, shared mixed views.

(U.S. Postal Service)
(U.S. Postal Service)

Some are offended, particularly by the recently issued series of stamps honoring Harry Potter, which has touched off passionate debate among collectors. Others say a commercial direction is inevitable and a potential new source of revenue for the financially struggling mail agency.

Still others say anyone who thinks kids will be inspired by the British boy wizard or any other stamp to get interested in letters is dreaming.

The debate over the future of stamps came to light in a recent story in The Post about tensions between the Postal Service’s marketing staff and a committee of prominent American cultural figures tasked with recommending future subjects for stamps. The committee says it was bypassed in the selection of Harry Potter and several other stamps.

Here’s a sample of responses from the blog.

Submitted by J Mark on Mon, 12/02/2013 – 21:20

“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.”

Paula Ruffin on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 07:07

“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.”

Kelly Odom on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 07:26

“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!”

Mark Kane on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 08:28

“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.”

Debbie S on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 08:33

“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.”

Charles G Preston on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 08:45

“This “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.”

Byron Bustos on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 09:20

“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?”

Bruce Johnson on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 09:23

“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.”

Rollin Berger on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 09:49

‘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.”

km Spicocchi on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 10:11

“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.”

Harry M Murphy on Tue, 12/03/2013 – 10:23

“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”?”

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.
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