IN CANADA, people are already calling them "McStamps." And of course, you could order them to go.
Children who walked into any McDonald's restaurant in Canada recently were likely to get two such McStamps as part of a national promotional scheme by the fast food chain and Canada Post Corp.
The stamps, issued last month in Quebec, celebrate four figures from Canadian folklore, mythical creatures which are found in children's literature. Just as the U.S. Postal Service did with its four new stamps celebrating realistic sea creatures, Canada used its new stamps in a month-long campaign designed to lure youngsters into stamp collecting.
But the Canadian effort literally went beyond the borders of any promotion the USPS has undertaken. Indeed, the Canadian effort went right to the edge of every sheet bearing the new Canadian stamps.
There on the border of the sheets -- the area collectors call selvage -- is the McDonald's logo, the chain's famed golden arches set against a red background. It is the first time that Canada has ever published a commercial logo on its stamps, said Deborah Saucier, a spokesperson for Canada Post.
The logos also appear on fliers and other materials Canada Post and McDonalds are distributing.
Although the U.S. Postal Service has been bombarded frequently with suggestions that it sell advertising on its stamps, the idea has never been seriously considered. The United Kingdom does allow paid messages to be placed on its canceling machines, but commercials on stamps are considered to be out of bounds by most postal authorities.
Saucier was quick to point out that the golden arches do not appear on the new Canadian stamps themselves and that the public's reaction to the four stamps has been positive. "They've been fabulously well-accepted," she said.
The McDonald's campaign, which ends this month, was one of the most aggressive of several recent joint ventures between Canada Post and private organizations. Earlier this year, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce promoted use of a new flag stamp and Petro-Canada, a large petroleum company, promoted a set of forestry stamps with booklets offering discount coupons for the stamps and gasoline.
The McDonald's promotion involved the distribution of thousands of "mini-albums" containing two canceled stamps from the mythical creature series. The fliers describe the creatures and urge the youngsters to consider stamp collecting as a hobby.
Surveys have shown that more than half of the stamp collectors in Canada are 35 years of age or older, Saucier said. That worried the postal authorities there who want to ensure the hobby remains vibrant, with a broad base of young collectors, she said.
McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Ltd. had to pay a minimum of $250,000 to enter the venture with Canada Post, Saucier said. Its primary effort will be offering the two stamps to youngsters as part of the chain's "treat of the week," Saucier said. Specially prepared materials on the creatures and their stamps will also be sent to elementary schools across Canada, she said.
The creatures featured on the four 39-cent commemoratives are the Sasquatch, a half-man, half ape creature said to roam the Pacific Northwest, the Kraken, a giant squid-like sea creature supposedly in the Atlantic off Newfoundland, the Loup-garou, or werewolf, taken from French-Canadian legends and the Ogopogo, a fabled aquatic monster believed to live in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia. In the United States, Sasquatch is sometimes known as Bigfoot, after the footprints it allegedly has left in forests.
The stamps were designed by Toronto artists Allan Cormark and Deborah Drew-Brook. Ashton-Potter Ltd. of Toronto printed 15 million of the stamps using a five-color lithography process.
THE NORTHERN Virginia Coin Club holds its quarterly stamp and coin show 10 to 7 Saturday and 10 to 5 Sunday at the Vienna Community Center, 120 Cherry St. in Vienna. Admission is free.
INFORMATION on Canadian stamps is available from the National Philatelic Center, Canada Post Corp., Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada B2G 2R8.
Bill McAllister is a member of The Washington Post national staff.