WHEN IT comes to stamps, the United States and Canada usually follow the same course. Shortly after the U.S. Postal Service came up with a set of movie monster stamps, Canada Post followed with a set of horror stamps of its own.
So when U.S. officials announced plans for their big "Celebrate the Century" stamp series, it wasn't too surprising that Canada devised "The Millennium Collection," a set of 68 stamps to capture the country's 20th century achievements. But that's where the similarity with the United States ends and the furor begins.
While the U.S. Postal Service is doing everything it can to boost public participation in its 150 Celebrate the Century stamps (spending $4 million alone on a special train to promote the stamps), Canada Post stunned collectors by announcing that it would sell only 200,000 sets of its Millennium stamps.
They'll be available only in a book that will sell in Canada for $59.99, well above the face value of the 68 stamps inside. A Canada Post spokeswoman calls it a great concept and one that Canadians will welcome.
But the announcement has drawn a sharp protest from John M. Hotchner of Falls Church, president of the American Philatelic Society. Hotchner, who led the recent, successful protest against regional sales of U.S. stamps, has complained to Canadian officials that their action was "exploitative of stamp collectors." It will drive many away from collecting Canadian stamps, he predicted.
Hotchner told Canada Post Chairman Andre Ouellet his country is departing from its "moderate" stamp issuing policies and joining the ranks of many underdeveloped nations that issue stamps mostly for sale to collectors. "The failure to release these stamps to [over-the-]counter sales raise serious questions about their legitimacy as postal issues," said Hotchner, who is a member of the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee. That's the 13-member panel that advises the postmaster general on U.S. stamp proposals.
Meanwhile, U.S. postal officials, regaling in the public's participation in their stamps, have announced the winners in its balloting for the final 15 "Celebrate the Century" stamps. Improbable though it may sound, the top spot in the balloting for 1990s subjects went to cellular telephones, which captured 214,449 votes.
The other winners and their vote totals: the movie "Titanic," 210,154; recovering, but previously endangered species, 193,414; the Internet's World Wide Web, 191,292; the movie "Jurassic Park," 184,370; computer art and graphics, 170,449; sport utility vehicles, 164,058; the Gulf War, 160,687; computerized virtual reality, 156,944; Special Olympics, 155,802; baseball records, 151,511; extreme sports, 151,090; improving education efforts, 141,124; television's "Seinfeld" comedy show, 140,710; and the return to space of former Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), 138,984.
Women's sports narrowly failed to make the cut with 138,752 votes. Other topics that lost and their vote totals: coffee drinking, 136,693; in-line skating, 129,092; dinosaur fossil hunting, 125,760; cultural diversity, 99,985; Broadway musicals, 97,609; active older Americans, 93,105; interplanetary exploration, 92,305; community service programs, 91,318; museum attendance, 86,979; gene therapy, 85,647; home offices, 76,239; sustained economic growth, 68,247; contemporary architecture, 66,958; and junior golf, 58,114.
The winning stamps will be issued next April, concluding the biggest stamp series ever issued by the United States. "The Celebrate the Century program has given the American public a voice in how many of us will remember the 20th century in years to come," Postmaster General William J. Henderson said.
There should be no shortage of the two latest U.S. stamps. On Tuesday, a sheet of 15 stamps celebrating glassmaking went on sale in Corning, N.Y., home of Corning Glass. Although these are the old-fashioned stamps that require licking, the agency ordered 116 million of the 33-cent stamps. Ashton-Potter USA printed them on offset presses in New York.
They are the first stamps to use digital photography, featuring four images of the four major types of glassmaking that have been used in the United States -- freeblown, mold-blown, pressed and art glass.
New for heavier, two-ounce letters is a self-adhesive 55-cent stamp honoring Vermont lawmaker Justin Smith Morrill, who authored legislation creating land grant colleges. The engraved stamp is the latest in the Great Americans series and will be sold in sheets of 20.
Banknote Corp. of America printed 100 million of the stamps at their plant in North Carolina. They will go on sale July 17 at the Morrill homestead in Strafford, Vt.
INDIVIDUALS who wish first-day cancellations of the American Glass and Justin Morrill stamps should purchase them at their local post office and place the stamps on addressed envelopes. These should be mailed in a larger envelope to either: American Glass Stamps, Postmaster, 129 Walnut St., Corning, NY 14830-9991 or Justin Morrill Stamps, Postmaster, P.O. Box 9998, Strafford, VT 05702-9991. Requests for the Glass stamps should be postmarked by July 29 and the Morrill stamps by Aug. 16.
Next week in this space: Photography columnist Frank Van Riper.
CAPTION: The four "American Glass" stamps -- illustrating freeblown, mold-blown, pressed and art glassmaking -- are the first to use digital photography.