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

The U.S. Postal Service‘s inspector general is seeking public opinion about the recently released Harry Potter stamps as a test of how Americans feel about a new commercial direction for postage.

Inspector General David Williams  is asking stamp fans to weigh in on its blog and wondering whether the fictional British boy wizard created by author J.K. Rowling will “cast a spell” on young collectors as the Postal Service hopes.

“Stamp collecting is seen by some as a dying hobby, as fewer young Americans participate,” Williams’s office said Monday on the inspector general’s blog. Referring to a debate over the series of  Forever stamps the Postal Service issued in November to honor Harry Potter, the office said the 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 Washington Post first reported that the choice of Harry Potter by the Postal Service’s new marketing team had brought attention to an ongoing  battle between the marketers and a committee of high-powered cultural figures that has recommended images for new stamps for half a century. The staff  bypassed the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee in choosing Harry Potter, as it has for several other stamps.

The inspector general asks readers to give their opinions on a brewing debate between traditionalists who believe literary subjects and other cultural figures should grace new stamps, and modernists who are leaning toward commercial images that have  the potential to bring the money-losing Postal Service more revenue.

The blog asks readers:

  • 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?