The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Top secret revealed! See who will be on the next postage stamps.

Placeholder while article actions load

Dora the Explorer, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, actor and five-term NRA president Charlton Heston, Peanuts and Beatle John Lennon –these are among a pop-culture-heavy lineup of commemorative stamp subjects the U.S. Postal Service is planning for 2014, 2015 and the next couple of years.

Who or what image will be featured on stamps is kept top-secret, in part so postal officials can create a buzz when they announce new  subjects. But The Washington Post obtained the most recent list of what’s planned, in first-class and other denominations, a collaboration between the Postal Service’s marketing staff and a committee of prominent Americans appointed by the postmaster general to come up with ideas.

Some are in design right now, while others are awaiting ideas from the Postal Service’s art staff. Still on deck 2014 are NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain, slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk, rock singer Janis Joplin and guitarist Jimi Hendrix and a stamp featuring celebrity chefs. Some of the highlights for 2015: soul singer James Brown, late-night TV host Johnny Carson and a reissue of Elvis Presley, the Postal Service’s top-selling stamp, released with a value of 29 cents  in 1993.

Although the list has been made and some work has started, Susan McGowan, the Postal Service’s executive director for stamp services and corporate licensing, said the subjects “are subject to change” at any time.

The approved subjects include many more traditional historical, cultural and literary figures that have long been the hallmark of the stamp program.  But the financially strapped service is embarking on a new path now to increase revenue and attract young collectors, one more heavily tilted toward popular subjects. The new direction has been controversial with stamp collectors and other traditionalists. A John Lennon stamp, for example, would violate a rule that only Americans be depicted on stamps.

Here’s the complete list as of Jan. 7. 

Approved stamps

We’ve highlighted 15 of the popular images on the list for readers.

McGowan said the new emphasis on pop-culture was a decision “we hope will bring new eyeballs” to the stamp program and “keep the American public engaged.”

“But we’re not going away from our roots.” McGowan  suggested that readers weigh in on the stamps on the Postal Service’s Facebook page. “It will be very interesting to see what the American public thinks of the stamps under consideration,” she said. “I’m sure people are going to be vocal about it.”

Some of the subjects were suggested by the public, which brings hundreds of subjects a year to the stamp committee. Wilt  Chamberlain, Harvey Milk and the Tuskegee Airmen, for example, were heavy favorites with the public.