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Is the U.S. Stamp Selection Process "Stupid?"

By John M. Hotchner

A reader who used this term to describe the stamp issuance policies of the U.S. Postal Service in the October 2010 issue of U.S. Stamp News. Permit me a couple of thoughts:

1. Because someone or some institution does not agree with your view does not make them stupid. Please, let's not descend into name-calling.

2. There is room for disagreement on this matter. And it is tempting to rush to judgment on the basis of presumptions or inadequate knowledge. An excellent example is this statement from the incoming letter:

"...Most collectors will agree that the USPS issues many more stamps and varieties than are necessary for mailing or commemorating."
3. Stating assertions as facts rather than identifying them as the writer's opinion does not make them true.

4. The fact is that collectors are all over the map on this question, and according to admittedly unscientific surveys I have done over the years, most collectors are not upset by the number of stamps issued each year, and it is rarely a factor in why stamp collectors stop engaging in the hobby; nor need it be as there is plenty more to collect than current U.S. mint stamps.

5. In my experience, only the occasional collector stops collecting because of the number of new U.S. issues, and the money that represents. Most stop because of age and infirmity, because the hobby has changed from the time they first got interested and they don't wish to adapt, or because they have lost the sense of enthusiasm and challenge the hobby used to provide.

6. What IS the right number of stamps necessary for mailing or commemorating? The letter writer is entitled to his opinion, but short of his being involved in running a postal service, I doubt he is qualified to determine what is necessary for mailing. For certain he seems to be ill-informed on how many desirable subjects there are for commemorating.

7. As a retired member of the Postmaster General's Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (1998-2010), I can tell you that there are far more worthy subjects to commemorate than there are slots in the program available. There may not be a person in the hobby who likes every subject selected — including me. But that does not mean that the subjects I don't like are excess and should be done away with.

8. The cost represented by one mint stamp for every new issue for a year is usually less than the cost of one family afternoon at the movies. Yes, the annual cost is a constantly increasing number as rates go ever upward, but it is not prohibitive unless you have chosen to collect full panes, booklets, and coil rolls.

9. I am not contending that the USPS does everything right. I am not happy about half a dozen things the Postal Service does or does not do regarding the stamps program, chief among them the distribution policies that govern how post offices get and display new issues. But even this is a more complicated matter for the USPS than it looks like to outsiders.

10. Finally, I can assure you that the USPS values U.S. stamp collectors, and those USPS officials concerned, up to and including the Postmaster General, try to do right by us. It is true that things don't always work out the way we would like them to. The USPS is a complicated business, and we are only one of its customers. For example, collectors are not big self-stick fans, but that is what the public wants. Efficiency and cost reduction don't always square with what collectors want. But it makes no sense to posit a USPS cabal so focused on current profits that it has no care about the hobby and its viability over the long term, as the letter writer suggests.

Should you wish to comment on this editorial, or have questions or ideas you would like to have explored in a future column, please write to John Hotchner, VSC Contributor, P.O. Box 1125, Falls Church, VA 22041-0125, or email, putting "VSC" in the subject line, at jmhstamp@verizon.net

What do you think of the U.S. stamp selection process? Join us in the message board and tell us.

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