Lewis & Clark Expo Article Wins Postal History Prize

[press release]
Charles Neyhart Wins 2014 Richard Helbock Prize

neyhartLa Posta Publications Publisher Peter Martin has announced that Charles Neyhart was selected as the winner of the 2014 Richard W. Helbock Prize for his “The 1905 Portland, Oregon, Lewis & Clark Exposition Postal Stations” article that appeared in the Second Quarter 2013 issue of La Posta.
The 2014 Richard W. Helbock Prize is awarded to the best postal history article appearing in a 2013 issue of La Posta: The Journal of American Postal History.

Neyhart, who holds a PhD in business administration from Penn State, retired in 2001 as emeritus professor of business from Oregon State University and lives in Portland.

His article was an analysis of the impact of the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition on operations of the Portland Post Office and the postal markings left in its wake. For his win, Neyhart receives cash and prizes valued at nearly $450. The runner-up and third place recipients also receive cash and prize awards.

Runner-up for the 2014 prize was “U.S. Foreign Offices’ Use and Handling of Fractions on Insufficiently Paid UPU Cards” by Henry J. (Hank) Berthelot (Second Quarter 2013 La Posta), a retired attorney who lives in the metropolitan New Orleans area.

Berthelot has a BS degree from the United States Military Academy and a JD degree from Tulane University’s School of Law.

For the last 50 years, Berthelot has focused on postal history, especially that involving U.S. postal cards. His article provided an easy to understand explanation for a very complex postal rate area.

Third place wound up in a tie between “Intoxicated Ground Zero” by Richard S. Hemmings (First Quarter 2013 La Posta) of Stewartstown, Pa., and “Auxiliary Markings of the 1869 Three-Cent Pictorial Issue” by Barry Jablon (Fourth Quarter 2013 La Posta) of Los Angeles.

Hemmings, the winner of the inaugural Helbock Prize in 2013 with “New York City’s Cortlandt Street: One Way to the River,” returned in 2013 to complete his popular trilogy about New York’s Twin Towers District.

Jablon is an attorney in Los Angeles who specializes in the U.S. three-cent pictorial issue. He has written elsewhere about pastoral eclogues, Lis Pendens and life in East Asia.

Also receiving votes were: “The United States’ Large Grant Postal Cards Use in the UPU Mail” by H.J. Berthelot; “The Postage Meter Tips Off Mail Preparation” by David Crotty; “The 411 of 9/11” by Richard Hemmings; “First Battalion Florida Special Cavalry: ‘Munnerlyn’s Cow Cavalry’” by Patricia A. Kaufmann; and “The SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm Revisited” by Jesse Spector and Robert Markovits.

The selections were based on voting by the La Posta editorial staff and the Benefactor subscribers of La Posta.

The Richard W. Helbock Prize is named in honor of the founding editor of La Posta who died from a heart attack in 2011. Helbock founded La Posta in 1969 and continued to edit the journal for more than 42 years until his death.

La Posta: The Journal of American Postal History is published four times per year. It is the leading journal devoted to American postal history and marks its 45th year of publication in 2014. Subscriptions are $32 per year. For more information contact: La Posta Publications, POB 6074 Fredericksburg, VA 22403 or e-mail laposta.joan@yahoo.com

USPS Spins A Web of Cross-Promotion

[USPS press release]

Priority Mail Gets Amazing Endorsement from Spider-Man
USPS and Sony Pictures Team Up to Cross-promote Priority Mail and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’

spider_boxWASHINGTON — To put some Super Hero Spidey-power into its promotion of Priority Mail, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is teaming up with Sony Pictures for the release of the highly anticipated motion picture “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” in theaters nationwide on May 2, 2014.

In a campaign to promote Priority Mail and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the Postal Service and Sony Pictures are collaborating on a high-profile, multi-channel marketing campaign that begins this week and continues through the end of May.

“Our Priority Mail products share many qualities with a Super Hero of Spider-Man’s caliber, namely those of speed, agility and reliability,” said Nagisa Manabe, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at USPS. “Like Spider-Man, our priority has always been the people we serve. We pride ourselves on our commitment to public service and delivering for our customers, and we are excited about enlisting Spider-Man to help promote our Priority Mail offerings.”

One of the centerpieces of the campaign, which includes direct mail, digital and social media elements, is a television commercial that features Spider-Man circumventing all obstacles in delivering a Priority Mail package to a special showing for fans of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” USPS linked up with Sony Pictures through their mutual media agency, Universal McCann (UM), and DNA Productions to create the television spot with renowned directors, Rich Lee and Marc Webb, director of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Viewers can watch the new USPS/Spider-Man TV spot on the Postal Service’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/uspstv.

“While we always knew about the breadth and reach of the Postal Service, it was exciting to learn about the everyday heroism of its employees,” said Dwight Caines, president, Theatrical Marketing for Sony Pictures. “Those traits make this partnership the perfect fit for co-branding and cross-promoting ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2.’ We are constantly seeking creative ways to promote our films, and the Postal Service couldn’t have been a better choice.”

The campaign also parallels with the beloved Super Hero by highlighting the courageous acts of the postal workforce. One such example is Isagani Ravelo, a letter carrier in Virginia who saved a person’s life when he heard a customer in distress calling for help. He entered the home to find an elderly woman with severe head injuries resulting from a fall. He immediately performed first-aid to stop bleeding and called an acquaintance of the accident victim for assistance, as the victim requested.

Last year, the Postal Service recognized 262 postal employees for heroic acts in the Postmaster General’s heroes program.

spider_truck The wide-ranging promotion also includes trucks featuring Spider-Man images in major urban centers, in-movie integrated logo placement, limited-edition Spider-Man Priority Mail Flat Rate Shipping Boxes, online and digital banners, Spider-Man postage from self-service kiosks, and retail signs. Inspired by Spider-Man’s comic book heritage, the campaign will feature graphic renderings as a story-telling vehicle and feature stories of ‘USPS super heroes’ – real-life Postal Service employees delivering for their customers.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Sony to relay everyday heroism in Spider-Man and the Postal Service,” continued Manabe. “Sony’s innovation and global leadership is sure to help us highlight the exciting products the Postal Service has recently brought to the shipping marketplace. We plan to continue pursuing effective marketing collaborations that highlight the great and reliable service the Postal Service offers to customers each and every day.”

In 2013, the Postal Service added to the strong momentum in its shipping business by launching major changes to its Priority Mail lineup such as improved features, improved USPS Tracking and day-specific delivery.

Former U.S. Postal Workers Get Medal of Honor, Will Appear On Stamp Sheet

You may have heard on the news late last week that the Medal of Honor was bestowed 24 U.S. soldiers who had been overlooked for racial and religious reasons. What you may not have heard is that of the three honorees still living, two are former postal workers.

Both served in the Vietnam War, and USPS press rep Mark Saunders told them that, when the Vietnam War Medal of Honor stamps are issued (the World War II set was issued last year, Korean War is later this year, so our guess for Vietnam is 2015), their pictures will be included in the selvage (margin area) of the stamp sheet. Mark says they were “VERY excited” by this.

Below is Mark’s press release and his photos of the two men at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Two Former Postal Employees Receive Medal of Honor
Santiago Erevia and Jose Rodela to be honored by U.S. Postal Service on Upcoming Stamp Sheet

ereviaWASHINGTON — Only a few close friends who have known Santiago Erevia (right) during his 32-year Postal Service career are aware that the San Antonio letter carrier was decorated for his extraordinary heroism in Vietnam. Nearly 45 years later, President Obama shared his story with the world today when he upgraded Erevia’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor for his gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty.

rodela1Jose Rodela (left), who served as a Mail Handler for the Postal Service during the late 1970s, also had his Distinguished Service Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Obama today.

“Nearly 20 percent of our workforce has served our country in the military,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “Clearly 100 percent of our postal family is proud to learn of this long overdue honor. We salute you Santiago and Jose, as well as all who have unselfishly served our nation at great personal sacrifice in the military.”

A radio telephone operator in the 101st Airborne Division, Specialist Fourth Class Erevia was participating in a search-and-clear mission in central Vietnam in 1969 when his platoon came under fire. Erevia crawled from one wounded soldier to another to provide aid, then charged and destroyed several enemy bunkers while under hostile fire.

Erevia said receiving the Medal of Honor “is bitter sweet after so much time has passed, but I am elated by this distinction. It is truly a great honor.”

Erevia followed the path of many veterans upon leaving the armed forces — continuing to serve the nation by joining the Postal Service. Six months after returning home in 1970, Erevia began his postal career as a San Antonio letter carrier and for the last seven years of his career served at San Antonio’s Frank Tejeda Station.

rodela2Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela’s courageous actions took place while serving as the company commander, Detachment B-36, Company A, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces during combat in Phuoc Long Province, Sept. 1, 1969. Rodela commanded his company through 18 hours of continuous combat while his battalion was attacked, taking heavy casualties. Throughout the battle, in spite of his wounds, Rodela repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to attend to the fallen and eliminate an enemy rocket position. (He is shown at right creating a “rubbing” at the Memorial, surrounded by members of his family.)

Rodela retired from the Army in 1975 and worked for the Postal Service in Corpus Christi and San Antonio, TX, between 1976 to 1978 before joining the Air Force. He currently resides in San Antonio.

Medal of Honor Forever Stamps
Erevia and Rodela bring the total number of living former postal employees/Medal of Honor recipients to three.George Sakato, a World War II Distinguished Service Cross recipient from Denver, CO, was upgraded to receive the Medal in 2000. Sakato’s image is featured on the World War II Medal of Honor Forever stamp sheet issued Veterans’ Day 2013. The sheet lists all 464 World War II Medal of Honor recipients and includes photographs of recipients who were alive at the time of the stamp proposal. The Korean War Medal of Honor Forever stamps will be issued Veterans’ Day 2014. The Vietnam Medal of Honor stamps, bearing photographs of living recipients, will be issued at a yet-to-be announced date.

Congressional Review of Discrimination
Today’s Medal of Honor presentation to Erevia, Rodela and 22 other veterans culminates a 12-year Pentagon review ordered by Congress in 2002, through the Defense Authorization Act, which called for a review of Jewish-American and Hispanic-American veteran war records from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to ensure those deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice.

President Obama will award the 24 Army veterans the Medal of Honor in recognition of their valor during major combat operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Each of these soldiers’ bravery was previously recognized by award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military award. The award will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Flag for All Seasons – Booklet of 20, BCA

season10aOn March 17, 2014, in Liberty, Missouri, the U.S. Postal Service will issue A Flag for All Seasons First-Class Mail stamps (Forever priced at 49 cents), in four designs, in a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) booklet of 20 stamps (Item 688400).

A Flag for All Seasons, first introduced in 2013, features four different stamp designs. Each stamp shows an American flag, viewed from below, flying from a pole at full staff against a background of trees that evoke one of the four seasons of the year. Artist Laura Stutzman worked with art director and stamp designer Phil Jordan on this stamp art.

How to Order the First-Day-of-Issue Postmark:
Customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may pu rchase new stamps at their local Post Office, at The Postal Store website at www.usps.com/shop , or by calling 800-STAMP-24. They should affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes (to themselves or others), and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:

A Flag for All Seasons Stamp
Cancellations Unit
PO Box 449992
Kansas City, MO 64144-9992

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers have to pay five cents each. All orders must be post marked by May 16, 2014.

There is one philatelic product for this stamp issue: 688418, First-Day Cover set of 4, $3.72

Technical Specifications:

Issue: A Flag for All Seasons Stamp
Item Number: 688400
Denomination & Type of Issue: First-Class Mail Forever
Format: Double-sided Booklet of 20 (4 designs)
Series: N/A
Issue Date & City: March 17, 2014, Liberty, MO 64068
Art Director: Phil Jordan
Designer: Phil Jordan
Typographer: Phil Jordan
Artist: Laura Stutzman
Modeler: Donald Woo
Manufacturing Process: Offset/Microprint “USPS”
Engraver: N/A
Printer: Banknote Corporation of America
Printed at: Browns Summit, NC
Press Type: Alprinta, 74
Stamps per Booklet: 20
Print Quantity: 2.2 billion stamps
Paper Type: Phosphor Type II
Adhesive Type: Pressure-sensitive
Processed at: Banknote Corporation of America, Browns Summit, NC
Stamp Orientation: Vertical
Image Area (w x h): 0.71 x 0.82 in./18.03 x 20.82 mm
Stamp Size (w x h): 0.87 x 0.98 in./22.10 x 24.89 mm
Full Booklet Size (w x h): 5.52 x 1.96 in./140.21 x 49.78 mm
Colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black
Plate Size: 576 stamps per revolution
Plate Numbers: “S” followed by four (4) single digits
Marginal Markings: © 2013 • USPS in peel strip area • Plate numbers in peel strip area

A Willing Suspension of Disbelief

By John M. Hotchner

hotchnerHaving grandchildren is a wonderful thing — not least because that exalted status forces one to see life and especially modern pop culture through new eyes. Many of us would rather not, thank-you-very-much, but like other facts of life, it is better we know where society is going, even if the olden days are more appealing. All this to lead into the fact that I joined some of our progeny to see Madagascar 3 yesterday; an animated bit of fluff that is entertaining so long as you are willing to ignore the fact that there are certain logical discontinuities and a lot of action that is physically impossible.

I class movies in two categories: those I don’t need to see again, and those I want to see again knowing that I will see things I missed the first time. Madagascar 3 is definitely in the first group. Been there. Done that. But it was not a wasted afternoon. Hearing what my grandkids laughed at and what they treated as serious, hearing my chronically sleep-deprived son nod off with a light snore in a movie that is the equivalent of sitting next to the launching area of a long fireworks display, and having an excuse to eat popcorn were all worth the price of admission.

And what has this to do with stamp collecting, I hear you say? Well, I suppose it is possible that the Madagascar-series characters will one day appear on a series of stamps, though I would put my money on the characters from the Ice Age series. But more importantly, it reminds me of the willing suspension of disbelief that we all engage in to one extent or another when it comes to evaluating the daily fare of life.

Taken literally, you could not credit the action and dialogue in the first scene of the movie, let alone the entire story. But suspending disbelief allows one to watch the movie and process it as an exercise in learning to enjoy something for what it is, rather than what we would like it to be, or think it should be. I would suggest that is a life skill; not one that should be overused as we don’t prosper by living in fantasy-land. But it is one that keeps us from the sin of being unremittingly critical.

As we witness the unfolding of the Baseball All-Stars saga — four stamps that were issued in July 2012 in honor of Larry Doby, Willie Stargell, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio — this is a particularly useful skill. It is clear that the U.S. Postal Service stamp development folks have been given an order to maximize revenue. What else could account for the plethora of formats being released?

It began as a set of four stamps to be released as a pane with all four stamps together. Then it was announced that each of the stamps would be released in panes of that stamp alone. So far, I am ok with the program. Though it skates on the edge, a case can be made that individual panes will have meaning for both baseball fans and stamp collectors.

And then the crowning glory: five press sheets, one for the combined stamps and one each for each All-Star; each with six panes. And they would be issued without die cuts. Not since the imperforate National Parks issue of 1934, the so-called Farley’s Follies, has there been such an event. At least that one was not conceived of as a means of fundraising for the then Post Office Department. Yes, it morphed into that when Postmaster General James Farley was forced to make available to collectors what he had already made available to friends and political cronies. But here we have a different animal indeed.

The U.S. Postal Service is intentionally creating a limited edition philatelic product that has no relationship to valid postal operations or need, with the express intent of reaching out to new markets — not stamp collectors at all, they say, but to well-heeled baseball fans who want to display a special collectible. And this is the explanation for the lack of die cuts. Why are they needed when the stamps will never be used as stamps, only as some genre of artwork?

Trouble is that much as the USPS would like us to believe they are not pitching these press sheets to stamp collectors, it can’t be true. To believe that requires us to believe that they do not understand there is a rather large body of collectors who want examples of everything the USPS produces. And we know from other behaviors and other issues that they are well aware we exist and that we care enough to spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on stamps that will not ever see use on an envelope or package.

So, why the pretense? Well, partially it is fact based. Press sheets have not been accepted by the hobby as an essential, and revenue from selling them has been modest compared to what it might be had the collecting community embraced them with gusto. Furthermore, the USPS has been focused on growing sales to niche audiences beyond collectors. It is for this reason that they have chosen to issue so many commemorative stamps at conventions of organizations dealing with the stamp subject instead of at stamp shows. Doing so gains maximum free publicity beyond the stamp-collecting community, not to mention sales to a whole new class of people who will buy the stamps for retention as souvenirs; something that represents nearly total profit to an organization that is in serious financial trouble.

The second part of the pretense is found in the fact that it is impolitic to announce to the stamp collecting public that the USPS is issuing products with the sole intention of raising revenue. It just isn’t done, though we know it and they know we know it. Some things are just better left unsaid. Another thing they don’t say is that they believe there is value to creating limited edition stamps because collectors who can make money by selling in the secondary market what they bought at face value will become both more serious about their own collecting, and effective recruiters for the hobby; thus encouraging its future growth and sales potential for routine USPS products. Is this true? Only you can answer that question for yourself.

So, is what is happening with the Baseball All-Stars in any way a good thing for the hobby? History teaches that it probably is. Anything that creates buzz for the hobby is good in the short term as it gets more people to take note of stamp collecting. Anything that creates complexity in philatelic products makes the hobby more interesting to serious students of philately in the long term.

Many issues have been denounced by the hobby over the history of philately. The Columbian Exposition set of 1893, with its unnecessary $1, $2, $3, $4, and $5 stamps is perhaps the best example. But the multiplicity of varieties of the Washington-Franklins of 1908-1922 is another. Though muttered about and denounced when issued, they are popular mainstays of the hobby today. Some collectors of the time picked up their marbles and went home, convinced that the hobby had changed fundamentally from what they signed up for. We will see another spate of those types of letters to the editor in the current situation. And that decision is theirs to make.

However, they often append to their letter a statement that current practice is evidence that the hobby is going to hell in a hand basket, and the Postal Service is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Perhaps for the present collectors there is some truth to this, but 165 years of philately suggests that even the most egregiously money-grabbing practices bring in more new and serious collectors than are lost from outrage.

Or maybe I am engaging in a willing suspension of disbelief.

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.

Or comment right here.

NPM Opens “Pacific Exchange” US/China Exhibit

National Postal Museum Opens “Pacific Exchange: China & U.S. Mail”
Exhibition Features Stamps and Mail Never Before on Display

[press release] The “Pacific Exchange: China & U.S. Mail” exhibition opened today in the Postmasters Gallery of the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. It tells the story of the Chinese and U.S. relationship through the unique lens of stamps and mail. U.S. artwork and die proofs related to China and the Lunar New Year are featured and organized into three thematic areas: commerce, culture and community. The sections about commerce and culture focus on the decades between 1860 and 1980; the section on community tells the story of Chinese Americans from the Gold Rush to today’s celebration of the Lunar New Year.

“We look forward to sharing, publicly for the first time, stunningly beautiful pieces from our international collection,” said Allen Kane, director of the museum. “This exhibition provides additional incentive for people around the world to want to visit our William H. Gross Stamp Gallery.”

The U.S. and China are the world’s largest economies, and they share a complicated history. In recent years, about 2½ million Chinese have become avid stamp collectors.
“Stamps and mail never before on public display will offer insight into the complex relationship between the two countries,” said Cheryl R. Ganz, exhibition curator. “Viewing this cultural exchange will offer a deeper understanding of each nation’s history and people in relationship to the other.”

Highlights of the exhibition include an 1849 letter to an American opium trader in Canton, very rare proofs of stamps from the China Bureau of Engraving and Printing (1912–1928), original artwork for U.S. Postal Service Lunar New Year postage stamps and the iconic map-design error of the People’s Republic of China, of which less than 10 are known to exist in private hands.

On Saturday, March 8, Ganz will give a talk and a curator-led tour of the exhibition. She will speak about China’s founding father Sun Yat-sen on American postage stamps at 2 p.m. in the museum’s Byrne Education Loft, followed by a tour of the exhibition at approximately 2:45 p.m. Before and after the talk and tour, she will autograph copies of the exhibition catalog at the museum store from 1–1:45 p.m. and 4:15–5 p.m. The 50-page, full-color catalog is available for purchase for $14.95 in the museum store or online.

A special online version of the exhibitnpm-exhib is available, featuring many of the items on exhibit, plus resources and additional images of archival artwork that shows how postage stamp designs evolved.

The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). For more information about the Smithsonian, call (202) 633-1000 or visit the museum website at www.postalmuseum.si.edu.