by Lloyd A. de Vries, Manager
The Virtual Stamp Club
We had a meltdown this week in The Virtual Stamp Club’s Facebook Group, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the days of the DelphiForums message board. Stamp society politics? Shady business practices? Nope. It started over the designs of the U.S. stamps promoting World Stamp Show-New York 2016 (shown here).
I wrote about the controversy, and some of the disappointment in the designs, in this weekend’s radio feature. You can read the script and listen to the VSC version here. However, there’s just so much I can cram into a 60-second audio feature or even the slightly longer version on this website.
Because there are some issues with this stamp design that go beyond art.
One is that you can’t please everyone. They may not know art, but they know what they like. For many collectors, this wasn’t it. For others, it was.
Another problem is that the U.S. Postal Service design folks are making assumptions about what stamp collectors want without really knowing what stamp collectors want, or asking. Yes, there are some serious stamp collectors on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, but I don’t know how much input they had, or, frankly, whether they would tell Postal Service design professionals they didn’t like a design. The majority of CSAC members are not stamp collectors.
But the biggest problem may be that there are two distinct groups of stamp collectors reacting to this design: Collectors of high-end classic stamps and those who like modern issues, especially the pop culture subjects. These two groups don’t mix well, or often. The former doesn’t spend as much time online, and when they do, it’s often in small, clubby discussion areas, with restricted memberships and subject matter. The latter hang out in mass-market forums like Facebook. Members of the two groups may spend about the same on their collections, but the former spend more per stamp or cover.
The NYC 2016 show is definitely under the control of the former group. In fact, its leadership is almost entirely drawn from the Collectors Club of New York. Some of NYC 2016’s officials have told me privately, in other contexts, they don’t care to “get into it” online, where tempers often get hot and some participants can hide behind their computer monitors. The online world can be rather “bare knuckle.”
My guess is that this stamp design was tailored to the classic collectors, not the much larger group of modern-issue casual collectors. There is nothing wrong with that. It just means that this stamp design won’t appeal to the majority of collectors and non-collectors who just like interesting stamps.
As I said, you can’t please everyone.
The only question I have is, what is the purpose of these stamps? To reassure the show’s organizers about their relationship with the Postal Service, or to promote the show to people who might not know about it?
On the other hand, how many people these days see stamps on their mail? Or even see much mail? The full pane of 20 stamps, at least, gives the dates of the show, and more people are likely to see the full pane than one of these stamps on their mail.