The U.S. Stamp Program Leaks Again

I’ve now studied the list of upcoming stamp subjects published by The Washington Post, and a number of thoughts come to mind.

First, there’s a word missing: “Possibly,” as in “possibly upcoming.” It strikes me as one of those lists you draw up in a “blue sky” meeting, where you list all the possibilities. That would explain the still-living former presidents on the list: Their stamps won’t be scheduled until they pass away, not necessarily in 2015 or 2016.

Second, just because a design has been approved doesn’t guarantee a stamp will be issued. Several years ago, the USPS showed us the design for a Spencer Tracy stamp at the annual press preview. Sometime between that event and its first-day ceremony, there was an issue with rights. The stamp was never issued. Or how about the “Just Move” stamps, whose design was approved but flawed. They were printed, but were supposed to be destroyed.

Third, the word “reprint” is incorrect. The denominations will be changed. “Revisions” might be a better word.

Fourth, the woman who wrote the article for the Post, Lisa Rein, apparently isn’t a stamp collector, or she would have known that Janis Joplin, Harvey Milk and some of the other subjects have already been announced or confirmed.

This list is very similar to one published in Linn’s Stamp News a year ago. “Sarah Vaughn” is even misspelled the same way. So whether the same person did the leaking both times, the list itself comes from the same place, whether it’s someone’s briefcase after a CSAC meeting or the wastebasket next to the photocopy machine.

There’s poetic justice in this huge list being leaked: We stamp collectors (and philatelic journalists) aren’t able to get details on what stamps are being issued next month, and here someone has spoiled the Postal Service’s little power-play by giving us three years’ details.

My friend Foster Miller expressed the opinion elsewhere that perhaps leaks like this are the reason the Postal Service isn’t showing us the March 13th Jimi Hendrix stamp design nor has confirmed the Hudson River School American Treasures issue. I think it’s the other way around: When you know information is out there, but isn’t being shared, jyou work a little harder to get it.

I know a number of Postal Service employees who have been dealing with stamp collectors for years, and who feel that withholding this information from collectors and first day cover dealers/servicers is Just Plain Wrong. When they can, some of them pass on this information to us. If they had confidence that it would be provided to the philatelic community on a timely basis, they wouldn’t.

I don’t recall leaks of this magnitude when Steve Kearney or Dave Failor were the heads of Stamp Services. Neither told us everything they knew, both held back a few surprise issues, but most of the information we wanted was given to us in a timely manner, even for those surprises.

The Jimi Hendrix stamp was announced less than three weeks before its first-day. It’s on the Washington Post list, which the paper says was ‘the complete list as of Jan. 7,” more than six weeks before word of the stamp first leaked and was then quickly confirmed. “When were you planning on telling us, folks?”

Regarding the actual subjects listed, I have no major quibbles. I may not collect all of them, but that’s true every year, even before Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe declared a turn toward commercialism. I’m not a big fan of ferns, either, but I don’t mind if they’re in the stamp program.

Most intriguing to me – an avid science fiction reader – is that not only is Science Fiction Writers on next year’s program, but there’s a Science Fiction Writers II on the list. SFW#1 keeps getting pushed back, and yet there’s another set under consideration?

Even Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein can’t predict this stamp program’s future. I’m not sure they would have been able to predict the U.S. stamp program’s present.

7 thoughts on “The U.S. Stamp Program Leaks Again

  1. I hate the way the postal service now announces stamps……it would create such great enthusiasm to just give us the whole stamp program for the year instead of this “when we feel like mentality.”

  2. The word “reprint” is mostly correct. The listed holiday stamps are Forever stamps (only the wedding stamps are currently denominated) and are reprinted each year as demand requires.

    Lisa from the Washington Post is not yet a stamp collector. But her intermediate source (I’ll call him Bill) is. And the CSAC source is a collector. The information is being leaked from CSAC for a reason – the leaker is not happy with the direction of the US stamp program. This is not a case where information is being found due to research; it is is case where information is being provided.

    More later.

  3. You’re correct, Foster: It’s either/or, and I didn’t make that clear. If the information is known to exist, but isn’t being provided, then that goads people (some people) into looking for it all that much harder. At the same time, people who have access to the information and feel that it is being wrongly withheld, are more likely to provide it through unofficial channels.

  4. “The information is being leaked from CSAC for a reason – the leaker is not happy with the direction of the US stamp program.”

    What I worry about is, sadly, after last Fall’s walkout and letter, this leak may just be the ammunition that the USPS thinks it needs to rid itself of the CSAC’s established role in selecting stamp subjects. I can easily imagine officials at the USPS thinking, “if we can’t trust the committee to keep its work confidential, why have this committee at all?”

  5. Having collected FDC’s for four decades, I can say I’ve never been more frustrated with the USPS stamp selection process. The leaked “list” just reinforces that the USPS just does not get it, and thinks somehow they will balance the budget with too many issues on too many subjects.

    I admit to being a traditional-subject stamp believer. With the decline in First Class volume, we just don’t meed as many stamps. Instead, fewer, better-selected, yes, more traditional issues are needed. The USPS chooses instead a ballooning number of issues with watered-down selection criteria.

    With the continuing and inevitable decline in First-Class volume, do we need four different Christmas stamps? Or new Love stamps every year? Full-sheet stamps on persons not universally well known, who instead could and should grouped by subject on something like the Poets issue? I don’t want to even get started on back-door minimum purchase requirements. At some point it is taking the collector for granted.

  6. As long as the stamp program continues to reside in the incompetent hands of Nagisa Manube and Susan Mcgowan you can expect no improvement

  7. In the March 14 issue of Rolling Stone, in an article about the Jimi Hendrix stamp, USPS director of Stamp Services Susan McGowan “confirmed that all the names on that list are approved subjects that are under consideration by the committee.”

    Of course,that’s not quite the same as saying all these subjects will be on stamps.

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