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by Lloyd A. de Vries

For more than a decade, each year at APS StampShow in August, the U.S. Postal Service has previewed the following year's stamp program for the philatelic press.

We were permitted to describe the stamp designs and subjects, but not photograph the designs we were shown. Usually, we were handed a disk with one of the designs that we could use with our stories.

The preview has been a popular feature here on The Virtual Stamp Club, and some of you may have come to this site looking for it this year.

We were invited to one of these "philatelic press summits" again this year. But first, there was some unfinished business: We still hadn't been told the rest of this year's program, or shown all those designs. Stamp Services manager Susan McGowan took care of that.

Then it was time for the 2014 issues.... and we were told, sorry, the program wasn't ready yet, and we'll have to wait.

I'm disappointed, but not upset. It sure beats the way the 2013 program was presented to us.

Then-USPS stamps chief Steve Kearney last year only told us and showed us the stamps for the first quarter of 2013. The rest we would get, he said, every three months.

But at the end of 2012, Kearney left the position — if he'd stayed, it would have been a permanent demotion, and would have meant a cut in salary — and McGowan replace him. It didn't seem to this observer like a very smooth transition, and those quarterly updates never really happened. Jay Bigalke got ahold of the rest of the stamp program and reported it in Linn's Stamp News, but the designs weren't released and there was no confirmation that Jay was right (as he most always is).

As issue dates approached this year, the philatelic press would wheedle and cajole the USPS into providing us with the stamp designs and details, although often we'd see them first in the Postal Bulletin or the Beyond The Perf website.

We're told that won't happen with the 2014 program. We will get the complete program all at once, and fairly soon — just not right now. That's much better for both the press and collectors.

I have my doubts whether it will really be the complete program: The USPS often holds back a blockbuster issue or two, so it can pick up more publicity. But most is more than good enough.

VSC staffer Chris Lazaroff was also told that the "complete" program we'll be given will also include the so-called "mail-use stamps," the definitives. That will include the rate change issues — and that may well be what the holdup is. It's likely the USPS will file for a rate increase this fall. Stamp Services undoubtedly knows what the rate change issue subjects and designs are, and could tell us, but that would be tantamount to announcing that the USPS will file for a rate increase. The Postal Service may not be ready to do that yet (although Stamp Services has done just that in the past).

It's frustrating to be invited to a preview of the 2014 U.S. stamp program, and then be told we're not getting it. I'd even "sold" the story to CBS Radio News, and then had to say, sorry, I won't have a spot.

But if it prevents the greater frustration I've felt this past year, I'm willing to wait.

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