Unless youíve been living under a rock, you know that the USPS is relaxing the rules. The USPS will now allow living individuals to be depicted on US stamps.
Reading the philatelic press, many collectors are opposed to the idea. For a long time, the USPS had a rule that a person honored on a US stamp had to be deceased for at least 10 years. The only exception to this rule was a deceased US President. On January 1, 2007, the USPS relaxed that rule to five years. I like the five year rule. I donít think there is much difference in honoring someone five years versus ten years after their death.
I know why the USPS is changing its rules. Itís a marketing decision. The cash strapped USPS looks at other postal administrations that issue stamps depicting living people and sees a possible financial windfall. Itís increased sales and itís pure profit for the USPS.
Like many other collectors, I see problems with this policy. It may happen next year. It may happen 20 or 100 years from now. Sooner or later, the USPS is going to issue a stamp for a living person that later circumstances will prove that they are not worthy of such commemoration.
The USPS has unintentionally issued stamps that depict living people. Take Scott #286. Evan Nybakken is depicted on this stamp and, I believe this is the first US postage stamp to ever depict a living person. There are other issues. Take Scott #C76 for the First Man on the Moon. Who is that in the space suit? It can only be Neil Armstrong. The USPS justifies stamps like these because they commemorate an event and not a person. And in the case of #C76, Neil Armstrongís face doesnít appear on the stamp.
There are other ways to depict living people. Personalized online stamp companies like stamps.com allow you to upload an image for a stamp. The stamps printed are valid for US postage. Sure, you pay a premium to get stamps printed with whatever image you want. But they are postage stamps and they can easily depict living people.
Yes, other countries depict living people on their stamps. Thatís not a good enough reason for the USPS to follow suit. Some say that this policy will lead to more stamp collectors, especially among our youth. In my opinion, that may be true in some cases. However, I donít see thousands or millions of young people starting up stamp collecting because, say, Michael Jordan shows up on a stamp.
It may lead to more stamp accumulators. Whatís the difference between a stamp collector and a stamp accumulator? Itís like this. How many people bought the Elvis stamp in 1993? Millions of people bought billions of Elvis stamps. How many of those people went on to collect other stamps, join stamp clubs, subscribe to philatelic publications, and become a part of organized philately? Very few. In my opinion, most people bought the Elvis stamp and set it aside as an investment. It might be the only stamp they ever ďcollectedĒ. To me, thatís the difference between a stamp accumulator and a stamp collector.
I sincerely hope the USPS reverses this decision before it issues such a stamp. Itís a terrible idea.