The USPS has announced the 2010 stamp program. One issue that I particularly like is the Monarch butterfly stamp. The USPS proposes issuing several different butterfly stamps over the coming years. The stamp looks beautiful. The only thing I donít like is that the name of the butterfly is not shown on the stamp. There are many beautiful species of butterflies. There is an opportunity for the USPS to produce some really attractive stamps.
The philatelic press reports that the USPS is considering issuing commemorative stamps as Forever stamps. Iím not convinced that this is a good idea.
Commemorative stamps are larger because more area is needed to include all of the detail necessary to convey what is being commemorated. By design, regular issue stamps are small with very simple designs Ė often just a portrait of some individual. Pick your favorite commemorative stamp. Can you visualize that same design being squeezed onto a stamp that is smaller, like the regular issue stamps? Itís tough.
The general public wants self-adhesive stamps that fit nicely into a wallet/purse or into the corner of a desk drawer. Thatís why todayís booklets have a small selvedge strip that can be removed to allow the booklet to be easily folded. And the general public likes patriotic stamps Ė like the Liberty Bell and US Flag that have appeared on many recent booklet stamps.
Will the general public buy commemorative Forever stamps? If they are in a small format (15-20 stamps per pane), maybe. But that means small size stamps that donít allow for the detail needed. I think that will lead to limited or poor designs. If they are in a larger format (10-12 stamps per pane), then they are not as convenient as the small panes (I have to go to the post office more often to keep buying stamps). No one will want them.
The postal service inspector general is asking the public if issuing stamps is still the way to go for paying for postage. In 2008, the USPS spent $78 million to produce $37 billion of stamps. The USPS then destroyed $2.8 billion in stamps for issues that went off sale. Since about 8% of the total value of stamps were destroyed, then we can assume about 8% of the cost (or $6 million) went into producing stamps that were never sold.
Getting rid of stamps would be awful for the hobby. What if there were no new issues? There is plenty of material around, so stamp collecting as a hobby would not die. But it would change, and not for the better in my opinion.
Yes, the USPS lost money by destroying leftover stamps. But how much money did the USPS make by selling stamps to collectors who donít use them for postage? I bet that figure is higher than the $6 million in printing losses. Eliminate new issues? Go ahead. The USPS will be the big loser.
Did you see the articles in the philatelic press about some outlandish expenditures by certain USPS employees for dinners and entertainment? Those figures were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The USPS is bleeding red ink Ė by the billions. Yes, the USPS should work to reduce waste Ė be it unsold stamps or unnecessary parties and dinners. A few thousand here or a few million dollars there Ė itís not even a blip on the USPS revenue chart. And now they are selling Hallmark greeting cards. How nice. How much money is made from those cards? They sell them in unmonitored lobbies where theft is possible.
As unpopular as it is, the USPS is has to reduce its workforce and consolidate or eliminate post offices and mail processing facilities. First class mail continues to decline and itís not coming back Ė ever. Electronic communication has taken a bite out of the mail stream. The USPS loses much more money by having idle workers and idle facilities that are not needed in this age.
The USPS needs to fix its major problems. Eliminating the waste from new issues is like stuffing a sock into the hull of the sinking Titanic. Itís meaningless. Donít ignore the waste. But at the same time, donít pretend that saving $6 million in printing costs will fix the USPS. It wonít.