Much has been written in the philatelic press lately about the release of stamps commemorating the TV show, the Simpsons. I’m not going to further debate the merit of such an issue. But there is something else that concerns me.
I understand the changes that the USPS wants to make to the stamp program. They want to issue stamps that are more related to current events. People may be more likely to buy stamps honoring something more recent that they can relate to versus buying a stamp for a long forgotten person who died years ago. Many people have no idea who that person is or what they did. And they may buy stamps with a more modern theme and not use them for postage which increases the USPS revenues. I can’t blame the USPS. What business doesn’t want to make more money?
President Franklin Roosevelt influenced the stamp program during the 1930s. Even into the 1950s, some stamp issues were politically motivated. The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) was formed in 1957 as an independent group to remove the politics from new stamp issues. The CSAC meets 4-5 times per year and reviews thousands of suggestions for stamp issues. Their job is to select the best subjects that have merit and national appeal. They make their recommendations to the USPS. All of this is done in secrecy, as it should be.
In my opinion, a few recent issues such as the Hershey Kiss stamp, the Star Wars stamps, various Disney stamps, and a few others have precariously tip-toed the line of commercialization. I’m sure the Hershey Company and others capitalized on the “free advertising” it got from the USPS stamp. The USPS isn’t intentionally helping these businesses make a profit. But such profits are a side effect of that stamp issue.
Are we opening the door to more politics and lobbying in our stamp issues? What is to stop someone from approaching the CSAC or the USPS and persuading them into issuing a stamp for their own benefit? For example, what if retail giant Wal-Mart started a campaign for the USPS to issue a stamp commemorating “the retail sales industry” with a stamp that includes a Wal-Mart logo on it? Wal-Mart has a lot of money and influence. That’s just one example.
We are not at this point. But with a few recent issues like the Hershey Kiss stamp, I hope we haven’t opened the door to such influence. It would be bad news for the USPS. There must be others out there right now saying, “Look at the Hershey Kiss stamp. How do I get my name or logo on a stamp too?” As the USPS moves towards stamps honoring current events, we want to avoid these situations and keep the politics and influence out of the stamp program.