Monday, January 15, 2007

Inside the stamp lobby

© 2006 USPS. All Rights Reserved.
(USPS says I have to put that there.)

The 2007 stamp catalog is out. The good news is that outside of this sad plug for good citizenship, there is not a stamp commemorating the Patriot Act, Strom Thurmond, or abstinence. The administration has not yet figured out how to break into the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee to win hearts and minds.

For a real measure of obscure public authority, look to 2 bodies: the CSAC and the MPAA. (More on them some other time. But rent this.)

The 2007 Commemorative Stamp catalog has been released by the US Postal Service, and it is riveting reading. On "Jury Duty," (summer release)
"By showing a diverse group of twelve representative jurors in silhouette, art director Carl T. Herrman and stamp designer Lance Hidy emphasize that under the U.S. Constitution, the American jury system guarantees citizens the right to a trial by a jury of their peers."
They are diverse - meaning some of them are fat. And one is clearly a woman, because she has long hair (smartly but recklessly pulled back, so as not to distract her from her "essential obligation.")

I suppose if you were going to illustrate "jury duty," this as sensible an approach as any. I wonder how long the committee debated 12-member vs. Grand Jury. Should we show the alternates? The stamp jury voting on the jury stamp.... delicious.

Who's on the committee?
1 former postmaster
1 congressional staffer
5 graphic designers
1 business magnate
1 professional athlete
2 writers
the director of the AFI (explains some recent output)
1 retired academic

and get this:
Joan Mondale
Karl Malden
and Skip Gates. who knew?

I get to call Dr Gates "Skip," because I am deeply in love with him, and if he would just meet me he would feel the same, and we would be married by Peter Gomes and Cornel West would rap at our reception.

What does the stamp committee do?
Only review about 50,000 annual reccommendations that actually qualify for discussion, and choose the roster 3 years in advance.

What's that mean?
There are a lot of rules, most of which answer "what" can be on a stamp and "when."
The USPS prefers to release commemoratives that truly commemorate something, so your nomination will likely have to wait for an anniversary.

Living people may not be commemorated. This keeps them from doing something dastardly in life after they have been commemorated. It does not prevent them from having done so beforehand. to wit.

Your nomination must be somehow "American," and national. Meaning, your town's state football championship won't merit, but "Pop" Warner does. (What's with that kid? He looks like an afterthought.)

The committee says they do not endorse religious institutions, except of course when they do -- with holiday stamps. You're aware that there are 2 sets of Christmas stamps, 1 set for people who like Christmas cards unsullied by divine infants. 2007's secular version looks a little creepy to me. I think because they make me picture the whole sweater.

still © 2006 USPS. All Rights Reserved.

From the catalog,

"The stamp images include a dignified stag, a snow-dappled evergreen tree, a perky snowman sporting a top hat, and a whimsical teddy bear."

And a healthy dose of creative adjectives!

I will leave you with these significant Postal advances in our very own lifetime.

1963 - ZIP codes. Yaaay, Zippy!

1971 - USPS gets off the government dole

1974 - self-adhesion

1983 - ZIP plus 4. But we don't know why

1997 - (not gov...not org)

Did You Know?

When the million-dollar Hope Diamond was donated to the Smithsonian Institution, it was mailed from New York City to Washington, D.C., in a brown paper parcel. (fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous?)

Be nice to the post office. Because you wouldn't like them when they're angry.


  1. Loved this post. Informative and funny; that's how I like my learnin'.

  2. Dignified? Snow-dappled? Perky? Whimsical?

    I'm with you! It took somebody a long time to come up with those! But, really, what are they supposed to represent? The clueless portion of our society that wears sweaters with freakin' teddy bear patterns? Gack! Not for me, thanks.

  3. ZIP+4 was introduced so that automatic sorting machines could sort mail not only by ZIP code, but by the route taken by your letter carrier in delivering your mail. This sorting sorts my mail before my next-door neighbor's mail. This saves on letter carrier office time spent sorting their mail for thier routes, increases street time actually delivering mail. (I used to consult for the USPS. I can also decode a ZIP code barcode as a party trick).


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