WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Clash between public's favorite recent postage stamps and collectors'

The United States Postal Service recently released its list of the most popular stamp issues, based on the quantity of U.S. stamps saved rather than used.

The 29-cent Elvis Presley postage stamp, issued in 1993, has staying power, remaining at the top of the heap.

Following the Elvis stamp: The 39-cent Wonders of America, the 39-cent Marvel Super Heroes, the 41-cent Star Wars, the 29-cent Wildflowers, the 29-cent Rock n' Roll, the 39-cent DC Comics Super Heroes, the 34- and 37-cent Greetings, the 33-cent Insects & Spiders, the 39-cent Disney: Romance, the 33-cent Legends of Baseball, the 41-cent Disney: Magic, the 41-cent Pacific Coast Lighthouses, the 37-cent Disney: Celebration, the 44-cent The Simpsons, the 34-cent Baseball Playing Fields, the 37-cent Disney: Friendship, the 32-cent Civil War, the 29-cent Legends of the West, the 32-cent Marilyn Monroe, the 42-cent Disney: Imagination, the 39-cent Advances in Aviation, the 32-cent Bugs Bunny, the 42-cent Frank Sinatra, and the 37-cent Happy New Year.

Here once again we see the vast abyss between the preferences of most mature stamp collectors and the general public.

With a few exceptions - perhaps Wonders of America, the Civil War, and Legends of the West sheetlets - most philatelists would probably choose an entirely different group of stamps from the past two decades.

Generalizations, of course, are risky, but based on anecdotal evidence (conversations over the years, letters to the editor & stamp popularity surveys at LINN's STAMP NEWS, for example), most collectors prefer historical and scientific themes. "The Simpsons" just doesn't cut it.

Furthermore, traditional collectors LOVE finely engraved stamps, which have become increasingly uncommon for U.S. stamps in recent years. (For that matter, many prefer the traditional old-time gum to the current adhesives, but that's the subject for an entirely different blog post!)

I too love the history. And I love fine engraving. I particularly enjoyed (and used on my ordinary mail) last year's Abraham Lincoln sheetlet.

(And I count myself privileged to have met the world's foremost engraver of postage stamps - Czeslaw Slania - in Stockholm, before he died. To this day, stamps from such countries as Sweden, Liechtenstein, and the Czech Republic are noted for their breathtaking engraving, although even these countries don't issue as many engraved stamps as they used to.)

But I guess I'm not nearly as negative about stamps reflecting American popular culture as some others. Then again, I don't find it necessary to collect every single U.S. new issue, so I have less psychologically invested.

For a serious stamp issue, I think it's time for USPS to commemorate recent U.S. interventions abroad. For better or worse, Americans have fought and died in these foreign engagements, not to mention depleting the U.S. Treasury in the process.

And for the non-serious: It's time for a Three Stooges stamp issue. Surley the Stooges have transcended generations in a way that some of the already honored movie stars and cartoon characters have not. I have a feeling a Stooges issue would shoot up quickly on the USPS' all-time list.

Posted at 8:30pm on March 8, 2011 by Allan Loudell

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