Archive for the ‘Stamps’ Category

Inverted Jenny watch.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Missed this over the weekend, but Mom caught it: thanks, Mom!

Inverted Jenny #76 may appear at the World Stamp Show 2016, which starts next Saturday.

Or it may not.

#76 is significant because it was part of a block of four Inverted Jennies that were stolen from a stamp show in 1955. It appears that the block was split up: one of the stamps was found in 1958, a second one in 1982, and #76 showed up recently at an auction house. The American Philatelic Research Library wants to display it at the show (they claim ownership) but since the stamp is stolen property, there’s complicated legal wrangling involved.

In case you are interested, there’s another Inverted Jenny (#58) coming up for auction May 31st.

The estimates for No. 58 range from $525,000 to $1.6 million.

Totally random thought.

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Inspired by this:

Now that Prince is dead, he can get his own stamp. And given the way things are going with the Post Office and the Stamp Advisory Committee, it probably isn’t going to take ten years, either.

Of course, the Prince stamp will have to be a “4Ever” stamp.


Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

E. L. Doctorow. LAT. WP.

Inverted Jenny watch:

…the agency’s watchdog has called the instant, manufactured stamp rarity issued in 2013 a huge mistake that broke the agency’s own rules, which prohibit postal officials from intentionally creating a rare stamp just to make money.


Postal officials gave 70 upright panes to post offices to distribute randomly to buyers. The 30 remaining panes were sent to the agency’s stamp fulfillment services office in Kansas City, Mo., to ship to customers who ordered the Jennies by mail.
But in Kansas City, officials “forgot” about their distribution plan for the newly created rare stamps, investigators found. They shipped just one pane between March 2014 and December 2014. As a result, 23 upright panes remain in Kansas City, where management has not decided what to do with the stamps, the report said.

(Previously. Previously.)

Everything that rises must get a stamp.

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

The Postal Service is issuing a Flannery O’Connor stamp.

To which I say, “Good.”

My relationship to O’Connor’s writing is a bit complicated. I had to read “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” when I was in school, and I hated it; it seemed like a collection of random cruelty with no point to it. But much later on in my life, something made me pick up The Complete Stories. I pretty much loved almost every story in that book, especially “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”.

But I still hate “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”.

Harry Potter and the Pension Plan of Doom.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

How does the Postal Service decide who (or what) gets a stamp?

The somewhat interesting answer to that question is that there’s a group called the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee that considers requests and makes recommendations to the Postmaster General. The Committee has some “guidelines” which are really more like “rules”: for example, nobody gets a stamp until ten years after they die (with the exception of former presidents) is a Committee guideline. (You can find a current list of members here. Here are the current selection guidelines from Wikipedia: it looks like they have abandoned both the “ten years after death” criteria and the “no living person” rule. Here’s an older version of the guidelines that includes both.)

Anyway, the CSAC has been given a considerable amount of deference until recently. With the Post Office bleeding money like there’s no tomorrow (which may very well be the case), there’s pressure to bring in more revenue by upping stamp sales.

This has resulted in the Postal Service bypassing the CSAC and deciding to issue Harry Potter stamps.

“Harry Potter is not American. It’s foreign, and it’s so blatantly commercial it’s off the charts,” said John Hotchner, a stamp collector in Falls Church and former president of the American Philatelic Society, who served on the committee for 12 years until 2010. “The Postal Service knows what will sell, but that’s not what stamps ought to be about. Things that don’t sell so well are part of the American story.”

I’m torn by this. I’m not a big Harry Potter fan, but I know people who are, and I can see using Harry Potter to get kids into stamp collecting. On the other hand, I think Hotchner has a point too; Harry Potter is not American and not historical, and shouldn’t stamps tell stories of America? And is better to suck kids in with pop culture figures, or with bits of real, interesting, American history?

I don’t know. I don’t even know if I’m going to buy any Harry Potter stamps; if I do, they will be gifts for the younger set. (I prefer to mail my letters with stamps depicting dead presidents. Speaking of which, I’d be absolutely delighted if the Postal Service came out with Nixon “forever” stamps. Indeed, if they really wanted to rake in some bucks, why not do new runs of “forever” stamps for every (deceased) president? I bet they’d sell a lot of complete sets and associated commemorative albums/stamp keepers/etc. to stamp collectors and history buffs.)

So, Harry Potter doesn’t rile me up too much. Reasonable people can disagree over the merits and demerits of his stamps. But there are some other things in the WP coverage that get under my skin.

Among those now under consideration are the Beatles

A vastly over-rated group with a few toe-tappers.

Apple founder Steve Jobs

I would buy Steve Jobs stamps, but I think it is too soon. The ten-year guideline is a good one.

basketball player Wilt Chamberlain

Died in 1999. Not a bad choice.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Sure, why not?

and chef Julia Child.

Absolutely, I think Julia is worthy of her own stamp. And we are coming up on ten years since her death.

(Speaking of Julia, on a slightly related note: does everything in the world have to involve f–king cats?)

Manabe objected to the jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, people familiar with the discussions said, on the grounds that Vaughan is not well known among young Americans. Barbie has been on the table, although no decisions have been made on the Mattel doll.

I’d argue that one of the goals of the stamp program should be education. Issuing, say, a Sarah Vaughn stamp should be taken as an opportunity to educate people about Ms. Vaughn and her music. As for Barbie, I think there’s a fine line between commercial promotion and acknowledging icons of American history, but I’d come down on the side of Barbie being a part of history, too.

(Who is “Manabe”?

Members of the advisory committee have complained to [Postmaster General Patrick] Donahoe that they have been brushed aside by agency staff, led by marketing director Nagisa Manabe, a former Coca-Cola executive hired in 2012 to reinvigorate the postal brand. Manabe moved the stamp program into her department and pushed aside veterans in the program, according to postal sources.



In September, the committee’s frustration boiled over and all 13 members walked out of their meeting and signed an unprecedented letter to Donahoe demanding that he meet with them.
“Quite simply, as it is run now, this committee no longer represents the collector, both avid and amateur, the child just discovering the wonder of stamps, the bride looking for the perfect wedding stamp or the very citizens it was designed to serve,” said the letter, which was obtained by The Post and first reported by Linn’s Stamp News. The committee wrote that it had responded to the mandate to “think big and think commercial.” But Harry Potter “was developed even though we, as a committee, did not propose it nor discussed how it could be best presented.”

Meanwhile, the Postal Service has hired a “futurist” “to help map out the future of stamps”. But not just any futurist: they’ve hired Faith Popcorn.

This is mildly surprising, though: some members of CSAC are cranky about the Inverted Jenny stamps.

The Postal Service reissued the inverted image in September as well as 100 sheets of the image right side up. Spokesman Roy Betts said the goal was to generate excitement.
But to committee members, as well as many collectors, it has come across as a gimmick and an unfair lottery.

It isn’t clear to me, from the context, if the members are upset over the whole “Inverted Jenny” re-issue, which I see as the Postal Service equivalent of “fan service“, or if they’re just cranky about the right-side up upside-down Jenny stamps. Those do seem kind of gimmicky, but no more unfair than William T. Robey’s original purchase.

Random notes: October 8, 2013.

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Why would someone buy a mansion for nearly $350,000, then sell it at a $40,000 loss?

Could it be…Satan?

Nothing matters more — even the horrors that took place — than perception. That’s especially true in the case of Resnick’s mansion, where Bell says no evidence supports stories of ghosts and mob murders.
But people believed what they saw on the TV show, which Resnick says was filmed inside the house without his permission. After the show aired, police calls to the vacant house exploded. Some young troublemakers and trespassers even posted on YouTube their own ghost hunts at the house.

Interesting legal question: if the owner can prove that the TV show was filmed on the property without his permission, and if he can prove that the TV show led to his loss on the property, does he have a course of action against the producers? I’m inclined to say, “Yes, but he’ll have a high bar to prove both those things.” Of course, I Am Not A Lawyer.

Yesterday’s NYT ran an interesting article about the Inverted Jenny re-issue, about which I have written previously. I have actually already received my Inverted Jenny first day cover (it’s very nice – I am tempted to scan it and post it) but I did not order a full sheet of stamps. (Because $2 per stamp x 24 stamps = more than I was willing to spend.)

“We thought, wouldn’t it be funny if some of the inverts came out wrong, and actually got printed right side up?” the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, said in an interview. “And we started thinking, what a great way to recreate the excitement Robey must have felt when he found that first sheet.”
As a result, 100 of the new sheets actually show the airplane flying upright. Each sheet is individually wrapped, so no one can see the stamps before they are bought. A note is included with the right-side-up rarities, alerting buyers to their true nature. Lucky finders can obtain a certificate signed by the postmaster general.

So, wait. The original stamps were valuable because the plane was printed upside down. So they’re making new rare stamps by…printing them correctly in the first place? Excuse me while I go take some headache medication.

The uncharted scale of Detroit’s bankruptcy — it is the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in the nation’s history in terms of both the city’s population and its debt — suggests that it may also become the costliest, experts say. City officials offer no estimate for a final tab, but some bankruptcy experts say the collapse could ultimately cost Detroit taxpayers as much as $100 million. As of last week, 15 firms had contracts with the city that could total as much as $60.6 million, city records show.

This brings a smile to my face.

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The Post Office is issuing an Inverted Jenny stamp.

The 2013 Inverted Jenny has a face value of $2 (13 cents in 1918 money) instead of the 24 cent face value of the original. I’ll be interested in seeing what else the USPS changes.

Here’s a blog entry from January that shows the preliminary artwork in comparison with the original Inverted Jenny.

And here’s an old article from Smithsonian about the Inverted Jenny, for those unfamiliar with the story.

(I’m not a big stamp collector; I dabbled in it a little when I was young, with the help of my mother, and somewhere I think I have a Bicentennial first day cover. As I get older, though, I’ve started purchasing USPS first day covers for people and subjects that interest me. See also: the Battle of Lake Erie.)

(And, yes, somewhere I have a copy of George Amick’s book, The Inverted Jenny: Money, Mystery, Mania. I think it is a pretty swell book, even if you’re not that heavily into stamps and the history thereof.)

(Of course, the Inverted Jenny story touches on another subject of interest to me: the Green family.)