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Eye Opener: Do New Postage Stamps Help or Hurt?

By Ed O'Keefe



The U.S. Postal Service issued 20 stamps commemorating classic television shows on Tuesday, including "Howdy Doody." (Courtesy U.S. Postal Service)

Eye Opener

Happy Wednesday! The U.S. Postal Service issued 20 new commemorative stamps on Tuesday that celebrate several of television's earliest hits, including "Howdy Doody," "I Love Lucy," and "Dragnet." (See more stamps after the jump.) The "Early TV Memories" collection is now on sale online or at your neighborhood Post Office.

But the new stamps got The Eye wondering: Should the Postal Service devote so much time and money to postage stamps -- especially ones that commemorate 50-year-old TV shows -- at a time when it's losing billions of dollars?

It costs about $40,000 to develop and produce a commemorative stamp, according to David Failor, the Postal Service's executive director of stamp services. The process includes the development of a commemorative stamp collection, design of the actual stamp and their production and distribution. Though the Postal Service does not pay license fees for the images of a character or famous person, it does pay $5,000 to various artists that design and paint the stamp's image.

The stamps generate between $250 million and $300 million for the Postal Service, Failor said, a respectable sum, but not nearly enough to make up for the billions of dollars in lost revenue. Still, the stamp program generates a priceless amount of free press and fuel the interests of a couple million "hardcore" stamp collectors and another 10 million to 20 million stamp “accumulators” that might collect stamps related to a certain genre, Failor said. Having your face, TV show or cause placed on a postage stamp is also still considered a unique national honor.

But is goodwill, national prestige and $250 million to $350 million in revenue good enough? Should the Postal Service produce more or fewer commemorative stamps? And should it instead commemorate contemporary events, artists, actors and pop culture in hopes of building a younger customer base that can help sustain future mail delivery?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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More of the commemorative stamps released on Tuesday:



The "I Love Lucy" commemorative stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.



The "Dragnet" commemorative stamp.



A stamp commemorating George Burns and Gracie Allen.

By Ed O'Keefe  | August 12, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener  
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Comments

Why?

Why did the USPS spend money on developing postage stamps that will be irrelevant in a year when they raise the price of postage on consumers again because they have to make up for the deficeit they created when they developed these stamps?

What?

What will it matter to consumers who do not recognize or remember these television programs, except for their syndication on Nick-At-Nite or TV Land? Sure, everyone knows "I Love Lucy", but the rest have blended into obscurity.

Instant relics.

Posted by: trambusto | August 12, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

What is it about a quarter of a billion dollars contribution to the USPS' bottom line that your author does not understand? Is that "enough" to justify the program, or should the USPS issue only modern subjects to push up the profit figure? Remember that we are talking about the same Postal Service that recently issued the five stamps in honor of The Simpsons! The stamp program exists to honor merit - the people and events and cultural achievements that have molded America. All modern subjects would skew the program to honor popularity, and popularity is not necessarily merit.

Posted by: jmhstamp | August 12, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

So it costs $40,000 to produce the stamp, and you sell 10 million of them to people who are just going to hold on to them. Yeah, that's a really tough decision- spend $40,000 to earn $4.4 million? Golly! I just don't know!!

Posted by: bsheehan1 | August 12, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate the Fed Eye trying to track a few paltry thousands of dollars at the USPS who seem to have complete transparency. This challenge is about as difficult as kicking a puppy.

Why not spend some of your quality investigating time trying to figure out where $750 BILLION of TARP money has gone. Results of that search might actually benefit someone.

Posted by: jdonaldson1 | August 12, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Hey these stamps are part of Nostalgia, Americana, baseball and Apple Pie.

Sure they my become obsolete price wise, but there still collectables!

The public is Ironic:
They complain when postage rates increase, but in the same breathe they want the P.O. to do everything to keep rates down....duh..what do you think these uniques stamps accomplish to a degree?
And if you don't like USPS rates, Move to Canada were first class mail is 98 Cents a stamp if you want something to complain about!
The latest unemployement figures that have been presented over the months nationally--these 600K a month 'Approximate figures would be what would occur "if the P.O. were to close' the doors tomorrow!
Do you think FedEx and UPS are doing so well...
Read, there financial numbers aren't being reported to be so great either & there laying off personal!!

Whom do you think they drop there no-profitable packages off to for delivery?
You got it, the good Ol'e Post Office due to we are mandated by congress to serve "All the People of the USA each & everyday"!!!
"You ALL know the story of Humpty-Dumpty right"?
The grass always appears greener on the other side of the fence 'until you walk on it in your bear feet' !

Posted by: datsrite | August 12, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with bsheehan1. Some of these commemorative stamps will be used for mailing purposes, but I suspect most will be kept by collectors.

Posted by: hrreno | August 12, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

They make money, right? So, yes, keep producing the stamps. Or did I somehow misunderstand the question?

Posted by: yostwl1 | August 12, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

If the post office really wants to reel in the money put as part of these commemorative stamps put in "mistaken prints" like images on the side or upside down. Then it will become a scavenger hunt and some people who otherwise wouldnt pay for stamps might we willing to pay for some with the chance of making money on their investment off of ebay.

Posted by: djp98374 | August 12, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Leave the stamps alone!!
My god as long as it's not another brain-rotting video game, it's a good hobby for kids!

I've been buying duck stamps for my nephew since he was 4; he keeps them, he collects them, and he likes them. He's torn between wanting another 'jr' stamp this year or an 'adult' stamp.

Do YOU even know what a duck stamp is?

http://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductCategoryDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10001&catalogId=10152&categoryId=21401

Help out conservation efforts - buy a duck stamp! Every hunter in your family would like to have one.

Posted by: lquarton | August 12, 2009 11:11 PM | Report abuse

I like the baby-boomer TV stamps. Ain't nostalgia great! But, what I'd really like to see on postage stamps are images that promote a new idea, something that will make people think and contemplate when they see it.

For example, we don't give kids enough credit. Recent research shows that children as young as 9 years old can and should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). After giving 147 grade-schoolers six hours of life-support training, researchers found that 86 percent of the kids performed CPR correctly -- four months after the training. Ethic Soup blog suggests we teach kids CPR in school:

http://www.ethicsoup.com/2009/08/kids-can-save-lives-even-the-young-should-learn-cpr.html

So, using this example, why not a postage stamp showing a kid saving another person's life by giving CPR. Or, we can look at another picture of Lucy in the chocolate factory.

Posted by: s_mceachern | August 13, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

stop and think about it
a postage stamp is a "promise" to provide a service
if you use the stamp the USPS has to work and earn a small percentage of the stamps price
if you save/collect the stamp the USPS makes 100% profit

it is like you paying me NOT to work for you

dumb, like a fox

j d huff

Posted by: jademarine | August 13, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

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