The USPS stamps lineup for 2014 is filled with pop culture icons of the past 50 years and some familiar faces of today. The postal service attempts to keep the list top secret to create a buzz about the service when the announcement is made, but this year the Washington Post obtained a list of completed stamp artwork, ones that are still in the works, and a few on the waiting list. Some familiar stamps include 60s icons Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, late gay right activist Harvey Milk and basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain.
So why the change from the typical stamps lineup of famous artwork, authors, artists, and patriotic themes among others? The USPS is attempting to reach a younger demographic of possible stamp collectors. It’s no secret that the post office has been on a downward spiral regarding revenues in the last 20 years. The USPS stamps lineup needed a makeover. Introducing iconic figures like Janis Joplin, James Brown (2015) and even a stamp featuring celebrity chefs allows the postal service to be hip, even if only by appearances. A pop culture heavy USPS stamps announcement has been a long time coming, and should be a refreshing change to stamp collectors both old and young.
One of the most obvious pleas to the younger demographic is the possibility of a Steve Jobs stamp. Even the possibility of a stamp featuring the likeness of the former head of Apple creates a buzz that the USPS welcomes with open arms. With the published list of stamp considerations came a controversy. In the list, consideration had been given to John Lennon. USPS standards indicate that only American likenesses will be considered for immortality through a USPS stamp stating, “U.S. postage stamps and stationery primarily will feature American or American-related subjects. Other subjects can be considered if the subject had significant impact on American history or culture.”
Purists will argue that John Lennon is not American nor did he have significant impact on American history or culture on his own. Others argue that without Lennon, the Beatles would not have existed and the face of American music might not have changed. No matter what side of the argument you’re on, the postal service simply enjoys being part of the conversation.
This is not the first time the USPS shook things up with their choice of stamp artwork. Late 2013 the postal service released Harry Potter stamps much to the dismay of collectors nationwide. “The attitude should be that stamps are works of art and little pieces of history,” philatelic blogger Don Schilling complained. “They shouldn’t be reduced to the latest fads, (to) whatever’s going to sell.”
The USPS stamp has definitely changed course with the announcements in the past few years, and for the next few years. They hope to keep the buzz going for as long as possible.