Copyright 2003 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner

                                           A Stamp of Approval

    The United States Postal Service, in an ongoing effort to boost
revenues without raising the cost of postage, is always coming out with new,
limited-edition, commemorative stamps for people to collect.  Folks who
buy these stamps to put into their stamp albums instead of to use on their
letters are happy when the stamps go up in value after the Post Office stops
printing them, the Post Office is happy to sell stamps without needing to
deliver a letter in exchange, and I'm happy to have interesting stamps to put
on my mail instead of the same old flags and dead guys.
    Speaking of dead guys, did you know that you have to be dead before
you can have your picture on a United States stamp?  Other countries don't
have that restriction, which is why tiny island nations you never heard of
often generate income by issuing stamps with pictures of pop stars and other
celebrities on them, in the sure knowledge that they can relieve both stamp
collectors and fanatical Madonna fans of some of their cash.  I used to joke
that we could have a stamp with Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia on it,
because he was, technically, "one of the 'Dead," but now that he's actually
gone and died on us, I'm still waiting for postage featuring his likeness.
Maybe he was on one in a "Legends of Rock" series that I missed?  (A quick
check of eBay lists some Jerry Garcia stamps issued by Mongolia!)
    Sometimes, the stamp-buying public has a chance to vote on what
image a stamp will carry.  This is how we ended up with a stamp featuring
"The Young Elvis" rather than "The Las Vegas Elvis."  I liked the Warner
Brothers cartoon character stamps, featuring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck,
but I wish they would have included some of the minor characters, too, such
as Pepe le Pew and Foghorn Leghorn.  And I'm certain that I voted to
include the Mixmaster stamp in the Fifties series.
    For some reason, I've never liked any of the "LOVE" stamps, from the
big block letters, to the swan, the roses, and all the rest.  I don't have
anything against love itself, and the stamps would be fine for Valentine's
Day cards and mash notes, but the last thing I want to stick on my income
tax return or my mid-winter gas bill is a simpy, insincere "love."  I'd rather
have a stamp that says, "I am not amused."
    To this end, I'd like to suggest a new series of stamps for the Post
Office to offer, based on the yellow Smiley Face that's been around for
years, in many applications, from department store mascot to specialized e-
mail emoticons.  But, just like some construction companies do with their
signs for "Road Work Ahead, next 35 miles," I'd like to see a series of
Frowny Face, Noncommital Face, and Smiley Face stamps.  Wouldn't it
make you feel better, just a bit, to be able to put Frowny Face stamps on
your bills and taxes?  How about on your alimony payment, or when paying
a parking ticket?   Noncommital Face stamps, where the mouth of the face is
just a flat line, could be used for mail you didn't feel one way or the other
about, and you could save the Smiley Face stamps for truly happy mail such
as graduation announcements and birthday cards.  If the series proved
popular, it could be expanded to include more specialty Faces, perhaps
Tongue-Stuck-Out Face or Winking Face. Wouldn't being able to employ
this little bit of self-expression lighten your mood during your paperwork
    Other stamps I'd like to see the Postal Service offer: a smiling cartoon
snail with a mailbag on its back, and the motto "Fastest, Cheapest First-Class
Postage in the World!" or a set of four or eight beautiful, full-color pictures
of exotic snails.  Sheets of do-it-youself stamps might be popular, blank
perforated sheets with only the postage amount printed in the corners, so
kids could draw a picture, tear it apart, and use the stamps for letters to their
pen-pals or grandparents, who would collect them all and re-assemble them
like a jigsaw puzzle.  Sold as a kit, complete with special markers for the
drawing, this could be a real money-maker for the P.O.; how many kids
would want to save their masterpiece intact instead of tearing it into bits?
The stamps are paid for, whether they get used or not.  And imagine the
furor in the art and stamp-collecting worlds if a famous artist or dabbling
celebrity drew a sheet of stamps and auctioned it off for charity!
    Paying bills is a drag, and interesting stamps are few and far between.
For every batch of Tropical Flora or Cute Marsupials of the World, I suffer
through sheets and rolls of generic patriotic icons, dead people, and goofy
little antique cars; boring, boring, boring.  No wonder more and more folks
are paying their bills online; who wants to pay extra money for stamps, if the
stamps just add to their annoyance?  When the USPS wises up and starts
printing more stamps that express humor, whimsy, and creativity, though, I'll
be sure to give them a stamp of approval.

love letters or hate mail?