Stamp advisory committee in row with USPS over Harry Potter stamp

Nov. 19, 2013 at 10:16 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The release of a series of Harry Potter stamps by the U.S. Postal Service has created some bad magic with its advisory board and collectors, officials say.

The image of the British boy wizard on U.S. stamps has riled the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, which was bypassed in its traditional role of recommending subjects for new stamps, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The committee, which includes such American luminaries as historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Olympic swimmer Donna de Varona, has for 56 years advised on selecting new stamps that "have stood the test of time, are consistent with public opinion and have broad national interest."

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe says he wants to focus on stamps that are "more commercial" as a way of injecting more revenue into the cash-strapped agency, which lost $5 billion last year.

Donahoe said postal officials chose Harry Potter as a "Forever" stamp to lure young people into stamp collecting.

John Hotchner, a former president of the American Philatelic Society and a former member of the committee, is among those upset by the postal service's decision.

"The Postal Service knows what will sell, but that's not what stamps ought to be about," he said. "Things that don't sell so well are part of the American story."

The committee was not consulted on the selection. Rather, Nagisa Manabe, the postal service's marketing director, made the decision after she moved the stamp program into her department. Many ideas for new stamps now originate in her department, and the trend is toward more commercial subjects such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Beatles.

The committee has become so upset about the reduction of its role in stamp selection that in September all 13 members walked out of their meeting. In a letter to Donahoe, they charged the committee no longer represented "the very citizens it was designed to serve."

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