Proving once again that literally no matter what you do somebody will get pissed off about it, the USPS managed to poke the seething nest of harsh words and recriminations that is the stamp collecting community. The stick they poked it with? a batarang. That’s right, the highest authority on stamp collecting in the country is up in arms because the USPS has decided to put out a limited edition of Batman stamps to commemorate the character’s 75th anniversary.
October is National Stamp Collecting Month (I know, I thought it was all blood and skeletons too) and in order to grasp onto that momentous time period the USPS has partnered with DC and
Warner Brothers to release a set of stamps featuring artists from Batman’s entire history. “You’ve got people who are fans of an icon that collect Batman memorabilia,” says USPS spokesman Mark Saunders. “It’s a great opportunity to reach out to younger audiences, more people, to make stamps more relevant to everyone.”
There’s no arguing that the postal service could use the monetary boost. They’ve lost 22% of their mail volume since 2008. They’ve defaulted on a $5 billion payment they owe to the U.S. Treasury four years running. Imagine losing nearly a quarter of your income over the last six years. The United States Postal Service is an agency on the edge. Stamp collectors are a perfect audience for generating income because they’re pure profit. The stamps won’t be used to send mail, so the cost of their purchase stays tightly in the mail carrier’s pocket.
The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, the highest authority on stamp collecting in America, is not happy about these pop-culture choices. Former U.S. Postmaster General Benjamin Bailar, a noted collector himself, resigned from the committee in August over the introduction of a run of Harry Potter stamps with some very harsh words. “They have really ruined the stamp program,” says Bailar, “They have prostituted it in an effort to make money.”
Current Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, appointed in 2010, is managing a much different organization from the one Bailar managed in the 70’s. The USPS has to make money. It must resort to marketing, in this case with ex-Coca-Cola executive Nagisa Manabe at the helm. In the end Donahoe can do what he likes, and we can have our Batman stamps.