This page includes Shaughnessy Takes On... columns from the 1996 issues of Across the Fence Post.
January issue No column this issue
February issue No column this issue
Whereas these are my personal takes on postage stamps, their collectors, and postal administrations, they're expressed for better or worse, but usually with a twist.
My take on the U.S. Postal Service James Dean issue -
Marvin Runyon and his Postal Service cronies have decided to hitch their wagons to stars, Hollywood type. With the announcement that actor James Dean will be the subject of a mini-sheet, we have the "lean and Dean" show. Norma Jean Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe) and James Dean.
Dean enjoyed cult status only after his untimely death. Maybe the stamp should have featured Flag Over Porsches, as Jimmy owned/drove a Porsche Spyder, in which he was killed. He appeared in many more plays and TV shows than movies. Two of his three major films were released after his death. In a bit of irony, Dean had fumed a TV highway safety spot (with actor Gig Young) during the filming of "Giant."
I wonder how much money his "rights" owners will collect from the Postal Service, cacheemakers and collectors? This is a dictionary definition of "take!"
Care to speculate on the next Legends of Hollywood selection?
Female, a cult figure, and died before her time. Might even be a gay persona. Interesting choices.
My take on the misprinted Nixon stamps -
Worth $8,000 each? I don't think so, unless someone finds out that Oliver Stone worked for the printer and was the one who inserted the sheet(s) upside down. Is there a conspiracy here? Did the Postal Service leak this sheet to the philatelic public in order to stimulate lagging sales of the bland regular Nixon types? What does the Nixon family feel about all this? Does anyone really care?
My take on the Postal Buddy $50 million settlement -
"Hey, buddy, can you spare a dime?" was a line in a popular Depression-era song. With inflation, the cost of living and all, the price has escalated dramatically. I doubt if most collectors are aware of Postal Buddies, kiosks where customers can change their mailing addresses and purchase postal cards and vended stamps. At the time of the signing of the contract between Sidney Goodman (Mr. Postal Buddy) and the. Postal Service, there were assurances ' that "the Postal Buddy contract would make him [Goodrnan] rich." The U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors aren't pleased with Mr. Runyon‘s payout. Hey, guys, get to the end of the line.
My take on the U.S. Postal Service January issues -
Utah Statehood. We picture rock stars on stamps, why not the real thing?
Winter Garden Flowers. Now that the year's cycle is complete, look for veggies to be next. Broccoli might be a good starter, right George Bush?
Angel Love. The Postal Service is working on a full choir of these stamps having filled the bass section, look for tenors next.
American Kestrel. This stamp is for the birds ...and birders who collect this popular topical.
Flag Over Porch. We certainty didn't want a Flag Under Porch.
Shield and Bunting. Aren't these the two guys on the Public Broadcasting Service's Friday night edition of "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer?" Not to worry. Everything will be "Just" fine on February 1. The Ernest E. Just commemorative will be issued. Can't wait for a Bert stamp so we can pair up Bert and Ernie.
Here are my takes on current and upcoming U.S. Postal Service issues.
Ain't they quaint? I'm referring to the Hirsute Quartet, Pioneers of Communication block of four featuring Eadweard Muybridge, Frederic Ives, Ottmar Mergenthaler, and William K. L. Dickson. Of the four, Mergenthaler moved printing fast forward just as Gutenberg did centuries before him. His linotype typesetting machines were the backbone of the publishing business (before computers took over) and gave printing a Teutonic name. When next we honor such communicators it will be E.-Gates. Mr. Bill, of Microsoft, should continue the German flavor.
The remaining trio really were small spuds as communicators - just common tators. Muybridge was as "weard" as his first name, playing the horses to go into the records, and stamp albums. Ives created halftones, making possible the use of photographs in printing where illustrations were previously produced by line artists. Dickson worked with Thomas Edison on photography. Actually, old Thomas sent him into the photo lab to see what developed.
In honoring the 1996 political year, the Postal Service saw fit to issue the Year of the Rat stamp, in the continuing series for the lunar calendar celebrants. This one should have been a self-adhesive issue. Who, among us, is going to lick those rodents? Blah!
I was always partial to redheads, so I'm pleased to see we get our two-cents' worth with the Redheaded Woodpecker issue - an abundant species years ago, now rarely seen. A rare bird, indeed. Looks like the birds will rival the Transportation series.
What looks to be a German castle on the Rhine is actually the Smithsonian, a fine institution and the keeper of America's history. Housing a lifetime of treasures, it would take one's lifetime to see all that's there. Dusty and musty it ain't.
The Fulbright Scholarship issue is a good example of trying to show too much on a postage stamp, ending up looking like a store mannequin's head. It's a noble venture "creating scholar-ships to increase mutual understanding between us and the rest of the world." It's also taxpayer funded - 70 percent for 1994-95 - so when you lick this one, it's yours baby!
Winner of the Bendix Trophy Race in 1938, Jacqueline Cochran was a fast lady, the first woman to travel faster than the speed of sound. A self-taught aviatrix, during World War II, Jacqueline was the first woman to ferry a bomber to England. Did that make her a ferry grandmother? The Postal Service issue does her proud; we can lick this one with pride.
The design of the Computer Technology stamp commemorating 50 years of computers does no justice to the industry. Without the wording on the stamp, no one would have a clue as to what the stamp is about.
Actually, the Mountain coil would have made a better computer stamp. By squinting your eyes, the mountain tops create a WWW. Then we drop to the usa/nonprofit.org. making it a Website address! So now profitless groups will have a choice between buttes or mountains.
Last time, I thought the Nixor error (the stamp, that is) wouldn't fetch the 8- to 1Q-grand estimates. Boy, was I right! It was knocked down for $14,500 plus the premium. The buyer was anonymous. Isn't this the same unknown person who wrote "Primary Colors?" With the book at the top of the best sellers, money for the Nixon was no problem.
Let the games begin. Just looking at the 20-stamp sheet to be issued for the 1996 Olympic games is a workout. Grunt, growl, sweat, is built into each stamp. Oh well, my doctor said, "Atlanta."
May/June issue No column this issue
.July/August issue No column this issue
It has been an interesting summer for the United States philatelic collector. Those who attended the Olympic games in Atlanta were able to obtain "self-stick" Centennial Olympic Games stamps, courtesy of Georgia's high humidity.
The Postal Service continued to have Georgia on its mind when it issued a pane of 15 for noted painter Georgia O'Keeffe. 1 was surprised that no one made mention of the relationship of her flower paintings to uniquely feminine body parts, long noted by art critics.
Speaking of anatomy, thanks to Long Island, NY, postal supervisor, Diane Sackett-Nannery, the Breast Cancer Awareness stamp was issued in June. A breast cancer survivor herself, she waged a 17-month campaign to have such a stamp issued. She wrote to every daily and weekly newspaper in every major city and collected tens of thousands of signatures. Yet, it was the final 100 signatures of members of Congress that accomplished her dream. Next time we start with them.
On the male side, this year's Madonna and Child Christmas issue will be anatomically correct to conform to Paolo de Matteis' painting. I guess the appendage is mightier than censorship.
Continuing on this theme, Myron's Discobolus (the Discus Thrower) was issued for the "Bubba Games" in Atlanta. Judging from how hot the weather was, our thrower was (un)dressed for the occasion.
Tennessee and Iowa were each honored with dual issues that differ only by their gum. While it's just the spittin' images (water- activated variety) for most of us, those who reside in these two states can just peel and stick their stamps.
Thankfully, the American Indian Dances quintet didn't depict a rain dance. What would this summer's water-soaked states have done with more precipitation?
For the youngsters, the Postal Service issued their Jurassic four, the Prehistoric Animals. If these don't get kids hooked on collecting stamps rather than baseball cards, 1 can't imagine what will. That is, unless it is Folk Heroes. These were REAL heroes (not sandwiches), bigger than life and well done as to their postal depiction.
Finally, for the specialized collector, the Flag Over Porch, Eagle and Shield, Butte, Mountain, Auto, Tail Fin, and Juke Box stamps all have been reissued in various formats. C'mon, most of us aren't that specialized.
By Howard Shaughnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society
To kick off October National Stamp Collecting Month, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a pane of IS Endangered Species 32^ stamps. In looking over this pane, I note the Postal Service omitted the most endangered of them all - the collector of modern U.S. postage stamps.
Not to be outdone, the Mexican postal authorities will also issue a pane of 24 stamps titled Conservemos las expecias de Mexico (Conserve the species of Mexico). In looking at the design, it seems to me that everything in Mexico is in danger and is pictured on this sheet. If you look very closely, there are even a few wetbacks crossing the depicted stream. As with the U.S. stamps, the Mexican Postal Service left out one of their most endangered species - the peso!
Imagine Harry Caray (the voice of the Chicago Cubs) describing the Literacy semipostal to be issued by Canada. It would be, "Holy Cross," as this jigsaw-designed stamp has a die-punched hole that resembles the Cross of Lorraine. Will our Canadian postal patrons complain loudly that they are paying more for less? And where are all those missing pieces?
Who in the hall are we talking about? It's either McDowell or Alexander: the Hall Brothers, who had postal cards issued in their honor. If so famed. 1 would purchase a supply and let all my friends know that the U.S. Postal
Service holds me in such high regard. And you can buy these at face!
For all those collectors who complained that previous musical issues depicted "people I never heard of," the Postal Service is making amends this month - amends in spades. While I would have been tickled pink for just the Glenn Miller stamp, the Postal Services go overboard. Along with Miller they include the Dorsey Brothers, Count Basic and Benny Goodman as leaders of big bands. They needed composers for tunes these guys played, so they are giving us Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Dorothy Fields and Hoagy Carmichael. No complaints here, as they are all greats in their own right, but plez USPS, next time spread them out! •
November issue No column this issue
By Howard Shaughnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society
It wasn't long ago when the U.S. Postal Service was in the business of marketing STUFF (Some Things Ultimately Filatelic and Fun) - items such as mugs, T-shirts, key tags, etc., that boasted an imprint of a postage stamp. Local post offices became so over-crowded with this slow-moving merchandise that the word went out to dispose of it. Out! Vamoose!
So what goes around comes around. The Postal Service is now selling video tapes (started the first of November) featuring that jolly old man who lives at the North Pole. The philatelic connection, I assume, is that kids write letters to Santa.
Yet to come are phone cards. This is a stroke of genius if the marketing department does it right. For instance, they could reproduce U.S. postage Stamps on these cards starting with Scott #1 and going forward. Those who collect MNH will collect unused phone cards; those who collect postally used will have to settle for depleted editions. Since the postal folks have issued several thousand stamps, these phone cards could go on forever. Just one thought: When you phone someone you don't write a letter and don't use the postal services. Is this the best of both worlds?
On the subject of cards, the Postal Service is issuing Stamper trading cards aimed at youngsters eight to 12 years old, and thereby going head to head with MLB, the NBA, NFL and others. Let's see, trade you two Michael Jordan rookie cards for an inverted Jenny'?
How about the 1996 holiday stamps? Can you differentiate them from Christmas seals? As a collector of Swiss stamps, I admire each year's semipostal sets. I feel, however, that if the U.S. Postal Service issues the proposed stamps based on the work of Anna Maria Sibylla Merian (a 17th-century Swiss naturalist, painter and engraver), not too many of us will buy or use these weeds and bugs. Surely, Ms. Merian had more pleasing designs!
The 1998 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue will be alphabetized. Well, sort of alphabetized. U.S. stamps will still appear up front in the first volume, and colonies or parts of countries that have issued postal stamps but later became part of another country will not be part of the soup. My guess as to why the United States is still in Vol. 1 is because of its alphabetic slot. U.S. collectors would have to wait for the annual release of Vol. 6. By that time, all the prices would be changed again.
I noted that a first-day cover of the Louisiana Purchase set sold at auction for about what the original Louisiana Purchase fetched. The cover had no cachet and was sun-faded and addressed! All no-no's for today's FDCs.
And my take on wishing each of you a great holiday season - enjoy and may you find philatelic treasures under your tree.
Latest update: June 14, 2005