Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs (WFSC)
Across the Fence Post Newsletter
1997 Shaughnessy Takes On... columns

         This page includes Shaughnessy Takes On... columns from the 1997 issues of Across the Fence Post.

January issue

By Howard Shauyhnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society

January was named after the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two faces, one looking backward, the other forward. Thus, it is the time for me to look back on last year's U.S. Postal Service issues and forward to what's coming.

1996 was a lackluster year with no blockbusters such as Elvis or Marilyn to perk up buyers. There certainly was no lack of issues, though. How many flags are flying over porches? And Riverboats was a disappointment when contrasted to Locomotives and Classic Cars.

Considered as favorite issues might be the Endangered Species, American Indian Dances, and Prehistoric Animals (now those critters are really endangered!).

Looking forward, 1997 should be a BOFFO at the USPS box office. When did Time/ Warner acquire the U.S. Postal Service? With Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan (yes, number 23 does appear on post office advertising) it's now USPSpaceJam.

First we get a Bugs Bunny stamp, so we can expect the series to continue with Daffy Duck (great for duck stamp collectors), Yosemite Sam and all the other Looney Tune characters. Next, we'll be dropping the "Engraving" from Bureau of Printing and..., changing the name to Bureau of Cels and Prints.

The World of Dinosaurs is an outstanding effort, and the Classic American Aircraft is long overdue. But, what happened to the SuperFort - B29s that put us in the winner's circle in the Pacific? Shame. We warriors who looked for one on the World War II sheets were shortchanged and now we get the propeller shaft once again.

Triangles!!! - shades of South Africa and Mozambique Co. As a kid I loved them, so expect today's youngsters to do likewise. Having the pair commemorate Pacific 97 will get our attention. Will they be attached foot-to-foot or side-by-side? Such suspense.

Old Ben and George each get another sheet of stamps for themselves as part of Pacific 97. Since these reproduce our first issues, I hope all the engravers haven't left the Bureau just yet.

Da Conches - part of the Transportation series? No, these are legendary football coaches. It will be interesting to see whether "Packer Backers" outscore "Da Bears" for first-day cover totals. Just like the old days, Lombardi against Halas.

Also ahead are Opera Singers and Classical Conductors and Composers. Wonderful, now I know I'm really old. I saw and heard many of these folks as a youngster.

All in all 1997 looks promising. Sort of makes you want to put the seed catalogs aside. •

February issue No column this issue

March issue

By Howard Shaughnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society

"Red Bar" rhymes with "Bret Favre" and that's what Dairy land collectors will have on their versions of the Vince Lombardi stamp. I can almost see 52 issues of Sports Illustrated promotions: Authentic FDCs autographed by Mike Holgren, Favre, Desmond, Reggie and a few others. If they throw in a stamp album, maybe youngsters will become collectors! And, for all you Packer Backers: What do you call 30 millionaires watching the Super Bowl? The Dallas Cowboys.

"Did you want fries with your Coke?" might have been what postal clerks would ask if Postmaster General Runyon had his way. "Marvelous Marvin" wants to give the Coca-Cola Co. exclusive rights to install vending machines in the nation's post offices to dispense their products. I never imagined our mail persons dealing Coke. Of course, the postmaster general is under federal investigation for such shenanigans, the latest of many foibles in which he has been involved. It wasn't that long ago when the U.S. Postal Service was gleefully counting up the profits it had made this past year and the top brass were looking for huge bonuses. Runyon then back-pedaled and remarked that maybe the Postal Service would seek a postage rate increase sooner rather than later. Better use those 32centers quickly.

"I am not a crook" was a quote from Richard Nixon, but Clarence Robert Robie may turn out to be one. Robie was charged with theft and interstate transportation of the 160 inverted Nixon stamps from the Banknote Corporation of America, where he worked and where the intaglio portion of the stamp design was printed. Robie sold some, the most notable one turning up at Christie's of New York City.

It sold for a premium over what scrap printer's waste is going for.

Pacific 97 will be anything but pacific if the Postal Service goes through with the idea that the Washington and Franklin souvenir sheets be sold only during the 11-day run of the show and only to those attending the show or by mail from Kansas City. Don't the dealers just love this sort of thing? Even the White Plains souvenir sheet was on sale from mid-October 1926 well into the following year. And the Zepps were placed on sale in more than one post office in each state.

Do you get the feeling that the Benjamin O. Davis stamp, if it were able to talk, would sound exactly like Darth Vader?

Locally here in Lake County, we are undergoing a massive rebuilding of our public libraries since their old facilities ran short of space. Blame it all on Scott Publishing - just too many volumes! •

April issue

By Howard Shaughnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society

Not since the gap in the Richard Nixon tapes has there been such a hullabaloo about the missing gap in the teeth of the upcoming Vince Lombardi stamp. When the design was first released, there was Vince, but where was his famous gap? It so upset a Chicago multimedia editor, one Noel Franus that he put up a Web site on the Internet to whine about it. The site got so much attention that the stamp's designer/ artist Daniel A. Moore, in order to set the matter to rest, released the photograph from which said design was taken.

The "tooth" came out. Seen from an angle, Vince has no gap. And because of it, the U.S. Postal Service lost a wonderful marketing opportunity. The GAP clothing line was going to purchase these stamps for all their mailings, but, alas, no gap, no stamps. Wasn't Vince quoted as saying, "Whining isn't everything, it is the only thing."

Bet you thought PMG was short for Post-master General. Wrong! Marvin T. Runyon told a meeting of the National Association of Postmasters that "In the beginning there was the Postal Service...and God was the first postmaster general (Postmaster God) and Adam and Eve our first customers." OK, Marv, whom did they write to? Who delivered the mail? What was the postal rate and were the stamps collectible? Inquiring minds need to know.

The Postal Service w_ ill create a new category for collectors: FQCs (first-quarter covers) a successor to FDCs. Registered dealers and cachet manufacturers now have a 90-day, instead of 45-day grace period to submit items for FDOI cancels. In fact, such folks can request extensions beyond the 90-day window by submitting a written request: "Dear USPS: The dog ate my covers. I need an extension. "

Linn announced their results of best/worst U.S. Postal Service efforts for 1996 and the worst won. Fewer votes, disgust with subjects and designs along with too many issues were remarks heard from collectors. Our Lake County Philatelic Society sent in only two ballots. Do you think the Postal Service will learn from this fiasco? Nah! •

May/June issue No column this issue

.July/August issue No column this issue

September issue

By Howard Shaughnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society

What! You didn't win any medals at Pacific 97? You may get your opportunity with a whole new class of postal paper - the United States "Bees Nest" (Scott B-prefix issues, which likely will stir up a hive if the U.S. Postal Service starts issuing semipostals). In fact, Postmaster General Runyon may be thinking of changing the name to "United Semi-Postal Servants" now that Congress has OK'd the idea of postage stamps with the added fees earmarked for breast cancer.

I have no quarrel with raising money with postage stamps for cancer research but why restrict it to only one kind of cancer or narrow it to just cancers? Anyone with any one of the incurable diseases - you all know their initials - would be pleased to have a stamp going to work on a cure for "their" disease. Likewise, catalog and album publishers, along with stamp dealers, would be tickled pink to have these additional items to list, to provide space for, and to sell. This idea is going to generate a lot of heated discussion before it is resolved. Bring out the Deet!

At the other end of the postal scale is the idea of "cheaper" first-class rates for bill payments. Businesses can prepay the postage on return envelopes and either sells these envelopes to their customers or, in a magnanimous gesture, absorb their cost for most prompt payments. And. the USPS makes more money on these. The burning question is: Will the stamp-buying public go along with this idea? I don't think so. There will be too much confusion, and now with the semipostal idea around, it is just too much, too soon.

Have you heard about "Postal America?" - an idea that rated TV coverage, although I haven't yet seen it in print. It's merchandise unrelated to postal work but having a USPS merchandising logo (not quite as clever as Nike's Swoosh) that will be offered for sale. Full leather jackets was the item that caught my eye, and at designer prices! I thought the USPS got out of the souvenir/merchandise business. Our local post office is selling the last of such leftover stuff at half price.

I'm in favor of having the USPS get their act together before taking on other ventures. Remember Pacific '97? Recall the sheets that were issued for that exhibition''. They needed to be ordered during the run of the show.

Well, I ordered several sheets for our Lake County Philatelic Society on June 6 via phone. At this writing (July 241, the sheets have yet to arrive. Let's make that "United States Poor Service" for their new name.

October  issue No column this issue

November issue

By Howard Shaughnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society

Save the Wales (princess of) postage stamps, er-r, labels, is the rallying cry for printers who hold contracts with offshore islands and midAfrican countries now that Diana has gone to her reward. Souvenir sheets, overprinted earlier issues, imperfs, etc., are/will be hawked not only in the philatelic press but also in local fish wrappers. I suspect that even the TabLloyds of London will have such ads.

The question is: Will not-so Great Britain honor the late princess with postage stamps? And, since the queen has one of the world's largest collections of stamps, did she remove all the previous Diana/Charles issues (as well as those of her other divorced children), or does she collect for completeness?

The Crown Agents missed a collectors' bonanza when Edward, Duke of Windsor, died. Where were the paparazzi, tabloids, and late-night cable TV when they were needed?

Care to wager who will have more stamps in her honor: Diana or Mother Teresa? While the world issues paper in honor of Diana, our U.S. Postal Service issues horror stamps - cinematic creatures of the night. It is interesting to note that Bela Lugosi was a matinee idol prior to becoming Count Dracula, and once the count, he never shook this image. On the other hand, Boris Karloff loved being the Frankenstein monster. He appeared in almost 200 films prior to the first of the Frankenstein’s yet went on to star in other non-horror films and, today, children know him as the voice of the Grinch who stole Christmas.

The Lon Chaneys, father and son, are not the only pair honored on U.S. postage stamps. The John Adamses were twice honored in sets. They just didn't have to be in makeup as long.

The commemorative honoring the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force had a nationwide first day of issue on September 18. Through coincidence, I needed to mail our local stamp club newsletter on that date, so I arrived early at the Gurnee (IL) post office to purchase a supply of the new stamps. "Oh, that issue doesn't come out until tomorrow," was the clerk's reply. I insisted that today was the day. Sure enough, after checking with her supervisor, she divided up the small stock she had to each clerk and I purchased a sheet.

By this time (it had taken about a half hour), the usual patrons crowded the small space so I adjourned to the lobby and affixed the stamps. I then carefully put them into the mail slots to ensure they would get the unofficial first-day-of-issue postmarks. Our newsletters were delivered the following day with a September 19 postal cancel. •

December issue

By Howard Shaughnessy Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society

The brouhaha between the U.S. Postal Service and the National Park Service at the first-day ceremonies for the WIMS (Women In Military Service) stamp in October can be summed up in two words: VENDOR BENDERS! For those not following this story, it concerns an ongoing feud between the NPS and the USPS on allowing merchandise sales on park property. Thus, when the first-day ceremonies concluded that day, dealers, collectors and others could not buy the newly issued WIMS stamp at the site of the memorial! Do they post signs with the international symbol of a diagonal line through a USPS employee on NPS lands?

How about that wascal wabbit? Some of the scarce panes of the Bugs Bunny stamps have turned "bunnish" selling at an Internet auction for more than $200. I'm sure that few of our readers are fortunate to own a pane. Oh, the pane of it all!

Eau la la, Bugs panes sans roulettes in uncut press sheets are also rare hares. Golly, does

Time-Warner know about this? And to think that serious stamp collectors pooh-poohed this issue. Winnie (the Pooh), eat your heart out.

Which leads us into a new era of "stamp retainers" created by our USPS. Once there were two classes of folks who purchased postage stamps: those who used them to send letters and packages and those who were stamp collectors. Now, with the Movie Monsters sheet, the USPS marketing experts are telling their stamp-selling employees that these stamps are special editions and should be saved, not used for postage! Instead, they suggest that these scary stamps be kept in special folders and that "other mail-use stamps" are available to stick on letters and packages (such as all those sheets of 3c to 29c stamps issued over the past 50 years?).

How cruel is fate? Those unsold glorious Pacific 97 sheets were shredded into a multi-colored powder and now are buried in a philatelic landfill. How much space does 6,807,017 Pac 97 sheets take up as powder in a landfill? Did it become a "landFULL?"

Remember when dealers had a penny box? How about five stamps for a penny`? Someone who bid on a 11,000-pound hoard of Mutawakelite Kingdom of Yemen stamps issued between 1968-70, paid that much for the some 14 million stamps. If any stamps ever needed to be buried in a "sandfill," these are the ones!

Hold the wedding - stamps! The queen (Elizabeth of England) has delayed the issuance of stamps honoring the golden anniversary of her wedding to Prince Philip out of respect for the recent death of Princess Diana. But not the Isle of Man; they are issuing a set of four, along with the required souvenir sheet. Also being issued about the same time by the Isle of Man are four stamps honoring motorcycle racing. I'd buy these in a heartbeat if they combined the two issues: the queen roaring off in a cloud of dust on her Harley, leather jacket, shades and helmet, being chased by Prince Philip on his motorbike!

Meanwhile, the Royal Mail is threatening to burn the Diana stamps if the Spencer family doesn’t give approval for their release. Did Earl Spencer (Diana's brother) give the rest of the world's philatelic agencies the green light to issue all those tributes to his sister?

And finally, in response to a letter from the American Philatelic Society inquiring about stamp clubs in local schools, our Lake County Philatelic Society president phoned all of the area schools asking if they had a stamp club. Of those answering the phones, none even knew what the "philatelic" word meant. When told it meant "stamp collecting," they replied that their school had no such animal. In fact, in our area, there are NO school stamp clubs.

Philatelists, we have an image problem. Youngsters can't fit stamp collecting in with soccer, band, dance, etc., practices. What we need are stamp-collecting moms rather than soccer moms. •

Latest update: June 14, 2005 

URL:   http://www.WFSCstamps.org/wfsc_atfp_atfp_shaugh_1997.shtml