This page includes Shaughnessy Takes On... columns from the 2000 issues of Across the Fence Post.
The 2000 U.S. Postal Service stamp program
By Howard Shaugnessy. Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society
"Two thousand" refers to either the amount of postal paper or how much money we collectors need to come up with in order to purchase all the offerings.
"Neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night but let there be greed" seems to be the new USPS motto. How else does one explain the $3.20 submarine stamp or the $11.75 space achievement stamp, among others? It might be cheaper to go to Subway Sandwich for a 6-footer sub. Would make your stamp album a bit lumpy, however.
Actually the Space Achievement "Toit" issue is long overdue - I congratulate the USPS for getting a round "toit," even though the view from space is not of North America.
From outer space nebulae and galaxies to underwater creatures, that certainly covers the spectrum. Five designs taken from the Hubble space telescope look to me like out-of-focus prints from my last Christmas party. The images don't seem to excite old Edwin himself as he calmly smokes his pipe. Did you know that he was a Rhodes scholar, a lawyer, and chucked it all for heavenly bodies?
Diving deep into the sea we find next year's yucky creatures hard on the heels of the Insects and Spiders. Hope they are self-adhesives as who wants to sample sushi that bites back.
Rank has its privileges so Alvin York and Audie Murphy are under general Hines and Bradley on the block of four honoring these warriors of two wars.
One of the finest series is continued honoring Thomas Wolfe, the novelist who passed on too early. This one is the 17th in the series. Wake me up when they get to Dr. Seuss.
Having youngsters design stamps is a great idea so Stampin' The Future is the ideal one to ratchet up young collectors. I thought the Adoption stamp was part of that series - shades of Kadinsky, the surrealist painter!
When you think of the Library of Congress, you think about books and periodicals, right?
So, what is depicted on the stamp honoring this institution - the ceiling. Who designed this stamp, Michelangelo?
We haven't seen enough flags over the years and now we're getting 20 more ...or less as the designs are changing as I write. This Stars and Stripes sheet should turn out to be the most popular of all the 2000 emissions.
I have hopes that Congress will ratify the SALT Treaty so we can get a stamp for it to go along with Claude PEPPER. Should that happen, we'd never KETCHUP with all-the issues! •
February issue No column this issue
By Howard Shaughnessy Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society
"USPS lost millions selling foreign postage stamps" reads a front-page headline in Linn's. Golly, guys, if you'd just show me where, I'd help you look for it.
So ends a three-year experiment with the loss of almost $4 million and no one is happier about it than James A. Helzer, who as president of Unicover Corp., sells foreign new issues through his firm. With the USPS pulling out as competition, well you know a piece of that foreign pie will be his. Wonder whose budget this is going to come out of.
Printed postal permits now have a colorful look as full-color adhesive labels replace the drab and dull "U.S. Postage Paid, Permit No., Your Town and Zip." Qwikinfo, a Vermont mail-order firm, initiated the idea on January 14 with four colorful flower blossom labels. Next, of course, will be scented labels, be-cause, of course, mail is scented.
Had good luck so far this year? Might be because this is the Year of the Dragon and in Chinese culture the dragon is lucky (unless you are a pretty damsel). This year is 4698 (marked down from 4700) in the lunisolar calendar. The nice thing about this calendar is that it was not susceptible to Y2K, but then neither was our calendar.
Linn's is in the midst of tabulating votes for the 1999 U.S. Stamp Popularity Poll. My vote for the best of the bunch (and there were a bunch) is the Sonoran Desert sheet. The only stamp that sold out, however, is the Hospice Care issue. As for the worst, get in line. Probably Xtreme Sports or Ayn Rand, but Insects and Spiders get my vote as the yuckiest!
Almost 138 million of them have been sold but the Breast Cancer Research semipostal is creating flak as to why some of the earmarked funds aren't being used to look into possible environmental causes of the disease. It's serious enough that a group of Marin County Californians (which has one of the highest rate of this disease) is asking for Congressional hearings on the matter. How far is this going to get in this highly charged political climate?
"Smart envelopes" are now here. Made from highly intelligent paper with the capability to transmit information electronically, these envelopes are now available as souvenirs from the National Postal Museum in Washington at the going rate of five bucks each. Figures... these envelopes are smarter than some politicians as these envelopes are smart enough to keep their flaps shut.
Many of those who attended the first-day ceremony of the 60C Grand Canyon stamp were in Colorado instead of Arizona. Turns out these folks were all employees of the USPS.
Those who collect airmail stamps were indeed astonished that the FIP (International Federation of Philately) has reclassified the name from aerophilately to "atmospheric flights." The reaction from FISA (International Federation of Aerophilatelic Societies) was not surprising, calling it "tasteless idiocy." Could mean that Scott may change this category from "C" to "TI" listings rather than "AF."
Is the future of philately having your own image on postal paper? Australia has issued a sheet of stamps depicting 27 of their "ordinary" citizens. Might be a good idea for the USPS. With our some 250 million people and the ambitious USPS programs, that might work out to one issue per person. And we thought too many stamps were issued last year. •
By Howard Shaughnessy Lake County CIL Philatelic Society
Fresh from their success with the Celebrate the Century series, I thought it might be fun to speculate what the U.S. Postal Service might have in mind for postal paper for the year 2001 and beyond.
Most obvious would be to issue stamps honoring the movie "2001," the watershed special-effects space film. Since no living American can be honored on a stamp, Keir Dullea is out, the apes are in.
More likely, and more popular, would be a reissue of the 1901 Pan-American stamps in souvenir sheet format, in full color, as well as imperforate, self-adhesive and dated 2001. We certainly would not want to confuse the two issues! One small problem, the face value of the entire set falls short of even today's first-class rate, so we need to add the inverted center varieties and hope that with these additional values, the rate is satisfied.
The 2004-year could be a great one, being the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase issue. For the updated version, we could expand it as a series encompassing Lewis and Clark's voyage of discovery of this territory. Let's consider separate sheets of stamps depicting the various Indian tribes that lived there, the natural wonders (animal, plant, and bird life), and the spectacular views not known at that time to "back-East" Americans. The stamps, being of topical nature, would be a bonanza for the USPS coffers.
What surprises might the year 2018 have in store? Since it is the centennial of our first series of airmail stamps, the Jenny could fly once more in the form of a small souvenir sheet depicting the set of four. Of course, the invert would be part of it, giving collectors a second chance (albeit a century late) of acquiring a copy of this most recognized and sought-after error, and with the same approach as the 2001 Pan-Am sheet (imperf, self-adhesive and dated). But, will it make the first-class rate?
Unfortunately for many of my readers, as well as myself, we may not be around to put these into our albums or on our Web sites or wherever stamps are displayed in the future. I thought it interesting to dream, though.
Presidential candidates: Any stamp collectors in this group? Or, do they just want their portraits on future Presidents series? Maybe there should be a stamp collector in the Oval Office - might help whoever is there to learn the names of the presidents of the various countries.
American heroes: Now that Audie Murphy finally gets to have his face postmarked with his own stamp, isn't it time to honor Charles Augustus Lindbergh? True, his Spirit of St. Louis is honored as the "Lindbergh" airmail issue of 1927, and he is depicted (but not named) on the National Postal Museum stamp of 1993. Lindbergh, however, has never really been honored for himself.
Stamps are issued for two of John Glenn's space flights, yet the man is all but ignored. What of the rest of the original astronauts? Aren't they all worthy as American heroes? Do I sense a postal series in this?
In the meantime our Canadian neighbors are issuing a souvenir sheet for four of their living hockey "legends," and the many second- and third-tier postal administrations have used past and present Americans as subject matters on their issues.
Will our USPS honor "Peanuts" creator, Charles Schulz, before being grabbed off by the stans blox of postal administrations? You make that call.
Although I usually take the USPS to task for their foibles, whoever came up with the idea of "Stamps Everywhere" deserves a raise. We can now purchase stamps just about everywhere and not just Flag Over... definitives, but commems as well. Yes, stamps everywhere. My wife has been chiding me about this for years. Yours, too? •
May/June issue No column this issue
.July/August issue No column this issue
By Howard Shaughnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society
Noble Americans would be a good moniker for the new definitive series (I hope that those depicted in this series would be noble), and since the artist who designed the first two subjects, Claude Pepper and "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, is noted for his art style on the Barnes & Noble bookstore posters, the tie-in is appropriate. Hopefully down the road some of the folks in this series will have won a Nobel prize making the name definitive.
So they had a stamp show and nobody came. World Stamp Expo ran forever (or so it seemed to some dealers away from the few attendees) in Anaheim, CA, during July and the results were less than hoped for, a lot less. Will this convince the U.S. Postal Service that such shows are not in the interests of stamp collectors? Nah. As I write they are making plans for a 2005 international show - probably dreaming of more and higher face value souvenir sheets with fancy cutouts, holograms and in a variety of formats. Looks as if the last international I will have attended was AMERIPEX '86 held in Rosemont, IL.
The American Philatelic Society bills "The Stamp Store of the Future" as it - circuit books are passe; now APS members can sell their holdings online at APS Internet Sales:
www. stampstore. com
They seem to have it all figured out. You just send your stamps to APS and they do the rest. Just wait for them to send you their check that will come through the mail stream.
Since the USPS is looking for ways to cut their costs and help their bottom line, why don't they take a page from some of the other countries (e.g. Sweden) that issue stamps without a value but are valid for the first-class postage rate. If the rate goes up ... correction, when the rate goes up, there is no need to issue new stamps; these same ones are valid for the new rate and are sold at that rate. I suppose one could buy up tons of these issues anticipating the eventual rise in postage rates; however, not really cost effective.
After the slew of new stamps issued through July, August offers only the Joe Stilwell, requiring three of them plus another 3^er to make the current first-class rate. Old Joe deserves better as he was a first-class soldier. Having served in the CBI (China, Burma, India) sector during the war where Stilwell slogged it out, I gained respect for him first hand.
With so many worthy subjects not yet depicted on postal paper, why does the USPS need another stamp depicting Lncille Ball as "the Legend for 2001" in their salute to Hollywood series? Lucy was really better known as a TV actress rather than one who made her name in motion pictures.
Finally, I read that one cannot soak those new hologram stamps - only fitting, as they have already soaked the collector who purchased them. •
October issue No column this issue
By Howard Shaughnessy, Lake County (IL) Philatelic Society
"I still don't think we issue too many stamps." These wisdom words came from James Tolbert, executive director of the U.S. Postal Service, when reps from the USPS and philatelic journalists discussed this problem at a meeting held at STAMPSHOW 2000.
Gee, I never thought too many stamps are being issued as I see so few used on incoming mail. Guess "going postal" may not be a myth after all.
Later, during this same discussion, word was issued that by the year 2005 or when the Scott catalogs burst their bindings, there may be fewer new issues, whichever comes first. No sooner said then the USPS lets us know there may be another 50-state sheet, this time featuring the capitol buildings. What next? The 50 state governors?
The Aussie Post breathed a gigantic sigh of relief when none of their gold medal winners in the recent Olympics tested positive for "banned substances." If Andreea Raducan, the Romanian gymnast who won the all-around gymnastic gold before having it taken back by the Olympic Pooh-Bahs, were Australian, the Aussie Post would have had her image on stamps the next day for public sale ...and then would have had to withdraw them. As kids we called that "Indian giver." Today it's "Aborigine giver."
Since the United States doesn't depict living individuals on stamps, I would have thought that the new series the USPS calls "Distinguished Americans" might be termed "Extinguished Americans."
Hey, USPS hierarchy, it was tongue-in-cheek when some time back [Editor's note: See ATFP, April 2000, "Shaughnessy Takes On..."] I put forth the idea that they reissue the Pan-Am inverts as long as they were reissuing Columbians, Trans-Mississippis, etc. Was I surprised to learn that they really are going to do it! Now, if we find one or more sheets of this issue incorrectly printed, that is, with the center image not inverted, which is the error? Will there be a debate as to whether the frame is inverted and the center correct or vice versa? Why do you folks make philately so complicated?
No Christmas or holiday stamps for this year? No, just the Deer postal cards, which debuted in Rudolph, WI, where for one day red noses were proper attire.
Guess it is time to resurrect the old joke now that Federal Express and the USPS are discussing some sort of delivery deal. It will be called, what else? FedUp.
One of the 2001 USPS issues will be unveiled at the Mall of America, a stamp honoring the late cartoonist, Charles Schulz, with the image of "Snoopy," the beloved beagle of the comic strip. If the letter rate is increased before the issue comes out, it's no longer peanuts to mail a letter.
Since October was National Stamp Collecting Month did you take a postmaster to lunch or better yet, were you his/her guest?
Best holiday wishes.
December issue No column this issue
Latest update: June 14, 2005