The 2010 collection of the U.S. Postal Service’s collection of stamps included more than 50 commemorative stamps covering 23 subjects. These ranged from honoring cowboys of the silver screen and film star Katharine Hepburn to recognizing the achievements of distinguished sailors and the remarkable athletes who played Negro Leagues baseball.
But just who suggests, and finally decides, what subjects and images will be portrayed on these miniature works of art?
For almost all stamp subjects, the process begins with the public. Americans each year submit up to 50,000 written proposals on literally thousands of different topics to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. This method allows everyone the same opportunity to suggest a new stamp subject. Each suggestion receives equal consideration, regardless of who makes it or how it is presented—by letter, post card, or petition.
Committee members evaluate the merits of all proposals that comply with the selection standards and guidelines. These include general policies that postage stamps primarily feature American or American-related subjects; that no living person be portrayed on U.S. postage; that only events, persons and themes of widespread national appeal and significance will be considered; and that no stamp shall be considered if one treating the same subject has been issued in the past 50 years.
The committee is composed of a maximum of 15 members who meet four times yearly to review all eligible proposals. Committee members are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the Postmaster General who ultimately approves the subjects and designs for all U.S. postage stamps.
In addition to recommending new subjects for commemorative stamps, the committee also suggests subjects for the extensive line of regular stamps. These selections, similar to those for commemoratives, take into consideration the interest of stamp collectors, the general public, and the need for subjects that will stand the test of time.
Customers have 90 days from the official first day of issuance date to obtain first day of sale postmarks on new stamps and stationery items. Collectors may request a local first day of sale postmark by mail only. There is no charge for servicing of first day of sale postmarks up to 50 covers. Mail-in customers must supply a self-addressed envelope with sufficient return postage applied to return the serviced covers.