Stamp of disapproval

By Larry A. Hicks The York Dispatch

I gave up stamp collecting as a teenager -- I think around 15 years of age. Now I wish I hadn't, but back then it seemed the thing to do.

Baseball and girls took the place of rainy-day hobbies, I guess.

These days, I buy stamps. And I use them. That's about it.

Beyond that, I have a less-than-passing interest in stamps. Unless I need one for the envelope I just addressed, I don't give stamps a moment's thought.

Until, that is, the phone rings at work and someone asks if she can have 10 minutes of my time. Sure, I say, and off she goes. I can hardly get a word in edgewise.

And I don't even know the caller's name, even though she calls with some frequency. Of course I ask, but she manages to avoid answering, sly fox that she is.

I'm guessing she doesn't want her name in the newspaper.

But on Monday, she was fired up. "This is the perfect example," she said, "of everything that is wrong with America today."

Wow, that covers a lot of territory, I said. Then off she went.

She'd been visiting with a friend, she said, and they somehow got to talking about the new Statue of Liberty "Forever" stamp. It was released on rolls in December and then again last week on 18-stamp sheets.

It's a "USA First-Class" stamp. Cost: 44 cents each.

And it's a beauty. At first glance, it's as perfect as a stamp needs to be for someone like me. I don't require a lot of perfection in my stamps. As long as they have enough stick-em on the back to keep them from falling off my envelopes, I'm happy.

But the caller was irate. She was angry because the United States Postal Service had made a huge mistake by using a likeness of the half-size Statue of Liberty that's been sitting in front of the New York New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for 14 years instead of the full-size Statue of Liberty that's been sitting on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor for 125 years.

As luck would have it, I've seen both of these statues in person. And both are fairly impressive, I must say.

Other than the size, there's not much difference between the two. But there are differences. And Statue of Liberty experts -- stamp experts, too, apparently -- noticed. And they announced the mistake in a stamp collectors' magazine for the whole world to see.

Someone in the USPS grabbed the wrong photograph, I guess. But since no one noticed, 2 billion stamps were printed. And they will be distributed. No stamps will be destroyed. No corrected stamps will be printed. Too costly.

Speaking of costly, it did cost $880 million to print those stamps. As you might expect, it costs just as much to print a mistake as it does to print the real thing. No one gets a discount for stamps printed in error.

So once again, taxpayers get whacked big time.

The USPS vows it will never happen again -- which is probably what it said all the other times it made mistakes with stamps over the years. Yet here we are, another mistake. And more to come, I'm sure.

Probably the most famous American stamp error is the Inverted Jenny -- the Jenny is an airplane shown flying upside down -- that was released in 1918. A lot of them were distributed and many have not been found. Extremely rare. One stamp would bring in the neighborhood of $1 million today.

Then there's the Dag Hammarskjold inverted 4-cent stamp, and the CIA inverted one-dollar stamp and the "Grand Canyon, Colorado" 60-cent Air Mail stamp about 11 years ago.
Nasty mistakes all.

But this Statue of Liberty stamp has my lady caller all a-twitter. The Statue of Liberty is too important, she says, to be disgraced this way. It shows how important decisions in this country are made without proper consideration. And then when people make mistakes, they don't want to correct them.

And after all, the Statue of Liberty stamp -- the stamp in error -- was mostly printed in the first place for stamp collectors. We already have several "Forever" stamps, so it wasn't like we needed another one for people who actually use stamps for mailing purposes. The one with the flag on it suits me just fine.

No, this one was mainly for collectors. And it cost a fortune -- by my standards. They should have taken the time to get it right. You know -- pride in a job done well.

More than anything, the lady caller said, it's an indication of the sloppy work done by our federal government. It's careless. It makes mistakes and doesn't fix them.

"Think of what the Statue of Liberty -- the real one -- means," she said. You know, providing sanctuary to those fleeing oppression and giving them a chance at freedom. "And we can't even get the right one on an American stamp."

Like I said, the caller was disgusted.

To her, it was the principle of the thing.