Editorial: Livelier look for stamps

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2011

Which famous living North Carolinians do you consider most worthy of appearing on a U.S. postage stamp?
Evangelist Billy Graham? Former senator, presidential candidate and Salisbury native Elizabeth Dole? From the world of sports, what about Michael Jordan or Richard Petty? The poet Maya Angelou or actor Andy Griffith?
We could come up with a long list of Tar Heel candidates for the Post Office, which has relaxed its longstanding rule that a person must have been dead at least five years before appearing on a stamp. (An exception was former presidents, who traditionally were depicted on stamps in the year following their deaths). The Postal Service is soliciting suggestions from the public on potential stamp honorees.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says the change will allow the Postal Service to ěpay tribute to individuals … while they are still alive to enjoy the honor.î But itís obviously no coincidence the change comes as the institution struggles to rid itself of an $8 billion deficit as well as its musty ěsnail mailî image. Although the post office has lost about half its first-class mail to online bill paying and email, those who think the lick-and-stick institution has been left behind in the digital age, take note: You can make your stamp suggestions through Facebook , Twitter or a Postal Service website. And yes, you also can stick them in an envelope and have them delivered the conventional way.
The postal service ó or U.S. Post Office, as it was formerly known ó has issued commemorative stamps since 1893, and North Carolina has had its share, including issues celebrating Virginia Dare of Lost Colony fame (in 1937) and President Andrew Jackson (1938). Daniel Boone, Thomas Wolfe and the Wright Brothers have also received the stamp of history.
No surprise, the smart and digitally hip crowd wasted no time in spoofing the Postal Serviceís latest attempt to show its keeping abreast of the times. Comedian Stephen Colbert is campaigning to become the first living stamp honoree. His Comedy Central website suggests a ěFarewell to Postageî stamp, complete with a photo of Colbert golding up a smartphone that shows an email telling the Postal Service ěSee Ya!î
Actually, commemorative stamps may be one niche where the Postal Service is safe from digital interlopers. Itís hard to imagine collectors spending hours hunched over their computer tablets or iPhones, magnifying glasses in hand, meticulously arranging commemorative tweets.