USPS still considering shuttering dozens of offices
A few months ago I wrote about the United States Postal Service’s study of more than 700 post offices that could be closed in an effort to cut costs. That number has now been pruned to 241, and further changes to the list of offices under review [PDF] are not out of the question.
Closing a post office branch is tricky business since there will invariably be people who regularly use that branch who don’t want to have to go elsewhere. You have to figure some of the offices on the original list are not on the updated list because someone complained to their representative in Congress.
At the same time, the USPS ended fiscal year 2009 with a $3.8 billion loss. The really scary part? Officials are predicting a $7.8 billion loss next year. The USPS recently explained the reasons for all the red ink.
With its financial problems, the USPS might seem like a prime candidate for bankruptcy. The agency does have close ties to the federal government, however, and employs 650,000 Americans. With that sort of impact on the economy, is it possible the feds might consider it “too big to fail”?
Last month I made a trip to Wisconsin, and while browsing in a thrift store I found an old stamp album. All the stamps had been removed, but the album did contain a folded sheet of 48 poster stamps, or cinderellas as they’re known in the stamp collecting world, honoring U.S. states.
These were apparently produced before 1959 since that’s the year Alaska and Hawaii achieved statehood. Based on the population figures printed on the stamps, and historical census data, I think 1930s or 1940s is a reasonable guess.
The stamps are printed in four different colors: green, brown, blue, and red. On the back of each stamp is printed the phrase, “Compliments of The House of Seagram.” The front of each stamp includes the phrase “America’s Finest,” a state’s name and a picture of its capitol building, and the state’s population.
I don’t know what the story is behind these poster stamps, but they’re a nice looking set!
What are they worth?
I saw a sheet of these sold last year for the equivalent of about US$40. Unfortunately the sheet I found has some creases and wrinkles and lacks selvage (the paper around the edges of a sheet of stamps) and probably wouldn’t be worth quite that much, but it’s still an interesting piece.
Have you seen these poster stamps before? Can you add any details about when or why they were produced?
For the first time since 2005, annual postage rate adjustments are not affecting the price of a first-class U.S. postage stamp.
The USPS announced last week that the domestic letter rate in 2010 will remain at 44¢ for the first ounce and 17¢ for each additional ounce. The base rate had increased each of the last four years.
International letter rates will also remain the same: 75¢ to Canada, 79¢ to Mexico, and 98¢ everywhere else.
If you use Express Mail flat rate envelopes, the news isn’t good, with prices going from $17.50 to $18.30. Priority Mail flat rate envelopes, however, will actually become 5¢ less expensive to mail, with that rate dropping from $4.95 to $4.90.
There’s no official word yet, but I would expect to see new Express and Priority Mail stamps. The current $4.95 Priority Mail stamp might stick around, too, however, since it will continue to cover the cost of mailing a small Priority Mail flat rate box.
Stamp collecting forum offers great info, but acidic personalities too
You’ll find plenty of bulletin boards on the Internet that are dedicated to stamp collecting, but it takes a lot of participants to keep a forum alive and well. Stampboards.com has achieved that critical mass.
Operated by Australian stamp dealer Glen Stephens, Stampboards at last count has several thousand registered users from some 80 different countries.
With members from so many different countries, many of whom have years if not decades of experience, it’s hard to find anything even remotely related to stamp collecting that they can’t identify. I’ve seen a number of obscure cinderellas identified on the forum, information not available elsewhere on the Internet.
Several of the regular participants also have highly specialized collections, and can identify the plates or printings of early British or Australian stamps, identifying scarce varieties of otherwise common items. This sort of information is typically available only in expensive and hard-to-find reference books, but you get it for free on Stampboards.
Even though Stampboards has members from so many different countries, many of the registered members live in Australia, and the forum tends to be very Australia-centric. That doesn’t mean you can’t get help with stamps from other countries, just that you’re likely to get more information more quickly if your stamps are Australian stamps.
As is the case with many Internet forums, seemingly simple questions tend to blow up into extended arguments over issues that really don’t matter. Such debates would be better taken offline—or at least off Stampboards—to make it easier to find information there. Unfortunately, the moderators seem to be just as quick to jump into knockdown, drag-out arguments as anyone else.
In addition, some of the moderators seem to be prone to verbally boxing individuals about the ears if they ask questions without posting scans of the stamps about which they’re asking. One of the forum’s rules is that you post scans so people can see the item in question, but new members could probably be treated a bit more gently if they miss that bit of information.
If you have thin skin or a short temper, you may want to steer clear of Stampboards. On the other hand, I recommend joining Stampboards if you don't mind an occasional tussle in the online mud. You’ll learn a great deal by reading existing posts, and you just might be able to help someone else answer a question about his or her own collection. That’s an excellent way to give back to the hobby.
Have you participated in other online forums? How do you think Stampboards stacks up against the competition?