Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Jerry Stamp Update

From Star Tribune:

The politics of postage
Rob Hotakainen and Aaron Blake, Star Tribune Washington Bureau Correspondents
September 15, 2005

Joan Mondale says she's open to the idea of putting the late Jerry Garcia on a 37-cent stamp, but she makes one thing perfectly clear: "I am not a fan of the Grateful Dead."
Deadheads and other fans of the late Garcia, the driving force behind the San Francisco rock band, are promoting a plan to put his mug on a stamp as a way to memorialize him on the 10th anniversary of his death.

Such matters go before the Postmaster General's Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, which Mondale joined in April. A stamp collector as a child, she's now in search of the perfect stamps for America, which she calls "the nation's calling cards."

The proposed Garcia stamp is just one of 50,000 ideas that will be considered this year.
"It would be fine, because they're looking for contemporary subjects," said Mondale, the only Minnesotan to ever serve on the committee. "They want subjects that appeal to all generations, not just the old folks."

Mondale joined the 15-member committee after it had approved a Ronald Reagan stamp.
"That's probably good timing," joked her husband, former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was defeated by Reagan in the 1984 presidential race. He said he's very proud of his wife: "It's a fascinating assignment. She loves it, and she's working hard on it."

While she's open to the possibility of putting Garcia on a stamp, the public will never know how Mondale votes. The panel meets privately four times a year and its deliberations are kept secret.

Mondale said she's not even allowed to give examples of proposed stamps that she has liked or disliked. But she said there is much to consider, even to put a dog on a stamp.
"If you picked all big dogs, are you discriminating against little dogs?" she asked. "Do you like hounds rather than terriers? Would you consult the American Kennel Club? Et cetera, et cetera, and it goes on and on."

As for Garcia, Mondale said she had never heard of him.
"Is he dead?" she asked.

That's a good question for members of the advisory committee: Honorees must have been dead for at least 10 years to qualify, with the exception of presidents. But she said she likes the idea of getting more artists on stamps and vowed to "bring a little encouragement to have more artists considered."

When he appointed Mondale, Postmaster General John Potter cited her work on behalf of the arts, saying she'd bring "energy, great design and cultural relevance" to the stamp program. Mondale studied art at Macalester College in St. Paul and worked at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts before moving to Washington in 1964. In Washington, she became known as "Joan of Art" for her promotion of the nation's cultural life during the late 1970s.

Mondale, who lives near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, buys her stamps at nearby Burch Pharmacy, a drugstore at the corner of Hennepin and Franklin Avs. She said she prefers the larger commemorative stamps over the standard U.S. flag stamps because they're more powerful and more fun.

"I just think it's nice to suggest what's in the letter when I send an interesting stamp," said Mondale, whose next meetings will be in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 19-21.
There are many decisions to make. Photographs or portraits? Whole body or head shot? Booklets or flat sheets?

"We have lively discussions," she said. "We go over each suggestion."

Mondale said she doesn't get lobbied on individual stamps and is glad the public doesn't know her phone number. For her, the perfect stamp must be attractive, national in scope and have broad appeal.

"They reflect the American vision, American history, and American values and all those things that make us Americans," she said. "And they have to appeal to everybody."

The Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee was founded in 1957 with a mission to provide the Postal Service with a "breadth of judgment and depth of experience in various areas that influence subject matter, character and beauty of postage stamps." Its members serve up to three four-year terms.

Mondale is part of a diverse group that includes I. Michael Heyman, former secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Jean Picker Firstenberg, chief executive officer of the American Film Institute; Oscar-winning actor Karl Malden, and television sports commentator Richard (Digger) Phelps. Past members include CNN talk show host Larry King and another Oscar winner, Ernest Borgnine.

"It's an amazing process to watch the committee members sit down and debate," said David Failor, the Postal Service's executive director of stamp services. "There's always somebody willing to play devil's advocate, bringing up various sides of the discussion."

The committee recommends about 25 stamps annually to the postmaster general. The commemorative stamps represent about 2 percent of the 35 billion to 40 billion stamps sold nationwide every year.

When former Gophers football player Bronko Nagurski was honored with a stamp in 2003, he joined a growing group of subjects with Minnesota ties. Others include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Sinclair Lewis, Hubert H. Humphrey, Charles Lindbergh, Roger Maris and Roy Wilkins.
As for the Garcia petition effort, Failor said the committee is open to all kinds of different ideas.
"One of the great things about the committee is that there are no preconceived notions or ideas about people or places," Failor said. "They will have a strong, animated discussion, I'm sure, and you never quite know what the final result will be. But they don't shy away from controversy."
If nothing else, the Garcia stamp has precedent in its favor. Another controversial figure, Elvis Presley, remains the top-selling commemorative stamp of all time, with 500 million sold and $36 million in revenue retention from people keeping them as souvenirs.

Mike Rozman, a 37-year-old Grateful Dead fan from St. Louis Park, said he'll probably sign the online petition.

"The stamp would be a great tribute to a person whose music is loved by millions of people around the world," Rozman said. "I think this effort is a way for Jerry's fans to continue to show love and appreciation for his work."

But not every fan of Garcia is a fan of the petition. Brian Dyke, co-author of the four-volume "Deadhead's Taping Compendium," said he had mixed feelings and won't be signing it.
"It's unnecessary," said Dyke, 33, of Minneapolis. "Jerry Garcia has one of the most protected legacies of any person in rock and roll history, and having his face on a postage stamp is not going to be affecting that legacy one bit."

Your idea should:
• Be something American or American-related.
• Have widespread national appeal and meaning.
• Not be a fraternal, political, sectarian, commercial or charitable organization.
• Not be a city, town, municipality, county, primary or secondary school, hospital, library or similar institution.
• Not be a religious institution or individual whose achievements are mostly religious.
• Not have been on a stamp in the past 50 years, except traditional themes like national symbols and holidays.
If the subject of your idea is:
• A person, he or she must be dead at least 10 years.
• An event or state, it must honor the 50th, 100th, 150th, etc., anniversary.
• A higher education institution, it must honor its 200th anniversary.
You should submit your idea, in writing, to:
Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
1735 North Lynn St., Suite 5013
Arlington, VA 22209-6432
For more information, visit
Washington Bureau Correspondent Aaron Blake
The writers are at


Blogger Justin Kreutzmann said...

The Jerry stamp...interesting idea! I'm sure he'd be thrilled!! heh heh.

Monday, September 19, 2005  

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