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The Stamps Some Love to Hate


The possibility to vote for the best stamp of 2011, offered by the USPS, brings to mind some unpopular stamps that were issued here in the states in earlier days.

The George Washington 5 cent stamp from the Prominent Americans series was so disliked that they took it back to the drawing board to clean up George's messy face.

Much earlier, Washington and Benjamin Franklin stamps, as part of the 1869 series, proved to be disliked by the American public and met the fate of being pulled after only a year of grudging use on the mail of those who cared about such things.

In terms of collecting areas of stamps that fell out of favor, airmail stamps are near the top of the list. The thrills of following aviators, some of whom, like Amelia Earhart, collected stamps, and personalities like Will Rogers, who once gained a place on a flight that prohibited passengers by covering himself with stamps and traveling as a parcel, are long gone.

Stamps Unpopular via Religion, Politics, Philosophies

Of course after 9/11 the EID Islamic celebration stamp was protested by many who didn't feel it was proper after the tragedy perpetrated by people who were seen to represent the stamp's subject. But the USPS stuck to its decision and the stamp remained on sale.

Many stamps are objected to on philosophic or political reasons. The perceived connection to Communism or other unpopular ideologies by the stamp's subject can stir up the philatelic waters. This was true of the Paul Robeson stamp of 2004, part of the Black Heritage series.

Stamps featuring controversial personalities will always meet with some resistance from certain quarters. James Dean, Frida Kahlo, Ayn Rand, Jack London, and others all had to clear hurdles of protest, though their ultimate appearance on a stamp showed that clear them they did.

High Values Unpopular with Early Collectors

Ironically, one of today's most sought after sets of stamps, the Columbian issue of 1893 drew howls of protest from collectors who were outraged that they had to spend $16.34 to acquire the set for their U.S. stamp collections. But if they had and put them away for the future, their ancestors would be in possession of a set of stamps with a value of about $10,000.

The Graf Zeppelin airmail stamps of the 30's may be unpopular with those who bought them during the speculator fueled hysteria of the 70s and 80s when sets of the stamp were going for as much as $10,000, a price that seems absurd now that the market has long settled down to prices in the $1,500 to $3,000 range, depending upon condition.

Unpopular Messages and Sizes

Other unpopular stamps, of a more recent vintage include the 70's "Alcohol: You Can Beat It," a message that recipients of mail found rather unnerving.

Size is also a consideration. Size mattered to both mailers and collectors when the USPS tried to save money on paper with the small indian head penny stamp of the 70's and the Dolly Madison stamp of the 80s. Lack of sales and interest forced the USPS to go back to normal sized stamps.

Self-Stick Stamps

Not everyone is a fan of the recent self-stick stamps. Reasons are many, including the difficulty in getting them off envelopes to collect in used condition. Collectors of classic stamps also object to their sticker-like appearance and question why the days of stamps with fine engraving can't continue.

Perhaps the most hated self-stick is one of the earliest -- the experimental Christmas stamp of 1974. Collectors watched in horror as over the years they turned brown and unsightly, their value becoming nil as chemicals all but destroyed them. Knowledgeable collectors caught on early and divested these self-destructive stamps of their gum, though the casual collector who put them in their albums and forgot them had a rude awakening when they finally saw what had happened to their investment.

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