US Stamps

By John M. Hotchner

U.S. Stamp Notes: Poorly produced 1981 postal cards stirred collector ire

April 23, 2015 01:01 PM

  • Robert Morris is honored on this 1981 postal card, a poorly printed product that led to collector protests. The card is addressed to William Bauer, president of the American Philatelic Society at that time.

  • The 6¢ Paul Revere card of 1971 was the first in a series of single-color postal cards honoring patriots of the American Revolution.

  • The 14¢ George Wythe postal card in 1985 (Scott UX108) was issued in 1985, continuing the series of postal cards honoring patriots.

  • The cartoon caption contest for May is this 42¢ Abraham Lincoln as President stamp from a 2009 block of four honoring his 200th birth anniversary. Put yourself under his stovepipe hat and share what he might be thinking or saying about his view of the United States today, the stamp hobby, or anything else that strikes you. The rules to enter the contest are in the accompanying article. Entries must be received by e-mail or at Linn’s by May 25 for a chance to win a prize.

We don’t see much in the way of organized protests in philately. More likely are individual complaints that can reach a volume level and consistency that compel some degree of attention from the presumed offender.

But there is the occasional organized protest. Such was the case when the Robert Morris postal card was issued in 1981 (Scott UX92). This nondenominated “domestic rate” postal card is part of a series featuring patriots of the American Revolution. Each card includes the word “patriot” at upper right.

A total of 150 million nondenominated Morris post cards were produced, followed by 1.2 billion of the Morris design issued as a 13¢ postal card (UX93).

The print quality on these cards ran from poor to barely adequate; and the color chosen, a sickly orange, did not contribute to the attractiveness.

Some collectors decided a protest was in order, and Morris cards were prepared for that purpose. On the front they bear the message, “This postcard is the [sic] another example of the extremely poor, primitive method of printing postal materials by USPS.”

This was not entirely accurate, as the printing was done by the U.S. Government Printing Office to Postal Service specifications. And there can be little doubt that one major object was cost containment.

The card shown nearby is addressed to Bill Bauer, who was at that time the president of the American Philatelic Society.

The message on the back reads, “Dear Mr. President: If you wish to change this situation and do something to improve the quality of US stamps, please send this postcard with your comments to Post Master General.”

How many people sent cards to Bauer or other people in office I don’t know.

What I do know is that the Morris card was not appreciably worse than its predecessors in the series, all with the same basic design style and print quality:

The series started in 1971 with a 6¢ Paul Revere postal card (Scott UX58), followed by a 6¢ John Hanson in 1972 (UX64), 8¢ Samuel Adams in 1973 (UX66), 7¢ Charles Thomson and 9¢ John Witherspoon in 1975 (UX68-UX69), 9¢ Caesar Rodney in 1976 (UX70), 9¢ Nathan Hale in 1977 (UX72), a domestic-rate and 10¢ John Hancock in 1978 (UX74-UX75) and 12¢ Isaiah Thomas in 1981 (UX28).

If the Morris postal cards were the straw that broke the camels back, it can be said that only two additional similar designs were released: domestic-rate and 14¢ Charles Carroll postal cards and 14¢ George Wythe postal cards in 1985 (Scott UX105-UX106 and UX108).

All of these were produced by the Government Printing Office on a web-fed rotary press using letter press.

Other contemporaneous postal cards were produced by the Government Printing Office on a multicolor offset press. These cards are much more attractive and much more consistent in card stock, ink color, and quality.

I have to believe that the Government Printing Office, which has always prided itself on high quality work, must have been embarrassed by the single- color letterpress products.

Cartoon Contest

The year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. There is endless speculation as to how the post Civil War period might have been different had Lincoln been able to complete his second term.

As with all politicians, he was not universally loved, but a case can be made that even many of his enemies respected his intellect, his homespun wisdom and his principled actions on behalf of the fractured nation.

What would Lincoln think about the United States today? It is a serious question, but one that his fabled sense of humor might deal with in a less than ponderous manner.

The May cartoon caption contest stamp is the 42¢ Lincoln as President stamp (Scott 4383) from the 2009 Lincoln issue.

Put yourself under the stovepipe hat he often wore and tell me what you think he might be saying if he could view the state of the nation today.

You also can address the state of philately, historical events during the years since 1865, how Lincoln has become an icon of presidential greatness, or anything else that appeals to you about life in these United States.

The important thing is to use your sense of humor, because entries with a humorous twist have the best chance of winning a prize.

Put your entry (or entries) on a postcard if possible and send it to me, John Hotchner, Cartoon Contest, care of Linn’s Editor, Box 4129, Sidney, OH 45365; or e-mail it to jmhstamp@verizon.net. Be sure to include your mailing address.

For each winner, the prize will be the book Linn’s Stamp Identifier, published by Linn’s (a retail value of $12.99), or a 13-week subscription to Linn’s (a new subscription or an extension). To be considered for a prize, entries must reach Linn’s no later than May 25.

Why not enter now while you’re thinking about it?

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