Market landscape appears to be changing for personalized postage providers
By Michael Baadke
It looks like personalized postage is no longer available from the online retail platform Zazzle.com, which offers a wide range of personalized gifts and custom decor. It is uncertain if the change is temporary or permanent. In response to an inquiry from Linn’s about the change, Zazzle representatives replied, “We are unable to comment at this time.”
“Postage” was not listed on the Zazzle.com site map in early June.
A United States Postal Service spokesman told Linn’s he was unaware of changes in the general status of personalized postage.
In the Jan. 22 Linn’s, Washington Correspondent Bill McAllister reported concerns expressed about revised Postal Service rules restricting the subjects allowed on personalized postage.
Personalized postage options in the United States emerged in 2004 with mail tests of what were originally called “PhotoStamps,” a product of California-based Stamps.com.
Images of individuals, pets, business logos and more could be uploaded to postage websites to create labels that are valid for postage, but which the U.S. Postal Service eventually determined are not stamps by the agency’s definition.
Personalized postage was created with USPS blessing, as long as it was referred to as “postage” and not as “stamps.”
Endicia.com developed its “PictureItPostage” in 2005, and Zazzle.com entered the market around the same time in association with Pitney Bowes, the longtime postage-meter supplier.
Yourstamps.com offered postage options for a period beginning in 2006.
Despite restrictions on creating postage from copyrighted images or depicting potentially offensive subjects, customers occasionally submitted images that slipped through. For example, an order for postage bearing a baby picture of Adolf Hitler was fulfilled for one user.
The rules governing what could appear on the postage expanded over the years, with political themes and other controversial subjects prohibited.
Agreements with commercial entities and independent designers allowed companies like Zazzle to offer postage with images different from those found on regularly issued U.S. stamps, including popular licensed characters and other designs.
As of early June, the Postal Service (somewhat surprisingly using the phrase “Create Custom Stamps”) acknowledges two postage vendors.
However, the individual links for PictureItPostage and PhotoStamps both connect to the Stamps.com
PhotoStamps site, which offers an array of prepared designs and also allows personal images to be uploaded.
The Stamps.com site includes a 300-word notice regarding content restrictions.
Based on the frames and other design considerations — but not the personalized images — the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers created a personalized postage listing in its 2006 edition. The labels were arranged under the names of the various postage manufacturers, all with the prefix 2CVP.
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The listings continued for just three years. A later listing for non-personalizable postage included the notice that “Personalized postage stamps, first available in 2004, created by a variety of different companies, and heretofore listed with Scott numbers having a 2CVP prefix, are no longer listed.”
Reasons given for discontinuing the listings included the potential for a fast-growing selection of unrestricted varieties, and the fact that the postage was sold “at a significant premium above the stated face value to cover the costs of personalization, shipping and handling.”
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