US Stamps

Will new U.S. Elvis stamp be a blockbuster?

May 1, 2021, 5 PM

Ever since that rainy night in Memphis - Jan. 8, 1993 - the United States Postal Service has been chasing a dream.

If it could just find another Elvis Presley to adorn one of its stamps, it could make millions of dollars.

Stamp officials have tried mightily to find another Elvis.

Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra and even Batman have been rolled out as the next "blockbuster" stamp. All failed to live up to the country’s premier rock 'n' roller.

Now postal officials seem to realize that Elvis is destined to be their stamp king forever.

Perhaps the forever stamp to be dedicated at Presley’s Graceland estate Aug. 12 will have the lure of the first Elvis stamp.

As one who sat through that first-day ceremony during a drenching thunderstorm 21 years ago, I long have been convinced that Elvis was as unique as a stamp as he was as an entertainer.

No one else could have generated tours of fans from England and South Africa who came to Tennessee just to see a stamp honoring their idol.

It was far more than the USPS could have expected. Presley fans from around the world flocked to Memphis for the midnight sales of his much-anticipated stamps on a hill outside the mansion.

And buy stamps they did — full sheets that were canceled with the first-day postmark.

I have attended many stamp ceremonies since than rainy night, but I have never seen anything to match the enthusiasm of those crowds in Memphis or the Presley birthplace of Tupelo, Miss., where busloads of fans traveled on the first day.

Elvis marked a turning point in U.S. stamp design, according to Terry McCaffrey, who then headed stamp design for the USPS.

Presley ushered in contemporary subjects for U.S. stamps.

Credit for that change should go to Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank, a California savings and loan executive, who had the public relations savvy to overrule his very conservative Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, and order Elvis onto a postage stamp.

The committee had rejected Presley, believing he hadn't met "the test of time," one CSAC member said.

Since 1994 there has been "a whole lot of shaking going on" in the U.S. stamp program, but not another Elvis.

On Aug. 12, there will be a second Elvis Presley stamp.

A blockbuster? We’ll see.