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U.S. Stamp Czar Speaks - Part 2

In the February 24, 2003 issue of Stamp Collector Dave Failor, the Executive Director of the U.S. Postal Service's Stamp Services, told what he hoped to achieve in his first year at this new position. On April 30, 2004, VSC staff reporter Jay Bigalke interviewed Failor to see how he'd done and what else was happening.

This is the second part of what Jay learned. A version of it appeared in
Stamp Collector before its demise.

"It's one heck of a learning process and I have a lot of learning yet to do I think," said USPS stamp czar Dave Failor. "Not being a real avid stamp collector there are just so many ins and outs, as you know. There are so many different ways you can go in the stamp collecting world that to try and learn it all is rather difficult."

"For us in Stamp Services, it's not necessarily about trying to figure out what it is that the stamp collector wants," Failor said. "We seem to be more successful when we just kind of stick to the basics, which are good design, good production, subject matter, things that are of interest to people.

"And if we do it well ... people seem to appreciate it. And from a collector's point of view, they seem to appreciate it better, too. The better the product, the better the quality, the more apt they are to like it. So we don't necessarily sit here thinking about 'are the collectors going to collect this, are they going to collect this?' We just try to stick to the basics."

Last time Failor explained that he had made trips to Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City to see the operations there and also to Boystown, Nebraska. I asked what other items, like visiting philatelic centers, or other items did you get to visit and observe in the last year?

"In my travels I'll pop into a post office every once in awhile. When I've popped in, I haven't popped into one that has had a philatelic center. But I'll stop in every now and then and talk to a clerk. 'What are people buying as far as stamps?' I hear a lot about 'pretty stamps' and 'customers like this' or 'they don't like this.' But I must say, though, as a general rule, they seem to be pretty positive about the stamp program this year."

"I've been trying to go to more of the shows and spend a little bit more time there and try and walk around there." Failor explained that he has plans to attend the ASDA show, the APS show, Americover, and the Mega-Event this year. He stated that he doesn't get to do enough, but would like to do more. He also explained he feels his relationship with the American Philatelic Society is strong. He told me, "You know a lot of it is about building relationships. They just seem to be getting stronger and stronger."

The number of stamps issued every year seems to be a concern of collectors. I asked how this year's program compares to last year's. Failor stated that last year's stamp program was dramatically smaller than 2002, which he attributed to not having a sheet of 50 in the program.

"We look more at the number of subjects that we do in comparison to the number of stamps," he said. "Not everyone agrees with that accounting method, but when you get the number of suggestions and ideas that come to us from the American public, trying to whittle it down to 25 to 30 is doing pretty good. And that is still kind of our target, 25-30."

He indicated that there were 28 subjects issued in 2003 and 31 subjects planned for 2004.

Stamp Printers

As reported in The Virtual Stamp Club message board, the Banknote Corporation of America was listed along with Sennett Security Products as the printer of the single design of the Lewis and Clark stamp. Failor briefly explained that Sennett, "one of our three vendors ... purchased Banknote Corporation of America and these [the Lewis and Clark single design] were printed by Sennett at the facility that they now own that [had been] Banknote."

With the number of varieties of definitive stamps on the increase, I had asked Failor to explain how the USPS defines a variety.

"Varieties is always a big issue, and of course with the contract, a lot of the definitives that might have been printed by one of the printers who didn't get in on the new contract. We've got to have those stamps and it then creates a variety. Folks will be mad at me for saying this, but, the Snowy Egret when we reprint it in the same format we don't consider that a variety. The collecting world does. And so there's always back and forth about collectors who want to have every one of the varieties and I don't know if we're ever going to solve that problem."

"For us a variety is a format change, that was in a gummed coil, now it's in a self-adhesive coil." This explanation is consistent with the policy that was implemented after the Purple Heart reprint stamp received a first day of issue postmark last year. The current policy states if there is a new format it will receive a first day. Failor emphasized the importance that they have placed on remaining consistent with this policy.

I asked for an update on the status of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing printing stamps and was told that "They are still printing coils of 100 for us and are scheduled thru 2005 and after that they will no longer be doing stamps for us. They have done a great job for us over the years, but, the way the industry and everything has changed, our reliance is now on the private sector."

Security Features On Stamps

There has been an increased interest in security features on stamps. I asked for an update and was told that "We're investigating a lot of things." He stated that they were items that were in the early stages of development and he couldn't discuss specifics. He explained that "microprinting is still an important safety feature, tagging, and scrambled indicia" are key security features right now and added that the scrambled image is mainly for high value stamps. As for a timeline, Failor said "We're looking at some other things that are not going to be in any of the 2004 issues, and probably not 2005, but maybe after 2005 there might be some other added features that we'd like to be able to rely on. We're looking at our printers and the industry to help us with some of that."

For the 2004 stamp program, the Air Force Academy stamp and the World War II Memorial stamp will have a scrambled image.

I had asked about the possibility of a new 37 Flag design and was told that "Yes, we're looking at a lot of different flag designs. Whether or not there will be a new one next year or in 2006 we're still looking at. A lot of it depends on our current inventory, or if there's going to be a rate case in 2006."

In 2002 the Holiday Snowmen stamps were issued in a linerless coil of 100. I had asked if any more stamps are planned for this format and was told, "they weren't that popular with customers. For what it cost for us to manufacture and distribute them, it just didn't seem like they caught on really that well. So there are no plans to do any linerless coils." This is good news for collectors as this format is difficult to store in mint condition.

The next question addressed a possibility of stamps for the oversized surcharge rate; which would lead to issuing 49 and 12 stamps. Failor stated that "We're talking about it. Up to this point, we haven't felt that there was enough demand, but we have talked with some of the card manufacturers and there seems to be an interest by them or they seem to indicate that this seems to be a trend that their customers like. We're looking at it, if and when we do it is not on the schedule right now...but it is something that we are considering."

For Part I of Jay's interview, click here.

Jay Bigalke

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