USPS releases Harry Potter stamps, angers collectors

The United States Postal Service released 20 Harry Potter-themed stamps Tuesday, hoping to inspire a new generation of stamp collectors and increase sales, but angering traditionalists in the process.

The stamps feature stills pulled from movies in the Harry Potter series, showcasing Scottish author J.K. Rowling’s beloved boy wizard “with the friends, heroes, villains and creatures that make up his world,” USPS said in a statement.

The choice to feature British actors on American stamps was made in an attempt to make up some of the revenue USPS is losing due to declining mail volume, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe told the Washington Post.

USPS “needs to change its focus toward stamps that are more commercial,” he said.

The agency may be hoping to get younger generations to open their wallets for the new stamps, but the decision has irked a Postal Service panel and traditional stamp collectors.

The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, tasked with making sure stamps accurately portray the American experience, weighs whether “stamp subjects have stood the test of time, are consistent with public opinion and have broad national interest” before deciding which images should appear on the next round of U.S. stamps.

Members of the group are appointed by the postmaster general.

USPS bypassed the group during the stamp selection for one of the first times in history, according to the Post, adding to the feeling by some that the service focuses too much on pop culture rather than on more enduring images.

“Harry Potter is not American. It’s foreign, and it’s so blatantly commercial it’s off the charts,” John Hotchner, former president of the American Philatelic Society, and a member of the advisory committee for 12 years until 2010, told the Post. “The Postal Service knows what will sell, but that’s not what stamps ought to be about. Things that don’t sell so well are part of the American story.”

Contact Stephanie Grimes at Find her on Twitter: @steph_grimes

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