(or How the USPS is Sticking It to the Public)

Greg Meyer 149CL

(Booklets are in the Pane's Fold)

Booklets are complicated by three variations which the USPS manufactures: OTC convertible panes, VENding booklet panes and ATM convertible panes. Table 3 provides a summary of OTC convertible panes and are discussed first.


OTCs, as I refer to them, were first issued in 1989 in a flat pane of 18 stamps, affixed to a backing, die cut for easy removal and can be folded into thirds by removing two "Peel this strip and Fold here" gutter strips. The unusual thing about this pane is a center strip of stamps (three rows of six stamps); now for the first time, booklet stamps exist without any straight edges. Also a unique unidentifiable coil version was issued (discussed in the coil section). All OTCs are essentially the same, the pane settling down to 20 stamps with the exception of the two recent cartoon editions: Bugs and Tweety Bird. I've delineated on Table 3 two specific areas: Coil Perf Identity Line and Separate Coil Stopped Line. Near the top, I also put a dotted line showing where the USPS started to imprint numbers on the OTC coil counterparts.

Coil Perf Identity Line:

All issues above this line were of straight die-cut persuasion. Most panes were 18 stamps (3x6 format); all had plate numbers located in a gutter strip which was removed for folding; all had coil counterparts (except for the '95 Love issues). Since all these stamps have straight die-cuts, they can not be positioned; that is, it is impossible to tell the UL from the LR or center stamp. Positioning is impossible and as such this field is labeled N/A (not applicable).

Three separate private contractors produced the '92 Eagle and Shield and were distinguishable by three prominent colors. The USPS affixed all three to our Page, making it a great looking collectable item. However, one other multi-stamp issue occurred in this interval, the XMAS Gaiety four-stamp issue and we were not so lucky to have all four Gaiety stamps affixed. So, to get all four stamps, we need to collect all four stamp-unique Pages. It is believed that all self-adhesive stamps affixed to these Pages were from OTC panes. As discussed under the coil section, most of these issues are indistinguishable from their coil counterpart, except in those rare cases in which a plate number appears on the stamp face - which would mean that the stamp was a coil and not from an OTC pane. Seven Pages in this interval should be checked for possible coil versions, Gaiety Snowman (PN V1111111, yes seven 1's - almost had to extend the stamp size) through the G Stamp (PN V11111). None have been reported but it's worth checking your collection. A possible real rarity might be found.

Separate Coil Stopped Line:

Above this line, the OTC convertible panes all had coil counterparts (except the two Love issues in '95 - why not? Maybe the USPS wasn't in a Love-ing mood, even though later they promoted their Love SADs "to save kisses for loved ones - not stamps". Stamps in this interval (between the Coil Perf Identity Line and Separate Coil Stopped Line) had "wavy" die cuts to simulate "real" stamps that "real" collectors prefer (more about this in the coil section). Now pane stamps can be "positioned" and "level-3" collectors (avid collecting level) are happy. One interesting issue concerns the Flag over Porch - which has two sizes to the "blue 1995"; a small size which fits under the white stripe and a larger size (twice) that extends into the red stripe. The small version has not been reported and is unlikely to be reported. However, please check this one - a real find if you have one. This line defines the end of the "coil for pane" folly (or just another pane-ful experience) - read on and see if any of this makes sense!

Below this line, some nice items were produced: Iowa OTC convertible pane and sheet combo (but not for the Tennessee issue! Souvenir Program missed out on this one also) as well as many multiple issues. All issues are position-able with the position marked in ( ) not available because a label is printed in this location. USPS needed to make the pane come out 20 vice 21 - some USPS decision maker's fantasy about making the price easier to calculate (price printed on cover was insufficient) and simulating the number of stamps used in conventional booklet panes! Both of the cartoon issues had additional "special die cut" varieties - panes which had the single stamp on the right imperforated vice the standard "wavy" die cut. I would hesitate to guess why. Any ideas here? Wouldn't it have been spectacular to have these two Pages with both perf versions. The collector logic to the USPS comes down to this: if you can't decide which version to use - USE BOTH!

Alright, you've had enough time to ponder the Bugs Bunny special-die imperforate conundrum. Here's the whole sticky mess as reported in Linns 1997 Yearbook: These special panes were created to fill orders for the Stampers program (replacement for the defunct Ben Franklin clubs) - reorganization to give the illusion that things are improving in "the children" arena. Read on and decide where the "real" children arena is. None of the imperforate stamps went to the Stampers. None? Yes, nada; and why you may ask? Now to the inside skinny. The USPS prepared 35,000 Bugs Stampers kits, each containing six Bugs Bunny stamps (yes, six; not 9 or 10 - oh the economics of keeping kits at $3 and not $4! - at what cost to the USPS in $$$dollars$$$ and manufacturing time for the special die-cut version. Special die-cut version? Yes; stamps have to be removed in blocks of six or is it in blocks of three, whatever. Soooooo the USPS created a special die-cut so stamps could be removed intact with the liner so "our children" could affix them to six funky postcards included in their kits. This special die-cut penetrated the backing, thus allowing individual stamps to be punched (or as the USPS calls it "burst") through the convertible pane without separating the stamps from their backing paper. Children then could affix stamps individually to the postcards or where ever. Since the 10th stamp (on the right side) would not be used, they, the USPS decision maker, decided it needn't be perforated since it would be not used and eventually shredded. Cost savings!

The USPS set aside 110,000 of these special die-cut panes to be sold to collectors through the Philatelic Fulfillment Service Center and at Pacific '97 stamp show. The Philatelic Fulfillment Service Center quickly sold out and these convertible panes became an instant rarity. Scott assigned a special number, 3138, to the pane with the imperforate stamp - which caused the pane to skyrocket in price to where it is selling at $150 today! You may ask, how could such a thing happen? Scott Stamp Monthly wrote :

"The sad fact is that the creation of this scarce pane of stamps [with imperforate single] seems to have resulted from sheer and colossal ignorance of philatelic knowledge on the part of the postal officials ...

"They did not even realize that they were creating a major and scarce issue ...

"What indeed were these people thinking about?

Mr. Azeezaly Jaffer came forward and stepped into it deeper by saying:

"... I can't tell you what's going to be popular and what's not. Nothing that we do or say makes a difference. It's what is wanted by the serious collectors; and in this case, they wanted to purchase the [children's] Stampers pane. Who would have known?

"Mr. Jaffer, YOU should have known, or you should have philatelically knowledgeable people on your staff or in the correct position to review these matters and take appropriate action.

How impertinent of the "serious" collector to gum up the works by wanting something that HE designated "for the children"! As a side note, the Franklin and Washington souvenir sheets at Pacific '97 had a restricted sales period of about 11 days, the remaining to be destroyed. Again Mr. Jaffer stated that it would "heighten the desirability and uniqueness of these stamps" - a statement in complete contradiction with his Bugs Bunny statement about the USPS having essentially no influence over the "serious" collector. The USPS printed about 4.7 million of each souvenir sheet. The end score: collectors and USPS reserve 0.7 million, shredders 4.0 million of each! Despite the lopsided score, Mr. Jaffer considered the sales a "resounding success"!, citing the interest the sheets drew from "serious" collectors and the large first-day crowds at Pacific '97. If he were in charge back in 1974, the Dove would have been a success and maybe the Postmaster General would be .... God forbid! More about Mr. Jaffer and other sticky decisions he has gummed up, including the infamous decision concerning the "Celebrate the Century" stamps. Aristotle once said, it is impossible to communicate with individuals who cannot discern the difference between a rock and a mouse. Maybe communication is impossible with certain USPS decision makers? See the Coil Section for other decisions Mr. Jaffer had on our Souvenir Page collecting endeavors.

On the Bugs pane, two different "perfs" are available - two different manufactures were used. On one variety - top horizontal die-cut starts out with a peak, the other with a valley. Mine starts with a peak - how about yours - is it an in-ny or an out-ty?

The statue of Liberty (pane 20) has two different die-cut perforations: 11x11 and 11.5x11.8. Mine has the 11x11 perf; how about yours?

On item was left off the table - the 1997 reissue of the 1995 Flag over Porch OTC convertible pane. A wording change was added to the cover - National Domestic Violence Hotline - and nothing changed on the stamp. Yes, a pane of stamps with a large blue 1995 in the lower left corner. If this stamp shows up on a Page, it would be a real find.