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THE SAD HISTORY OF U.S. STAMPS

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

Greg Meyer 149CL
greg7118@uneedspeed.net


COILS, COILS, COILS

(Their SAD Roll in Finding an Identity)

As alluded to earlier, self-adhesive coils are a byproduct of solving the problem of hand affixing SADs (self-adhesives) to philatelic material. In November 1989, the USPS produced the first SAD coils in an extraordinary way - the EXTRAordinary 25 cent Eagle and Shield convertible pane and a coil strip of 18 with each coil stamp die cut (all straight edges), separated by 1/4 of an inch and attached to a liner. When the coil version was removed from its liner, it was impossible to tell it from the convertible pane version. So when separated, the coil had an identity crisis - a true orphan. But all was well - two versions, one identifying Scott number and the word of the Postal Service.

In May 1992 coil production started to roll in earnest when another SAD rendition of the Eagle and Shield appeared (different face, different price) ... but this time, under three different private contracts: Banknote Corporation of America (BCA), Dittler Brothers (DB), and Stamp Venturers (SV). These companies produced convertible panes with accompanying coils sold in strips of 17 ... beautiful to behold - three coils, three different colors (brown, green and red), no identifying Scott numbers, straight die-cut and without plate numbers. The USPS affixed all three to a Souvenir Page (92-35). A very nice collectable item. You probably note how irate we coil enthusiasts become when an identifying itty-bitty plate number is not imprinted on the face of a coil (blasphemy; we have been getting these since 1981!). All's well - we know what's going on; we're getting coils without plate numbers on our philatelic material (I think).

The squirrel is numero uno! The self-adhesive convertible pane/coil stamp world "came of age" in 1993 (she's 18 now and ...) with the release of the Red Squirrel and later with the Red Rose. We now have six "para" coils which are truly DNA unidentifiable and homeless; Scott won't even let them into their catalogue. The Red Squirrel and Red Rose were identical to the pane stamps without plate numbers. Later in 1993, the USPS released a Christmas Gaiety se-tenant of four and the Pine Cone self adhesives. However, plate numbers were imprinted on the Gaiety Snowman and Pine Cone coils. Now we coil collectors are happy - the Snowman's got our number. As an after thought, the USPS probably spent more time in determining that the plate number should appear on the Snowman than it spends in preparing our Pages!

The Gaiety se-tenant coil (yes, a coil with four different faces) had a plate number recurring every 12th coil stamp, thus causing the plate number always to fall on the same face - the Snowman. The Pine Cone also had a small number imprinted in the lower left corner on every 12th coil stamp. Five ensuing issues were released through 1994. Like their predecessors, all were face identical to the OTC pane counterpart, straight die cut but with identifying plate numbers. So, we now have seven (or is it 10, or is it 17, or is it 23; who's counting anyway) coil varieties with the later issues imprinted with the ever impressive plate number. At last count, no plate numbers on these Souvenir Pages have been reported! Being a statistician, this seems strange; but, hell, there's two OJ's out there also. But things are going to change for the ... .

On May 19 (or is it April 18, whatever) the USPS issued one of its billion versions of the Flag over Porch stamp in sheet, conventional booklet and OTC convertible pane formats along with a conventional coil and a SAD coil strip (stamps spaced -remember the ole automatic affixing machines) with an identifying plate number and a different appearance - top and bottom straight with "wavy" sidewalls which simulate conventional coils. The appearance of a SAD coil signaling that OTC pane stamps will be affixed to our Pages by affixing its coil version instead! Are you confused yet? Well, the coil is out of the closet and it's straight! We don't have to demand "will the real coil step forward" ever again. Then I got my Souvenir Page - it had an upper right OTC convertible pane stamp affixed, not the coil version. Whoa Nelly! Why make coils and affix pane stamps? But who knows what lurks in the hearts of USPS decision makers, and in particular - one decision maker. Mr. Jaffers came forward (yes, the same Mr. Jaffers who couldn't understand why "serious" collectors wanted the special die-cut Bugs Bunny convertible panes over the regular die-cut version; and yes, the same Mr. Jaffers who decided that the 25-year old policy of issuing a Souvenir Page for every commemorative was no longer in effect, this after some of us have invested tens of thousands of dollars into our Souvenir Page collections) and stated that the perf changes were made because "serious" collectors prefer perforations over straight die cuts! Are you a serious collector and have a preference - straight or of wavy persuasion? Five thousand comedians out of work and this clown is trying to audition for their job. Souvenir Page collectors rise up, demand blood, file a class-action suit, ... with stronger action to follow! Boy, it's great to be retired. Remember Uncle Bud (our beloved founder)? He always thought that personnel involved in preparing philatelic material should be collectors. Bud, I'm a believer! And you thought things couldn't get worse! We'll they're going to ...

The Philatelic Fulfillment Center manager in Kansas City - remember things are up-to-date in Kansas City - ain't they? - told Linn's in July 1995 that his office had furloughed (whatever that means) the automatic stamp affixing machinery it inherited from the old Philatelic Sales Division which it replaced in 1993 (good ole Bob Brown, remember him), and was in the process of updating it. You furlough equipment and put people to work; Ross, ain't this a great country? This explains why USPS affixed pane stamps rather than automated coils which we are made to believe now may have never been affixed (except those done under Bob Brown). By the way, how long is a furlough and is there such a thing as an "extended furlough"? And do you remember that year-plus delay in getting our Pages at the time of relocation? At first we had a way of making sense out of a no-sense coil; now can we make sense out of a no-sense USPS? Maybe it's for the best; a horrendous problem occurs when the coil becomes distinguishable from its convertible pane version. The USPS would tell us that the stamps affixed are the pane version but what would show up would be the coil version - and nobody could say with a "straight-edged" face, even the USPS, that you should believe them and not your lying Page (or is it diary?).

All-in-all, the Flag Page is a very nice item; five Flag stamp varieties and you guessed it, four affixed! Ironically, the sad thing is that the missing stamp is the SAD coil which was the only one guaranteed to be on the Page! What a revolt'en development this turned out to be. Wouldn't it have been great if all five were affixed. We always seem to be a year behind and a stamp short. If you're wondering about the coil, the one affixed is the conventional tear-and-lick (has small red 1995 date in LL corner); the SAD version has a blue 1995 date in the lower left corner. Just an after thought; the SAD versions were released early (April 18) because the demand for "peel and stick" was so great. The four stamps affixed (including the earlier released SAD pane stamps) are all canceled FDOI. As I said, this is still a nice item and SAD-ly missed out being great.

I'm not planning on spending much time on individual Pages, but the next one, the Pink Rose, missed out being a spectacular Page, again only if both pane and coil versions were affixed. The Rose coil is completely perfed (all four sides as a sheet or middle pane stamp), space separated and on liner. It's gorgeous looking and is an especially magnificent item with plate number. A sheet-looking stamp with a plate number tattooed on its chin!