[FoRK] Gov't ends printing of postage; now privatized

Rohit Khare rohit
Mon Jun 13 11:49:11 PDT 2005

Talk about burying the punchline: if prices go up (as hoped), these  
final stamps won't even be sold... and as for reporting oversights,  
what, exactly, was the "decision to no longer treat stamps like  
currency" -- who made it, when, and for our younger readers (under,  
say, 70), what does that possibly mean?!

Google for the phrase, and the only hit is... this article! :)

Other oddities: a public bureaucracy with a .com address ( http:// 
www.moneyfactory.com/ )... Anyone else have a lead on answering this  
question? Only public comment appears to be:
> 1894
> The Bureau of Engraving and Printing officially took over  
> production of postage stamps in July 1894. The first of the works  
> printed by the Bureau was placed on sale on July 18, 1894 and by  
> the end of the first year of stamp production, the bureau had  
> printed and delivered more than 2.1 billion stamps.
No press releases, nothing... the only usenet posting I could find is  
at the bottom.


After 111 Years, Postage Stamps Go Private
Bureau of Engraving Prints Its Last Rolls
By Bill McAllister
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, June 13, 2005; A17

The federal government printed its last postage stamps Friday.

The end to 111 years of stamp production by the Bureau of Engraving  
and Printing (BEP) came without any public ceremony in the same 14th  
Street building where many of the nation's most famous stamps have  
been printed.

Workers pulled a final roll of 37-cent flag stamps from an aging,  
four-color Andreotti press on the fourth floor. That simple act  
terminated a once-thriving business that the Treasury Department  
agency had monopolized for decades.

Now, private printers will produce all the nation's stamps, a  
decision that U.S. Postal Service officials say will save tens of  
millions of dollars a year. The bureau will concentrate on printing  
currency, its other major product.

For Washington's 60 remaining stamp printers and many stamp  
collectors, Friday marked a sad transition. Lawrence T. Graves, one  
of BEP's senior stamp officials, called it "bittersweet . . . a sad  

"It's the end of an era that reflected some of finest workmanship in  
government stamp design and security printing worldwide," said Rob  
Haeseler, an official of the American Philatelic Society, the  
nation's largest organization for stamp collectors.

Finances and what BEP Director Thomas A. Ferguson said was a decision  
to no longer treat stamps like currency led postal officials away  
from the hand-engraved stamps that were the bureau's hallmark and  
toward cheaper, lithographed stamps. In the end, the bureau, with its  
elaborate security system, unionized printers and large government  
payroll, declared it could not compete with private printers.

The Postal Service actually began to chip away at the government  
printing with a contract that gave some commemorative stamps to  
private printers in 1978. The private printers' share of stamp  
production grew steadily and accelerated when the agency turned to  
self-adhesive stamps in the early 1990s.

Even so, Jerry L. Hudson Sr., chief of BEP's stamp production, said  
officials were stunned when postal officials suggested in 1995 that  
they wanted to end the bureau's stamp production altogether.

"We were very disappointed when this process started because we had  
been in this stamp production for over 100 years, and there is a lot  
of history here and an awful lot of postage stamps," Hudson said. "On  
the other hand, we understand that times change."

When the end approached, the bureau arranged buyouts, retirements and  
currency printing jobs for the stamp printers. They decided against a  
final ceremony, fearing it might prove "too maudlin," said Ferguson,  
who began his bureau career more than 30 years ago as a stamp quality  

"Everyone here is proud of our contribution to the stamp program, and  
[we] know that our work will live on in the albums of the collector  
community for generations," Ferguson added.

Postal officials say the switch has already saved them a lot of  
money. The Postal Service has three firms printing stamps and said  
that competition cut its printing costs to $88.5 million in fiscal  
2004 from a high of $135.5 million in fiscal 2001.

Overall stamp production climbed at the same time to 43.7 billion.

Ironically, many of the stamps the bureau printed last week may never  
be sold.

If the Postal Service wins its recent request for a two-cent hike to  
a 39-cent stamp, to be effective early next year, Hudson said, there  
will no need for the bureau's last stamp run.


> Newsgroups: misc.legal
> From: l... at microsoft.com (Lee Crocker) - Find messages by this author
> Date: 23 Feb 93 03:36:51 GMT
> Local: Mon,Feb 22 1993 10:36 pm
> Subject: Re: postage stamps as legal tender
> >(Wayne Cronin) writes...
> >> A friend mentioned that his credit card bill says something about
> >> postage stamps not being acceptable as payment.
> >> Why should this need to be stated? Is there some obscure law that
> >> treats stamps as legal tender?
> >> Just curious!
> Stamps have never been "legal tender" in the strict sense of the  
> words,
> i.e., that they must be accepted in payment of private debt.  They  
> were,
> however, commonly used as currency during WWII when pennies were  
> the US
> didn't want to waste all that good copper and nickel making coins when
> it was needed for weapons.  That's why 1942 pennies are steel, as  
> well.
> I imagine many credit card holders are old enough to remember when  
> stamps
> were commonly used as currency, and may try to pay their bills with  
> them.
> -- 
> Lee Daniel Crocker   /(o\  Free minds; free bodies; free trade.
> l... at microsoft.com  \o)/  Libertarian Party  1-800-682-1776

> ranscript No. 2033
>                                                       July 19, 2000
>                               STAMPS AS MONEY
>                              by Thomas LaMarre
>     Northerners and Southerners alike were drafted into military  
> service
> during the Civil War, but they weren't the only ones to see  
> action.  In
> 1862, postage stamps were called up for active duty - as  
> substitutes for US
> coins.
>     Wartime conditions led to the hoarding of all denominations of US
> coins, until it was almost impossible to make change in everyday
> transactions.  The use of postage stamps as currency was one  
> solution.  On
> July 17th, 1862, Congress made stamps legal tender in amounts up to  
> $5.
>     It was U.S. Treasurer Francis Spinner who came up with the idea of
> pasting stamps on small slips of paper, to keep them from becoming  
> tattered
> or sticking to each other.  Official "postage currency" soon  
> followed in
> denominations of five, ten, and fifty-cents, picturing the stamps  
> then in
> use.  As a security measure one side of the notes was printed by the
> National Bank Note Company, and the other side by the American Bank  
> Note
> Company, or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
>     Postage currency was first issued to Army paymasters in August  
> of 1862.
> Two weeks later, it went on sale at post offices in Union states.   
> But the
> new money was so popular that it became a burden to the Post  
> Office.  In
> 1863, postage currency gave way to a similar type of paper money,  
> known as
> "fractional currency," - which came under the jurisdiction of the  
> Treasury
> Department.  Fractional currency was so called because it was all in
> denominations of a fraction of a dollar.  Francis Spinner - the  
> "father" of
> postage currency - was pictured on a 50 cent fractional note.
>     Fractional currency was discontinued after the war, when coins  
> returned
> to circulation.  But small quantities of the notes were still being
> presented for redemption well in to the 20th century.
>     Today's program was written by Thomas LaMarre.  "Money Talks" is a
> copyrighted production of the American Numismatic Association 818 N.
> Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903, 719/632-2646,  
> a... at money.org,
> http://www.money.org.  For information about educational seminars  
> on coin
> collecting and grading, call 1-800-367-9723 and request a brochure

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