Harry Potter and the Stamp of Mystery

HARRY-POTTER-FOREVER-STThe US Postal Service will start selling its Harry Potter commemorative stamps online today- or will they? USA Today seems to be the only news outlet carrying a story today announcing the stamps under the headline “Post Office begins selling Harry Potter stamps Tuesday“, and accompanied by this stamp image.

Stamp collectors have known for some time that the stamps were coming, and a Postal Bulletin article last month confirmed that the issue date would be November 19, with Orlando as the first day city. But that’s about it- Linn’s Stamp News Editor Michael Baadke writes that the USPS is “clamping down hard on information about its Harry Potter stamps, and the reason it is doing so is a mystery to everyone”.

The Potter mystery is just the latest in a string of curious marketing moves the USPS has executed recently. It used a Facebook gimmick to promote the “pixel by pixel unveiling” of a stamp honoring the 1963 March on Washington. The “unveiling” was slightly anti-climactic, since the stamp turned out to be identical to the “preliminary” artwork Linn’s had already published.

Then last month we had the intentional “misprinting” of 100 sheets of the Inverted Jenny commemorative, a move that failed to impress the stamp collecting community. Meanwhile, the USPS has stopped routinely providing advance information on many of its stamp issues. Editor Baadke notes that while the USPS has been working to establish its own publicity engines on Facebook, Twitter, and the web, none of those venues has any information on the Potter stamp. The redesigned uspsstamps.com site, for example, is still featuring the Ray Charles stamp that was issued almost two months ago.

Whether secrecy and marketing stunts will re-invigorate stamp sales remains to be seen- perhaps the USPS’s recently hired “futurist”, Faith Popcorn knows?