Monday, June 13, 2005

Privatization is the New Black

As somewhat of a stamp enthusiast, I am intrigued at the idea of stamps entering this new phase of production. I look forward to seeing the fruits of competition, and I wonder what images the buyers will value.

After 111 Years, Postage Stamps Go Private

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 day."

"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.

[...] 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.

Here's my favorite stamp of all time, just for fun. (Pretty pictures... whee!)


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