From: 68th Birthday Issue, January 2003
by Phil Arnold
Can you believe it’s been ten years since the Elvis stamp came out? You and I and every other Elvis fan bought 124 million of them, making it the biggest seller in US history.
Of course, we put most of our Elvis stamps away as collectibles. A short time later, the Postal Service threw us a curve by reissuing the stamp as part of their Rock ‘n‘ Roll Pioneers series. It had the same picture, but used the full name, Elvis Presley, and you had to purchase them as part of a set with eight other early rockers.
I bought the sets, separated out the Elvis stamps, and used Clyde McPhatter, Buddy Holly and the rest to mail envelopes. I probably should have saved the sets, but at least I saved the second Elvis stamps. They’re the ones that are going to be rare and valuable down the road.
Do you remember the Postal Service’s contest to decide which Elvis picture to use on the stamp — the ‘young Elvis’ from his early Memphis days or the ‘old Elvis’ from his Las Vegas days? I voted for the young Elvis seven times. A total of 1.2 million votes were cast nationally.
Voting was easy. You simply went down to the post office and asked for ballots. They were self-addressed postcards showing the two competing drawings, with boxes to check for your choice. I got ten ballots and kept three as collectibles.
Yes, I admit it. I’m an Elvis collector, but I’m not compulsive about it. I showed my restraint when a catalog from Graceland came in the mail shortly after the stamps were issued. It contained 28 items featuring the Elvis stamp picture, but the only things I bought were the baseball cap, the T-shirt, the refrigerator magnet, and the beach towel. The Elvis stamp watch doesn’t count, because my wife gave it to me for Christmas later that year.
Back when the Elvis stamps first came out, I bought lots of other related stuff, too. The Postal Service got surprisingly creative and offered a full-color commemorative book in the exact size and shape of an old vinyl LP album cover. Naturally, I had to have that.
I also put in an order with one of those mail-order stamp collectors societies to get five special envelopes, postmarked in Memphis on the first day of issue, January 8, 1993. In addition to the stamp, each envelope had a different full-color drawing of Elvis on it, and the postmarks were in the design of the grillwork of the iron gates at Graceland. Someday, I hope to trade one or two of these envelopes for some equally cool Elvis goodie.
That special purchase put me on the permanent mailing list of the mail-order stamp company, and since then many catalogs have come in, all containing new Elvis stamps. One had a choice of Elvis stamps from eight foreign countries. Big stamps. Expensive ones. Even a nifty set of nine different poses, connected together to make a sheet. Yes, I had to get that.
For years, each catalog from that mail-order company contained different, colorful Elvis stamps issued by the Republic of Chad in Africa. I guess the Chad government figured they had a good thing going and decided to keep issuing new ones. Someday you may look up Chad in the encyclopedia and see their main export listed as Elvis stamps.
The most unique offer from Chad was a double stamp. On one side was Elvis holding a guitar; on the other was Bill Clinton holding a saxophone. The caption above the picture of the stamp set said (I’m not making this up), “Elvis and Bubba.” That was pretty funny, but I didn’t want Bill Clinton’s face in my Elvis collection, so I didn’t buy any of these stamps.
However, if the Postal Service would ever consider pairing Elvis with someone else, I have a suggestion. How about an “Elvis and Gladys” stamp, issued as a Mothers Day commemorative. The Postal Service would be hard pressed to find another image that better depicts a son’s love for his mom.
They better hurry, though, or Chad will beat them to it.
© 2003 Philip R Arnold
Phil Arnold is a free-lance writer and big Elvis fan at e-mail address: email@example.com