American Philatelic Society

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Who Decides?
Who Decides What is Pictured on a Stamp?
And, Where do the Ideas Come From?

For a long time the Postmaster General decided what should go on stamps. However, when Congress began passing legislation requiring certain subjects be honored, in 1957 the Postmaster General created a committee to review the ideas of the entire public.

The Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee, a group of 12 to 15 members appointed by the Postmaster General, considers about 50,000 ideas a year, most of which come from the American public. The Committee then recommends about 35 new subjects for commemorative stamps each year to the Postmaster General. The Postmaster General makes the final decision. To ensure consistent and fair consideration of all proposals, the Committee has established standards of eligibility for stamp designs. One such standard is that no living person can be depicted on a U.S. stamp and, except for former Presidents, an individual cannot be commemorated until at least 10 years following death. This allows the person's accomplishments to be viewed in the appropriate historical perspective. The exception allows a means of special recognition for past Presidents each of whom is honored with a memorial stamp on the first birthday following their death.

After a stamp subject has been selected, the Committee commissions an artist to undertake the project and the artist begins drawing preliminary designs. The designs are presented to the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee for its comments. The Commitee then makes recommendations to the Postmaster General who makes the final decision. Once the final design is selected, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing or an outside contractor prints the stamp. The stamps are then perforated and inspected for flaws. The finished stamps are sent to post offices and held for date of issue. Finally, the stamps go on sale at post offices nationwide.

Please keep in mind that the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee does have guidelines and criteria that you must consider before submitting a stamp design. Should you be interested in submitting design ideas, please visit the United States Postal Service site located at for more details.

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