USPS releases ‘Harry Potter’ Forever stamps, controversy ensues

Nov. 19, 2013 | 4:52 p.m.

For those of us who don’t receive our letters via owls, the United States Postal Service is releasing “Harry Potter”-themed postage stamps.

Beginning Tuesday, Muggles can choose from stamps featuring Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) as well as other heroes and villains from the wizarding world.

Hogwarts hopefuls might be rejoicing that the boy wizard has been immortalized on a “forever” stamp (stamps that aren’t assigned a specific cent value and can still be used if postage prices increase), but not everyone is happy about the Harry Potter stamps.

Some members of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, which for 56 years has researched and recommended subjects for new stamps, are upset after the Postal Service bypassed that panel in its decision to run 100 million Potter stamps, the Washington Post reports.

“Harry Potter is not American. It’s foreign, and it’s so blatantly commercial it’s off the charts,” said John Hotchner, a former president of the American Philatelic Society, who served on the committee for 12 years until 2010. “The Postal Service knows what will sell, but that’s not what stamps ought to be about. Things that don’t sell so well are part of the American story.”

But after declining revenue as Americans switch to the Internet, the USPS “needs to change its focus toward stamps that are more commercial,” Postmaster General Patrick R. Don­ahoe told the Post.

What do you think of the Harry Potter stamps? Let us know in the comments.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+


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67 Responses to USPS releases ‘Harry Potter’ Forever stamps, controversy ensues

  1. Steve Pettise says:

    The postal department has destroyed stamp collecting by refusing to limit the number of commemoratives printed. I have bought plate blocks and later sheets of commemoratives since 1959 and I bought my last one in October.
    Most that I have bought are not worth their face value after all these years of buying!

    • @tcbrekke says:

      I used to collect stamps, too. Mostly because I liked looking at stamps. I also collected trading cards for a while. Mostly because I liked the games I could play with them. I also collected records for a while 'cause I think they're beautiful and because I like the way they sound. My trading cards are worthless and my records are only good for playing. I am not upset, because I bought them because I enjoy the objects, not as an investment. A stamp is a stamp. It's used for sending letters – not for retirement planning. It is the Postal Service's obligation to make stamps that are useful as stamps. It is not obligated to make you rich if you collect said stamps.

    • Jim Colby says:

      Want to sell your collection, at less then '"face value"' as you state? My Grandson would love to continue his stamp collection he received from me? You can find me at:

  2. Josh says:

    The postal service needs to raise revenue, so if this popular subject is going to help do that, then fine. Personally, I want to get these stamps.

  3. Hanrod says:

    As an older American I detest the elevation of fantasy, movies or writing, in our world, and that goes for Walt Disney and J.R.R.'s "Hobbitts" too. However, I did enjoy the fact of the intelligent "Englishness" of the Potter stuff, and delight that children might learn some English from it. However, postage stamps, like our currency should represent the high point of our Country; honoring an American writer is good, honoring his characters is not. What the postal department has done is not surprising, considering that we have essentially "privatized" them, putting them in the position of just one more of our commercial whores, but it is wrong and we should not permit it.

    • greentree says:

      If you can criticize JRR Tolkien's work, putting Disney and Tolkien in the same breath, then you clearly have never read him! Tolkien's writing is brilliant, wide-ranging and transformative. The movies are among the best of their craft — but will serve a higher purpose if they send kids back to the books (it appears that it is already too late for you…) "Fantasy", from the pen of a writer like Tolkien, will teach you more about our world and the human person then a library of scientific tomes.

    • GINNY says:

      How did we essentially privatize them?

    • Shea says:

      Characters are so much more interesting than writers. That's why we read books.

      And what does being "an older American" have do with detesting the "elevation of fantasy . . . in our world" (whatever that means)? Is this just a curmudgeon thing? Shall we all get off your front lawn too?

      • jonnykaa says:

        As an older American, Hanrod has been around long enough to witness 'the elevation of fantasy' to the point that some fictional character from a children's book has equal billing with people like Susan B Anthony, or Frederick Douglass on stamps.
        Not knocking fantasy here, but if that's your entire world , you aren't likely going to gain any particular insight into or empathy with , for instance Atticus Finch or Seymour Levov, ,or those people in the bad part of town that you are afraid of, etc In general, disengagement from the world. Makes for a pliable electorate. Or a smaller electorate, and we know who benefits from that. The personal is political.

    • LanaWeasley says:

      I bet you're the life of parties.

    • Xyalon says:

      "honoring an American writer is good, honoring his characters is not." Excuse me? J.K. Rowling is a) English and b) Female. I think you need to replace "older american" with "idiot". Aside from that, the fandom of Harry Potter and the values which are portrayed within the books are enjoyed across the globe in a variety of languages. Just because they're not "the high point of our Country" doesn't mean that they're any less valid, and if you don't think that bravery, loyalty and the belief in what is right is a high point of your country, then I don't want to think what is. I'm sure the US has Christmas Themed stamps, and you can be sure that that's not an invention of the US.

      • Jonnykaa says:

        Sorry to see that you have difficulty with your reading comprehension. Obviously Hanrod is not suggesting that Rowling is either male or American. He states that 'honoring an American writer is good, honoring his characters is not' , not in reference to Rowling, but in explanation of HOW American writers might be commemorated in general terms. Hence the SEMICOLON linking those ideas with 'high point of our country' . Given that Hanrod clearly has some familiarity with the work of Rowling, do you really think that he/she could have missed out on the gender and nationality of likely the best known living author on the planet. <cue the populists who will claim that is reason alone for her deserving a stamp> Nowhere does Hanrod argue for or against the validity of the values in the book. He is simply stating that they are beyond the scope of what is appropriate for representation on the country's stamps. Do you really think Rowling needs more exposure than she has received from the celebrity pop media? Postage stamps are a public medium, uniquely positioned to give a nod to those people who often accomplish great things in relative obscurity. They can serve to pique the interest of children (or inquisitive adults) in a diverse range of subjects that they might not have considered. What a lost opportunity if they become just another mirror of what pop culture is feeding us at the moment.
        Really sad to see that you have to resort to calling people 'idiots' just for voicing their concern (in a balanced and conciliatory manner even, you'll recall that Hanrod opened with some positive comments on the 'Potter stuff') Hanrod is more diplomatic and articulate than you could ever hope. I suspect you aren't too concerned though. What ever happened to respect for elders. Shame on you.
        I'm not 'older' by the way, so sorry, you can't conveniently dismiss my concern for real world issues as the ramblings of some crank. Also your ad hominem claim that anyone who doesn't want Ron Weasley staring at them from their utility bill envelope doesn't believe in bravery, loyalty, and the belief in what is right….well actually , that point is so inane, its absurdity speaks for itself.

    • Jonnykaa says:

      Very eloquently put. So sorry to see that you've had to endure the wrath of flaming replies merely for a heartfelt call for higher ground, and a space for the heros of your country to be celebrated. You clearly have a concern for your the world at large, which sadly seems to be absent from that of the myopic fanboys who have angrily attacked your post. You opened your argument in a conciliatory and diplomatic tone with some positive comments about the Potter books. Other posters could learn a lot from your measured approach.

  4. FutureUser says:

    And to think we all thought that federal agencies were not supposed to promote religion, even bass-ackwards goofy religions like demonism and the occult.

  5. Jeyna Grace says:

    I think its awesome. If only they ship worldwide.

  6. Ray says:

    Harry Potter Stamp is an insult to the stamp collectors amd the A,eric an public. Need some new blood in the postal service. Fire the top ten managers and CEO this week. They don't know what they're doing

  7. Alex says:

    USPS lost $5 Billion in fiscal year 2013. “The Postal Service knows what will sell, but that’s not what stamps ought to be about…" – Are these people out of touch??

    • GEG says:

      Do you know why the Post Office is always in the red?? The post office actually does make money but congress is always siphoning money from the USPS. As a result, the Post Office goes in the red and that's excuse to raise rates so that there is even more money to be stolen by Congress. And round and round we go.

  8. Mac Daddy says:

    I didn’t know that they could show living people on stamps. The characters are fictional, but the actors depicted on the stamps are living people. I guess it’s allowed, but I’d rather they used the illustrations from the books.

  9. Ben~Andy says:

    I gotta go with "Way to go, USPS!" "Stamps should be about Americans", coming from a collector of stamps is amusing to say the least. What, no foreign stamps in your collection? Many of them honor Americans [the term "United Statesians would be better however since I'm sure you aren't talking about Hugo Chavez or even any of the Canadians]. The USPS isn't in the business of making stamp collectors happy. It is in the business of delivering communications. If they'd been the provider of the internet, there wouldn't be so much red ink now, but maybe it wouldn't be as good though it leaves a great deal to be desired. I was pleased to hear that they'll be building their brand by delivering Amazon Packages [even on SUNDAY, gasp!] and already are providing final delivery for UPS and FedEx in some more remote places. The sales of postage that might be collected and not USED is a boon to USPS. Revenue with no expense. That is the only way stamp collecting is a benefit to the collective good. I have nothing against the profit motive, but the very last consideration I have is if someone chooses NOT to collect what they think will be to "popular". However, since it will be popular, if you want some HP stamps, better buy them while they are available. There will be less than one stamp for every 3 people in the US population. The annual volume of the USPS is currently about 50 billion pieces of first class mail a year, and falling about 4% a year. 100 million stamps isn't but a drop in the bucket.

  10. Tyger B. Dacosta says:

    Personally, I am an American and if the postal service wants to immortalize my book "The Loneliest Muse" and its characters then by all means do it. Whatever it takes to keep this wobnderful service going!

  11. Stephen says:

    I think for someone my age – let's just say I'm an "older American" – it somehow feels wrong. When I was a child, stamps were printed with the same icons as money. For example, the face of Abraham Lincoln was on the 3 cent stamp. (Yes, I remember sending a letter for three cents.) But now even I communicate with Skype, Facebook, and two email accounts, and I pay my bills electronically. The original purpose of the Post Office was to foster communication and maintain ties throughout the nation. As long as the government maintains some common system that all Americans can access. The internet meets the need better than letters with silly stamps.

  12. arvi says:

    Get a grip guys. The USPS needs money to operate, money that they've lost to competition and funding. They are being asked to support themselves for our own good. We need them, and if this is one way to keep them working, so be it. If it's not a collectible, don't collect it. If it's not art, so what? Some people still think it's cool. If it's not American, what else is new? If it's an institution, well guess what? Tell that to Congress. They are trying to compete and I think this is a good move.

  13. Rik Potter says:

    I think they're great. As far as being too commercial, aren't there a ton of Disney stamps? They're not commercial? That argument is not valid. I love the Potter stamps and will buy as many as I can.

  14. grannybunny says:

    I think the stamps are awesome, and cannot wait for my preordered ones to arrive. The unique presentation is unprecedented. It is in the form of a folio — for which we normally have to pay extra — for the price of an ordinary book of stamps. To see what I mean, go to and scroll down as instructed, to see the folio unfold.

  15. Kim says:

    I love it!!!!!!!!

  16. Guest says:

    American stamps should honor American history, American citizens, or people, places, and events.that have world wide recognition. I am not sure what category these stamps will fall into but if it is of interest to users and collectors, why not. In my opinion however it may not do much better than the Simpsons stamps issued a couple of years ago.

    • HP Fan says:

      Harry Potter is what got millions of kids to pick up a book rather than spend the day in front of the TV/Playstation/X-Box. It boosted creativity, improved reading levels, so I would definitely say that Harry Potter honored American AND non-American history, by pushing literacy up a few notches. Thank you, USPS.

  17. tigerarchivist says:

    The Harry Potter series, while written by a British author, belongs to the world. The books and films were embraced enthusiastically by the American public and are about universal themes of good vs. evil and the power of love and friendship.

    • Tyger B. Dacosta says:

      The only problem I had with the series was the fact J.K. ROWLING wanted to use only English actors…to me that seemed discriminatory but oh well…she profited off Americans too!

  18. V C ROWDEN says:

    Very excited about the H P stamps, and ordered some online a day or two ago. Now we need to keep the likes of politicians like Henry Waxman away from our USPS because their goal—-apparently to privatize the USPS—-would advantage only him and his cronies and disadvantage the rest of us.

  19. cadavra says:

    This is what is known as a "First World Problem." They're just stamps, for God's sake! Save your anger for the fact that we still have tens of millions of Americans who are so impoverished they can't even afford stamps just to mail!

  20. makinglittlegeekling says:

    Stamps are for sending mail. The USPS is losing money. I certainly can't blame them for making a sound financial decision! I pre-ordered four sets. I'll probably use them, not keep them. I love Harry Potter. Smart move, USPS!

  21. judy says:

    Awesome! This is great timing for Christmas. Harry Potter books and movies were a success everywhere.

  22. @lennyg10 says:

    Best list I could find. Most are American – but not all

  23. Potterhead says:

    I'm 49, an american and pre-ordered mine. If you don't like them, don't buy them; simple as that. I personally think they should make stamps more interesting. I love our country, but how many different designs can you create for the flag?

  24. Emma says:

    Stay pressed “Old Americans” for thinking that stamps should reflect American history and monumental events. I don’t even recall when I ever thought that the USPS provided that service. They are in the business of delivering mail, not to commemorate American history. And fror the people who thinks fantasy literature should stay out of American history: that is probably one of the most ignorant and outdated statements I have ever heard. Too bad fantasy literature does such a great job capturing the human essence in *gasp* a fictional format! Get an imagination and stop being so bitter.

  25. Michael Malak says:

    MAKE MONEY: Sell the faces of stamps to advertisers, from anywhere on earth, willing to pay big bucks. This is America. The USPS should be rich. Sets a good example.

  26. Steve says:

    Harry Potter? Make Harry pay for it? Coca Cola Co should be allowed to rent commercial space on
    US posts stamps along with Apple Computer or any other company willing to pay the correct advertising price. It would definitely help supplement the dying USPS. The dignity of some US stamps & the postal service as an institution has obviously been traded away – anyway. Why not rent postal stamp space with a percentage from each stamp sold, allow for some dignified history stamps to remain – but overall, make the USPS learn like all the rest of us how to innovate and survive in any contemporary economy. Companies will be thrilled to advertise inside-upon a tastefully designed:
    iPhone, Chevrolet Camero, Hertz postal stamp sized ad for their companies. Come on what's holding it up? Harry Potter movies ? ? ? USPS is now summarily giving valuable advertising space away for free !! Titanic monetary give-aways, lack of competing & poor financial sense is how USPS drove themselves into red ink from the beginning – isn't it ?? Sell the space for legally protected tasteful advertising!

    • GEG says:

      ::::::shudder::::: Actually the post office makes a great deal of money which is then siphoned off by congress to make the "red ink" so that there's an excuse to raise rates which then makes more money for congress to steal. News flash…..stamps are just another backdoor tax.

  27. Don't have a cow, man! It's just a stamp-not rocket science! If you don't like HP-don't buy a stamp!

  28. Vic Miles says:

    Americans, kids and adults alike, enjoyed the books and the movies – as did people all over the world. I read the books at the urging of my grandkids – and my kids – because they all enjoyed them so much. Then I enjoyed the movies. I certainly enjoyed the fantasy – I absolutely didn't take them as "religion" as some comments have implied. If the USPS gains from the stamps, Bravo!

  29. CA James says:

    Harry Potter is for everyone including the countless Americans that grew up attending midnight premieres and midnight book release parties! We have a Harry Potter theme park in the US the is currently being expanded because Americans LOVE Harry Potter!

  30. @melabonbon says:

    I thought the controversy was going to be that Ron doesn't get his own stamp.

  31. Hogwarts student says:

    The films were produced by an American company, you know.

  32. HP FAN says:

    This complaint is completely invalid. Harry Potter is NOT foreign, it's UNIVERSAL; the books have given so much joy & happiness to readers from all over the world, and changed the lives of millions of children & adults. So kudos to the USPS for bringing the characters back. Paying for bills or sending greeting cards will provide some pleasure at least.

  33. Shannon says:

    Personally, I’m more offended that one of the three holiday stamps fails to say Christmas and there isn’t a religious option offered….especially when the mail service picks up such a huge bulk of business during the month of December. Unlike , Harry Potter, the Holiday stamp isn’t a personal opinion debate. IRather, it’s a slap in the face to Christians in this country. Wake up people and start discussing a real controversy.

  34. shelleyb says:

    I bought a book of Harry Potter stamps today (Nov 23) I love them! Can't wait to send birthday cards with such cool stamps! I don't collect stamps, but I enjoy sending cards with "fancy" stamps when possible. I usually seek out a different book of stamps when I visit the USPS. I am in my 40s and some members of my family have read all of the Harry Potter books and we all have seen the entire movie series. (own all books & movies!) We had annual passes to Islands of Adventure, Orlando. As fans of the subject matter, love the stamps! As a customer that still buys stamps and mails bills and correspondence, I love the Harry Potter Stamps! The USPS is publically admitting they have financial struggles- this choice of design may help out the business side of postage stamps for USPS.

  35. Nick says:

    Stop being so sensitive! It's a good idea, just be happy!

  36. Steph T says:

    I can’t believe you people are even talking about this. It’s a stinkin’ stamp. A little sticky piece of paper. It’s not going to change what Represents America. Move on with your lives!

  37. Linda Wallerich says:

    I am a USPS distribution clerk. I LOVE the Harry Potter stamps! I bought my husband the $50-plus commemorative first day of issue framed stamp array for Christmas. He loves it. As do I. Don't like 'em? Don't buy 'em. I appreciate the ongoing and expanding diversity of postage. I don't collect stamps. But I have no intention of using my HP books of stamps as postage. They're much too gorgeous to have postmarks all over them!

  38. Mike says:

    What people are failing to consider is this: how much did the USPS have to pay for the rights to use those images? Probably near what they will generate in revenue. It was a dumb move fiscally. As much as I enjoyed the Harry Potter movies, I also take issue with the fact that it is a British character from a British author. Do you think the Royal Post has a series of Mark Twain stamps? Doubtful. There are plenty of real heroes from our own history who could be commemorated on a stamp. If you want Harry Potter fan merch, Warner Bros. will sell you as much as you can handle. Leave the USPS out of the pop culture marketing business.

  39. billy rudin says:

    If you don't like them don't buy them.

  40. Bob W says:

    Want to sell stamps and still stick with current themes and interests, also keeping with traditional United States culture as well as international. Sell stamps with the different video game systems that have been made over the years. Better print 500 million of those.

  41. the stamp are awesome, actually I want to get one of those.. but I think but that’s not what stamps ought to be about…

  42. Natalie says:

    I love them, and was surprised to find out that anyone was upset. If you don't like them, don't buy them.

  43. Kathy Johnson says:

    Not American? What American child of the 90s didn't grow up on a steady diet of HP movies and books? BTW – although the author is British, Universal Studios is an American company. How are we defining American anyway? There are Disney stamps available. Yes, the company is located in US, but all of the products are made in China. Same as everything else we buy, including HP. Don't be a hypocrite.

  44. Kirstie says:

    I bought two sets! Love 'em!!

  45. Chuckster says:

    I went to the post office today to get a couple of stamps. I then saw that they were selling Harry Potter books. I bought the book in addition to my few stamps. Awesome idea USPS!

  46. Peggy Parker says:

    Peggy P. Good gosh. Don't we REALLY have better choices for stamps? TEACHERS, Firemen, Policemen, Red Cross helpers, kids who've done good stuff in their communities, Eagle Scouts – folks who've done meaningful stuff.. I really don't see ANY value except for the almighty dollar. Please USPC use some common sense.

  47. KKJ says:

    Get over it! Good grief, WHO CARES! Fact is, these stamps are selling like crazy. There's plenty of other stamps out there for avid collectors. By the way, Harry Potter may have been written by a British author but it's a story that reaches the world, its loved in every country on the planet. Stamps should be for everyone… collectors AND other. Variety makes the world go round! It's all good, stop stressing. If it isn't something you like, don't buy it.

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