Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee

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The U.S. Postal Service is proud of its role in portraying the American experience to a world audience postage stamps and postal stationery.

Many of the subjects chosen to appear on U.S. stamps and postal stationery are suggested by the American public. Each year, the Postal Service receives thousands of letters proposing stamp subjects. Every stamp suggestion meeting criteria is considered, regardless of who makes it or how it is presented.

On behalf of the Postmaster General, the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) is tasked with evaluating the merits of all stamp proposals. Established in 1957, the committee provides the Postal Service with a “breadth of judgment and depth of experience in various areas that influence the subject matter, character and beauty of postage stamps.”

The committee’s primary goal is to select a good balance of subjects appealing to a broad audience for recommendation to the Postmaster General. These subjects will be contemporary, timely, relevant, interesting and educational. In addition to the Postal Service’s extensive line of mail-use stamps, approximately 25 new subjects for commemorative stamps are recommended each year. Stamp selections are made with all postal customers in mind, including stamp collectors.

Committee members are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Postmaster General. The committee is composed of a maximum of 15 members whose backgrounds reflect a wide range of educational, artistic, historical and professional expertise. All share an interest in the stamp program and the needs of the mailing public.

The committee itself employs no staff. The Postal Service’s Stamp Development group manages committee administrative matters, maintains committee records and responds to as many as 50,000 inquiries received annually recommending stamp subjects and designs.

The committee meets four times yearly. At these two-day meetings, the members review all eligible proposals that have been received since the previous meeting. No in-person appeals by stamp proponents are permitted. The criteria established by this independent group ensure that stamp subjects have stood the test of time, are consistent with public opinion and have broad national interest. The members also review and provide guidance on artwork and designs for stamp subjects that are scheduled to be issued.

An optional fifth meeting may be held at the discretion of Postal Service management. This meeting is a conference during which the committee, art directors, researchers and USPS staff discuss the future of the stamp program from both design and subject perspectives.

The stamp selection process
Stamp proposals are to be submitted in writing to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. This allows everyone the same opportunity to suggest a new stamp subject. Subjects should be submitted at least three years in advance of the proposed date of issue to allow sufficient time for consideration and for design and production, if the subject is approved. All eligible subjects are reviewed by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee regardless of how they are submitted, i.e., stamped cards, letters or petitions.

Stamp proposals are to be submitted in writing to the following address:
Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300
Washington, DC 20260-3501

After a proposed subject is determined not to violate the criteria set by CSAC, the subject is listed on CSAC’s agenda for its next meeting. CSAC considers all new proposals and takes one of two actions:  it may reject the new proposal or it may set it aside for consideration for future issuance. If the proposal is rejected, it may be resubmitted to the committee again, no sooner than three years after the rejection date.

Proponents are not advised if a subject has been approved for issuance until a general announcement is made to the public. While the Postal Service relies heavily on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee for its advice, it has the exclusive and final authority to determine both subject matter and designs for U.S. postal stamps and postal stationery.

Stamp subject selection criteria
The U.S. Postal Service and the members of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee have set certain basic criteria that are used to determine the eligibility of subjects for commemoration on all U.S. stamps and stationery.

These are the 11 major criteria now guiding subject selection:

  1. It is a general policy that U.S. postage stamps and stationery primarily will feature American or American-related subjects. Other subjects can be considered if the subject had significant impact on American history or culture.
  2. The Postal Service will honor men and women who have made extraordinary contributions to American society and culture. These remarkable individuals through their achievements in their respective fields have made enduring contributions to the United States of America.
  3. Commemorative stamps or postal stationery items honoring individuals usually will be issued to celebrate births, anniversaries, and significant contributions.
  4. A memorial stamp will be issued honoring deceased U.S. presidents following death.
  5. Events of historical significance shall be considered for commemoration on anniversaries in multiples of 50 years.
  6. A balance of stamp subjects includes timely, relevant and contemporary subjects that reflect the nation’s diverse population. Themes of widespread national appeal and significance that showcase our nation’s inclusiveness, events and persons will be considered for commemoration. Official postal cancellations, which may be arranged through the local postmaster, may be requested for significant local events or commemorations.
  7. Statehood anniversary commemorative postage stamps will be issued at intervals of 50 years from the date of the state's first entry into the Union. Requests for observance of other state-related or regional anniversaries will be considered as subjects for postal stationery at intervals of 50 years from the date of the event.
  8. Requests for commemoration of universities and other institutions of higher education will be considered for stamped cards in connection with the 200th anniversaries of their founding.
  9. The stamp program commemorates positive contributions to American life, history, and culture. Therefore, disasters will not be commemorated on U.S. postage stamps or stationery.
  10. Due to the limitations placed on annual postal programs and the vast number of such locales, organizations and institutions in existence, it would be difficult to single out any one of the following for commemoration:  government agencies, localities, non-profit organizations, associations, and similar entities. Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.
  11. Stamps may be issued for the five active-duty branches – Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, including Reserve/Guard components of the current organizational structure. Stamps for the major service academies will be considered on a case-by-case basis for 50-year anniversaries, or multiples thereof.

Artwork for stamp designs
Once a subject is approved, the Postal Service relies heavily on art directors under contract to the Postal Service for the selection of artists who will execute the designs. Stamp designing is an unusual art form requiring exacting skill in portraying a subject within very small dimensions. Due to the demands of stamp design and reproduction requirements, it is USPS policy not to review nor accept unsolicited artwork.

Professional artists who may wish to be considered for a design assignment should request a copy of the Creating a U.S. Postage Stamp brochure from the following address:

U.S. Postal Service
Stamp Development
ATTN: Stamp Design
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300
Washington, DC 20260-3501

Members of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
12 members as of March 2014

Gail Anderson
Partner, Anderson Newton Design; instructor, School of Visual Arts; author.

Benjamin Bailar
Former Postmaster General, postal history stamp collector.

Caroline Bauman
Associate director, Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

B. J. Bueno
Founder, The Cult Branding Company; partner, Nonbox Consulting.

Donna de Varona
TV sports commentator, Olympic swimming champion, select Director of the Board, U.S. Soccer Foundation.

Cheryl Ganz
Author, curator of Philately Emerita, former chief curator of Philately, and former lead curator of the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research, Harvard University.

Janet Klug, Chair
Philatelist, author, retired.

Harry Rinker
Antiques and collectibles appraiser, author, collector, columnist, educator, and lecturer, host of WHATCHA GOT?

Maruchi Santana
Founder, The Brand Extension Agency.

Debra Shriver
Vice president and chief communications officer, Hearst Corporation, co-founder, UNICEF Snowflake Ball.

Katherine C. Tobin, Ph.D.
Commissioner, U.S. - China Economic & Security Review Commission; former Governor, U.S Postal Service Board of Governors; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education.