What has appeared on "Jeopardy" and "The Price is Right," and involves veterinary medicine? No, it's not a practitioner who spends time on the game show circuit, but the neuter/spay stamps. Being featured on shows like those, in addition to being promoted at numerous events and through various activities, is the reason the neuter/spay stamp has now sold out. Members of the veterinary community are thrilled, and a movement has started to encourage the U.S. Postal Service to reprint the stamps.
Since the USPS doesn't track sales by stamp type, comparing and contrasting the success of various ones is difficult. The sellout, however, is impressive. The average print run for a commemorative stamp is 80 million; social awareness stamps such as the neuter/spay average around 150 million. But in response to the collaborative work of the American Partnership for Pets, the USPS bumped the quantity up to 125 million, and then again to a total of 250 million. Products featuring the postage stars—a cute puppy and kitten—were also sold.
Since it went on sale, Sept. 20, 2002, booths set up in post offices, unveilings at events, and numerous other promotional activities enticed people to buy the stamp and educated them about the importance of spaying and neutering. Some post offices even hosted furry visitors that needed adoption.
The success story is attributable, in large part, to the efforts of the American Partnership for Pets. This diverse collection of 30 leading animal health and protection organizations spoke with a united voice and worked closely alongside the USPS to promote the stamps. This coalition includes, among others, Prevent a Litter Coalition, The Humane Society of the United, States, PETsMART charities (which provided startup funds), and the AVMA. The postal service provided notable support to the APP, including sending out posters and action kits to 38,000 post offices and encouraging them to host events with local veterinarians and organizations. A grassroots campaign by thousands of citizens, community leaders, veterinarians, animal protection organizations, and celebrities helped first win the Postal Service's attention and production of the stamps.
By this past October, the USPS central distribution had shipped all 250 million stamps printed to local post offices, and many of those facilities had repeatedly sold out and reordered. Sara Khurody-Downs thus assumes that few stamps, if any, are still available. She is the president of PALC, who represents APP.
The APP will push for a reprint, but gaining it won't be easy. "It is very rare for the USPS to reprint—commemoratives are intended to be printed in limited edition," she says. "Traditionally, stamps were thought of in terms of collecting/philately, and so, the rarer the stamp, the better. But in more recent years, the USPS is starting to think in terms of 'pop' stamps and public demand." Khurody-Downs hopes that the agency continues to think this way. "What puts us in a strong position to win a reprint is that we have demonstrated how well we can work together and how much support there is for the spay/neuter stamps, so we can guarantee them continued sales and collecting."
The Elvis stamp holds the record for the highest print run at 517 million (although it didn't sell out), and if the APP can win a reprint of the neuter/spay stamp, and in sufficient quantities, Khurody-Downs would love for it to sell out again. "Then, we will for sure be the best-selling stamp in modern-day USPS history," she said.
In the future, the coalition will also encourage the USPS to consider stamps containing other important animal health and welfare messages, including, perhaps, a fund-raising stamp.
If you would like to help the APP in its efforts, visit www.americanpartnershipforpets.org for a sample reprint request letter.