The U.S. Postal Service and the members of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) have set basic criteria for determining eligibility of subjects for commemoration on U.S. stamps and stationery. These criteria were formulated about the time of the Postal Reorganization in the early 1970s and have been refined and expanded gradually since then. The following are the 12 major criteria now guiding subject selection:
It is a general policy that U.S. postage stamps and stationery primarily will feature American or American-related subjects.
No living person shall be honored by portrayal on U.S. postage.
Commemorative stamps or postal stationery items honoring individuals usually will be issued on, or in conjunction with, significant anniversaries of their birth, but no postal item will be issued sooner than ten years after the individual's death. The one exception to the ten-year rule is the issuance of stamps honoring deceased U.S. presidents. They may be honored with a memorial stamp on the first birth anniversary following their death.
Events of historical significance shall be considered for commemoration only on anniversaries in multiples of 50 years.
Only events and themes of widespread national appeal and significance will be considered for commemoration. Events or themes of local or regional significance may be recognized by a philatelic or special cancellation, which may be arranged through the local postmaster.
Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor fraternal, political, sectarian, or service/charitable organizations that exist primarily to solicit and/or distribute funds. Nor shall stamps be issued to honor commercial enterprise or products.
Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor cities, towns, municipalities, counties, primary or secondary schools, hospitals, libraries, or similar institutions. 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 one for commemoration.
Requests for observance of statehood anniversaries will be considered for commemorative postage stamps only 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 only as subjects for postal stationery, and again only at intervals of 50 years from the date of the event.
Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.
Stamps or postal stationery items with added values, referred to as "semi-postals," shall not be issued. Due to the vast number of worthy fund-raising organizations in existence, it would be difficult to single out specific ones to receive such revenue. There also is a strong U.S. tradition of private fund-raising for charities, and the administrative costs involved in accounting for sales would tend to negate the revenues derived.
Requests for commemoration of significant anniversaries of universities and other institutions of higher education shall be considered only in regard to Historic Preservation Series stamped cards (formerly called postal cards) featuring an appropriate building on the campus.
No stamp shall be considered for issuance if one treating the same subject has been issued in the past ten years. The only exceptions to this rule will be those stamps issued in recognition of traditional themes such as Christmas, U.S. Flags, Express Mail, Love, etc.
Ideas for stamp subjects that meet the criteria must be addressed to:
Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
U.S. Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20260-2437
Subject suggestions 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.
The selection of subjects for U.S. postage stamps and stationery is a difficult task, since only a limited number of new commemorative items can be issued annually. To help in the selection process, the Postmaster General established the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) over 40 years ago to recommend subjects and designs. Members are appointed to the Committee by the Postmaster General. They reflect a wide range of educational, artistic, historical, and professional expertise.
Once a subject is approved, the Postal Service relies, to a great extent, on the design coordinators for the Advisory Committee in selecting artists to 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 the committee's policy not to review or accept unsolicited artwork.