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A personalised (or personalized) stamp is a postage stamp, with an adjoining label on the left, on which, for a fee, an image of the purchaser's choosing may be placed. The stamps vary from country to country and while some are normal stamps with a personalised label on the left attached by perforations, elsewhere the stamps are more properly regarded as one-piece personalised meter stamps with a colourful design next to the indicia. Stamps produced by Zazzle.com for the United States, for instance, are one-piece, self-adhesive with simulated perforations and visually very similar to normal United States postage stamps except for the addition of a barcode along one edge.
Examples given by postal authorities who offer this service usually depict family members, pets or other uncontroversial subjects but users quickly realised that they could place almost any image in the space. For instance, there have been attempts to publicise missing persons, promote political causes such as Tamil independence, or to place the image of criminals or other controversial individuals on the stamps. The rules of most countries generally prohibit such things, however, stamp producers may not spot every attempt to circumvent their rules, particularly when it is not obvious who or what is being depicted, or that the image has some political or other significance.
The United Kingdom
The United States
In the United States, personalized stamps – also known as customized postage – are technically a form of meter labels and are governed by the United States Postal Service. As meter labels, they are not supposed to be cancelled. While consumers may find that customized postage is available in a number of retail and online outlets, the USPS has authorized different companies to handle selected aspects of the program.
- Providers, including Pitney Bowes, Endicia and Stamps.com, are authorized to generate, transmit and print the indicia barcodes, ensure that images conform to USPS standards, market and sell customized postage and fulfill customer orders.
- Partners such as Zazzle can approve imagery, market, sell and fulfill orders, but they must be associated with an authorized provider who creates the indicia using an approved postage evidencing system.
- Affiliates like Fuji can market, sell and fulfill orders, but are not authorized to approve imagery or print postage and must be associated with an authorized provider who creates the indicia using an approved postage evidencing system.
Consumers and businesses may also print their own postage using a small, specialized, printer, such as the Pitney Bowes Stamp Expressions Printer. Recent innovations include postal kiosks, where consumers can download an image at their local convenience store.
Choice of images
Although most postal regulations permit the exclusion of "objectionable" pictures on the stamps, in 2004 The Smoking Gun managed to create personalised stamps featuring the Rosenbergs, Jimmy Hoffa, Ted Kaczynski, Monica Lewinsky's dress, Slobodan Milošević and Nicolae Ceauşescu using the service offered by stamps.com. The firm subsequently revised its policies.
Stamps for hunters
In 2006 Ed Owens of REACT Consulting Group, a lobbyist for the Hunters Heritage Council, complained to the U.S. Postmaster General when Zazzle.com refused to create a personalised stamp that promoted hunters as conservationists. The stamp would have borne the legends "$1.7 Billion for Conservation Annually" and "Sportsmen... America's First Conservationists". The creation of the stamp was refused because, Zazzle said, it "Incorporates material that is primarily partisan, or political, in nature." REACT Consulting cited stamps created for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which it said were also partisan and political but which had been accepted for production. Zazzle eventually withdrew the HSUS stamps.
- Smilers® Provided by our trusted partner, Snapfish by HP Royal Mail, 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. Archived here.
- Jennkesse, Missing - Help bring her home. zazzle.com, 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. Archived here.
- MeineMarke.at | personalisierte Marke | persönliche Briefmarke | eigene Briefmarke | selber Marken erstellen und designen | Die Geschenkidee der Österreichischen Post AG
- Pitney Bowes
- Stamp Expressions Personal Postage
- Photo Stamps
- Pitney Bowes Stamp Expressions Printer
- Stamps Of Approval thesmokinggun.com, 31 August 2004. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Zazzle.com Lawsuit Involves U.S. Postmaster, Hunters, Politics, Jim Shepherd The Outdoor Wire, 15 August 2006
- The Stamp Collector by Patti Strand, National Animal Interest Alliance, 27 January 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2013. Archived here.