Custom stamps push the envelope

As part of an "integrity test" of a new custom-stamp service, The Smoking Gun orders postage depicting some nefarious characters.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
Would you lick Slobodan Milosevic? Linda Tripp? Now, apparently you could, thanks to a new custom-stamp service from Stamps.com.

Launched last month, Stamps.com's service lets customers put wedding photos, pet portraits and other images on their postage, a notion that The Smoking Gun finds inappropriate.

In an effort to prove its point, The Smoking Gun submitted photos of some unlikely characters for custom stamps; Milosevic and Tripp were two of many "ridiculous" submissions, one of the site's editors said. Those stamps and others are being showcased in a gallery on the site.

"We thought we'd give this service a little integrity test," said Andrew Goldberg, managing editor of The Smoking Gun. "So we submitted a bunch of ridiculous photos to see which ones would stick."

Stamps.com, which received permission from the U.S. Postal Service to offer the PhotoStamps service on a trial basis, reserves the right to refuse printing stamps it deems inappropriate.

And in fact, some of The Smoking Gun's submissions were rejected, including pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald and mob informer Sammy "the Bull" Gravano.

On the first attempt, Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, was also rejected.

But Kaczynski's high school and college yearbook pictures were accepted, as were photos of Milosevic, who is currently standing trial in front of the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Stamps.com also printed stamps depicting Linda Tripp, famed confidante of Monica Lewinsky, and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the couple executed in 1953 for spying for the Soviets. The Smoking Gun is also displaying stamps executed Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey with Golan Cipel, and showing Lewinsky's blue dress (the one stained by President Clinton's DNA).

"It has always meant something to put someone's likeness on a stamp," Goldberg said. "And now anyone who wants to pay a premium can get on a stamp. It's lost some of the luster."

When it was launched on Aug. 10, Stamps.com's service was billed as a way for parents, pet owners, travelers and hobbyists to share their favorite digital photos. The idea was that for about twice the price of regular stamps, people could put just about anything on their custom postage.

Stamps.com on Thursday issued a statement lauding the success of the service. So far, 40,000 sheets, or 800,000 individual PhotoStamps, have been ordered. The company said that the most popular images showing up on stamps are those of babies, children, families, friends, pets and travel destinations.

A Stamps.com representative was unavailable for comment on this story.