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Mickey Mouse and Friends Get Postal Stamp of Approval as Icons

Purist philatelists may question the issue, but Disney figures are celebrated as postage.

June 24, 2004|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Bugs Bunny got one first, then Sylvester and Tweety. Pretty soon it seemed every duck (Daffy), pig (Porky) and coyote (Wile E.) had one.

On Wednesday, the Mickey Mouse gang -- perhaps the most famous characters in the bunch -- joined the club as the United States Postal Service issued a series of commemorative stamps featuring Disney friends.

Some purist philatelists say the club Mickey Mouse just joined is not very elite. In the last several years, after Bugs Bunny opened the floodgates for the likes of Snoopy and the Cat in the Hat, critics say the postal service has caved in to pop culture and commercialism.

Disney stamps premiered in 1968 with a tribute to Walt Disney himself; Snow White was memorialized in 1998.

"Most of my serious collectors really turn their noses up at all these publicity-related stamps -- everything from Princess Diana royal wedding stuff to the Elvis Presley stamps," said Tom Hontos, owner of A-1 Stamp in Fountain Valley.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday July 09, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Disney stamps -- An article in some editions of the June 24 California section about new Disney-themed postage stamps misspelled the surname of Tyler Consilvio, an 18-year-old stamp collector from Boston, as Consilvia.

David Cobb, owner of the Newport Harbor Stamp Co., agreed: "It's a joke. Any stamps that have been issued after 1930 we still use for postage because they're worthless. The Elvis Presley stamp is the least rarest stamp in the history of stamps."

Elvis tops the best-seller list. Bugs Bunny isn't far behind. Selling stamps to collectors is one of the ways the postal service makes money, said spokesman Larry Dozier.

None of that mattered to stamp collector Tyler Consilvia, 18, who traveled all the way from Boston to celebrate his birthday and the first day of issue. "I collect all the Disney stamps," Consilvia said. "I'm probably going to save them and frame them."

The postal service receives about 50,000 stamp suggestions annually. Those are trimmed down by a citizens committee that uses guidelines to determine just who -- or what -- merits a stamp. People can only be honored 10 years after their death, U.S. presidents excepted.

Subjects must have widespread national appeal and significance. Commercialism is shunned, unless it can be "used to illustrate more general concepts related to American culture."

Some might consider Mickey Mouse the essence of American commercialism. Not so in the postal service's eyes. "Mickey Mouse is an icon ... extremely important in the culture of America," Dozier said.

The Disney stamps, the postal service says, share a theme of friendship.

As detailed in the official press release, there's Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck as the "perfect fun-loving group;" Bambi and Thumper as "childhood best friends;" Mufasa and Simba demonstrating "the powerful bond between parent and child," and Pinocchio and Jimmy Cricket exemplifying a "mentoring relationship."

The Fox Broadcasting Co. once tried to convince the postal service that bad boy Bart Simpson deserved adhesive immortality. Poor Bart was rejected for appearing as a commercial endorsement, despite his conservation message: One proposed stamp depicted him writing on a chalkboard: "I will not waste chalk."

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