Your picture in the post office

You don't have to be Elvis to get your picture on a postage stamp, but then you don't have to wait until you are dead.

It was 15 years ago this month that the Postal Service issued a stamp honoring the King, and I remember doing a news story from the post office about the event.

Aging fans lined up into the street to buy sheets of stamps they would lock away for their grandkids, employees wore Elvis costumes and speakers filled the building with "Don't Be Cruel."

You probably should not expect such a ceremony when you issue your own personal stamp, but you can bet your fan club will be delighted.

When I was in the post office this week to buy a book of regular stamps, I noticed a brochure advertising that you can turn your own photographs into official postage stamps.

I did not pick up the brochure, but it piqued my curiosity enough that I came home and looked it up on the Internet. It turned out to be old news.

It is not the first time I found out about something after it was common knowledge among most of the population. I learned that you have been able to put your mug shot on a stamp at least since a standard stamp cost 37 cents.

Now that most households have access to a digital camera and a computer, the process of making and uploading a picture to be printed on a stamp appears simple.

The sites promoting the stamps say they are just the thing for wedding and birth announcements, thank-you notes and vacation postcards.

I suspect that more of these stamps will show the family pet than the new baby. But as the saying goes, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

And pay you will. I paid $8.20 for 20 first-class stamps showing the U.S. flag. That many stamps bearing a portrait of Fluffy would cost $20.

Before I paid that much for a book of stamps (they still call them books although they are printed in double-sided sheets), I would have to figure out how to use them. I would not want to pay more than double to get my picture on a stamp and then stick it on my electric bill.

But like many folks, I rarely write a personal letter anymore. All my outgoing mail is to utility companies, credit card companies and other such outfits I support.

I might think it cute to take a picture of the house and then send it as a postage stamp on my mortgage payment, but I doubt that the big bank in Ohio would appreciate the effort.

After I decided who to send my personal postage stamps to, I would have to decide what photograph to put on them. The children are adults and have their own families, there are too many grandchildren to fit on a 1-inch stamp, and we don't have a cat or a dog.

Perhaps a picture of my wife and me in holiday garb would look good on our Christmas cards. But then perhaps not. We have nearly a year to think about it.

I recently resumed my old habit of roaming the roads with a camera to make pictures of old barns, derelict gas stations and rusty automobiles.

I have a good one of the sign on Highway 11 that shows the mileage to New York and New Orleans and another one of a 1949 Willys utility wagon, son of the WWII Jeep and grandfather of the modern SUV.

The Highway 11 sign might look good blown up to poster size over the couch in the den, but it is too busy for a stamp.

The Jeep, on the other hand, is a riot of color - ragged patches of blue, red and white showing through the dominant color, rust. It would be a real eye-catcher as a stamp on my water and sewer bill.

Although the Postal Service is promoting these personal stamps, it does not print them. In fact, private printing companies now produce all postage stamps, including those that show flowers and birds.

You can get a discount on your personal stamps if you order several sheets. The quoted price does not include postage.

Darrell Norman is a correspondent for The Times. His e-mail address is

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