We Saw Elvis

January 09, 1993

Walk, don't run, to your nearest post office: The Elvis stamps have not left the building -- not entirely anyway.

Early yesterday morning, one had to wonder whether 500 million stamps of the young Elvis could feed this nation's hunger. One man reportedly began waiting at the main post office downtown at 9 a.m. for a sale that didn't begin until noon.

Signs at most postal stations alerted customers to a 400-stamp daily limit ($116 worth); if you wanted to spend $200 for Elvis stamps, you'd have to return another day. Mail-order brochures advertised the sale of the program from the "first day" ceremony at the Presley mansion, Graceland, for $6, but only if purchased with another Elvis stamp memorabilia, priced at $12 to $20. We hadn't seen anything like this since the Camden Yards Opening Day program riots.

As has happened with most things regarding the King, however, the image was skewed from reality. After the initial noontime rush yesterday, one could purchase the Elvis stamp at nearly any postal branch with little trouble. The Baltimore area was allocated 2.5 million Elvises for the first day alone, enough for every man, woman and child.

A small branch in Harford County, where a clerk painted sideburns on himself, said he was a little disappointed at the turnout. Most branches reported long lunch-hour lines, but normal lobby trade by 1 p.m. or so. The greatest Presley surge occurred in the Elvis-belt that hugs the Patapsco River from Curtis Bay to Dundalk. (The Dundalk branch sold 30,000 stamps in an hour, more than some branches' allotments for the entire day.)

It's fortunate that the Postal Service judged demand adequately; it nearly doubled the initial run of Elvis stamps after the ruckus accorded last year's vote over the "thin" versus "fat" portraits of the rock-and-roll singer. The Postal Service is now cashing in big-time from its embrace of the Elvis craze and the opportunity to sell millions of stamps that will never grace an envelope.

In the slim-Elvis chance you don't buy your allotment of stamps soon, you'll get another crack next summer when the Postal Service re-releases the King in a series of stamps of rock-and-roll, country-western and rhythm-and-blues artists. Now that gets us to wondering:

Should those stamps portray the thin Hank Williams or the fat Hank Williams?

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