The Woman Who Runs Stamp Services

WASHINGTON—Every time Mary-Anne Penner pulls the rope at a first day of issue ceremony to reveal a new stamp, the audience erupts in applause. She smiles as the crowd admires the artwork.

As U.S. Postal Service Director of Stamp Services, Penner has many jobs within the Postal Service. She oversees everything from stamp development and printing to cancellation design and the execution of first day of issue ceremonies, where the Postal Service showcases its newest stamps.

Penner stands about 5 feet 7 inches tall with blonde hair and bangs. She often wears a pantsuit, and at stamp shows, she dons a lapel pin featuring that day’s newly-issued stamp.

Through her nearly 35-year stretch with the Postal Service, 55-year-old Penner has held countless positions.

“I’ve done it all: clerk, mail carrier, postmaster, delivery supervisor,” she said. “But this (Director of Stamp Services) is the best job in the Post Office.”

Penner enjoys interacting and meeting people on the job. “People are creative with our stamps,” she said. “And collectors are passionate. It’s great to see the same faces at the stamp shows.”

Not only does Penner get to interact with customers, but she also works with the families of celebrities who are being honored on stamps.

Mister Rogers Photo“When working with people related to celebrities, I am amazed at how down-to-earth they are,” she said. “When we released the Mr. Rogers stamp, Mrs. Rogers was so honored and happy. It feels good to know we made them feel good.”

Before getting involved with the Postal Service, Penner had her sights set on practicing medicine. When she graduated high school in 1980, she started on a pre-medical school track at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

While she was studying there, her brother decided to take the postal exam, and their mother pushed Penner to take it, too. Penner passed the exam and began working full-time as a clerk and mail carrier for the Postal Service. Her brother never joined the Postal Service.

Penner returned to the University of Maryland University College in 1999, taking classes at night and earning her bachelor’s in business management in 2002.

In April 2015, Postmaster General Megan Brennan appointed Penner as acting director of stamp services. A year later, Penner’s role became permanent.

As director, Penner has taken steps to bring the Postal Service into the 21st century.

“In our USA Philatelic catalog, we’ve introduced augmented reality for stamps,” Penner said. “Customers can download the USPS AR app and interact with the catalog.”

The USPS AR app allows readers to scan images in the magazine with their smartphones. The app overlays videos highlighting the stamps’ first day of issue ceremonies, allowing readers to learn more about the stamps.

Penner has also focused on using the USA Philatelic magazine to explore the history behind the Postal Service’s new issues. The magazine offers a section called “Look What’s New,” which features blog-like articles telling about the stamps’ designs and related stories.

“We’re trying to make people more interested in what we have,” she said. “When we released the ‘love skywriting’ stamp, we had a skywriter fly over the ceremony and write ‘love’ in the air. We’re changing things up.”

Penner said she is also working closer with the American Philatelic Society, American Stamp Dealers Association, and the National Postal Museum to bring more traffic to stamp shows.

At the 2017 American Philatelic Society Stamp Show in Richmond, Virginia, the Postal Service showcased a virtual reality stamp gallery, where visitors could put on a headset and watch stamps come to life.

When visitors viewed the 2017 “sharks” stamp through the headset, they were transported to the sea and surrounded by swimming sharks. For the “protect the pollinator” stamps, visitors were given a close-up view of bees collecting pollen from a trove of flowers.

Penner said the Postal Service is planning to use this technology to continue to reach more audiences, including at this weekend’s USA Science and Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington.

Penner also introduced the use of Facebook Live to broadcast first day of issue ceremonies. Now, if collectors are unable to travel to see the ceremonies, they can watch from their computers.

Co-worker and manager of stamp development Bill Gicker enjoys working with Penner.

“It’s an adventure every day,” he said. “We work well together, whether it be about the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Council, rights and permissions process, design development, or manufacturing.”

When she’s not at work, Penner spends time with family. She lives in Maryland with her husband.

“My husband is from upstate New York,” she said. “We are currently building a summer home on Seneca Lake.”

Her 29-year-old son also lives in Maryland. He earned his master’s degree in business entertainment management from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla.

As a hobby, Penner collects elephant-themed items.

“My dad bought me my first small, marble elephant at a coin and stamp show when I was five,” she said.

She also has a love for cars.

“One day I dream of owning a Rolls-Royce.”

Penner inherited her father’s stamp collection in 2013, which consists mostly of stamps from Vatican City.

“The ones he did not have in his collection were the expensive ones!”

US Postal Service to Issue Iconic Santa Stamps

WASHINGTON — It’s beginning to look like a classic Christmas! This October, the Postal Service will ring in the 2018 holiday season with four Sparkling Holidays stamps featuring character-rich close-ups of Santa Claus.

The Santa images are from Haddon Sundblom paintings created for The Coca-Cola Company holiday advertisements that ran from the1940s through the early 1960s. Sundblom, a famed commercial artist, depicted a rosy-cheeked, smiling, grandfatherly man in a red suit that came to embody the very essence of “Santa.”

The Sparkling Holidays stamps will be issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

Additional details will be announced before the stamps’ release.

Blockbuster Annual Seminar for Philatelists Underway

For philatelists, the American Philatelic Society’s Summer Seminar on Philately is an annual touchstone event worthy of attention, respect and good times, and this year’s 39th annual gathering has the looks of one to remember.

More than 100 philatelists – including 83 enrolled in classes, 29 of them first-timers – will participate in the seminar, which runs from Sunday through June 29 at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Participants can partake in more than 20 classes, attend a first-day-of-issue stamp ceremony, bid on items at an auction, hear keynote speakers and enjoy meals and social events. They also will have time to visit, learn about and use the American Philatelic Research Library, which, like the APS, is housed in the center.

Here’s a summary of seminar highlights.

Randy Neil
Randy L.Neil, 2018 Distinguished Philatelist

Randy L. Neil will be honored at a dinner on Thursday, June 28 as this year’s Distinguished Philatelist. Neil – a longtime collector, author, editor and past president of the APS – is a 2000 recipient of the APS Luff Award.

Stamps to be Issued at APCA hobby that often makes the most of rarities will enjoy a rare in-person event at this year’s seminar – a first-day ceremony for a new U.S. stamp; well, actually three new stamps. The new $1, $2, and $5 Statue of Freedom stamps will be during the seminar at 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 27. There are a few dozen first-day ceremonies a year, but only a few have ever been held in Central Pennsylvania, the last being the nonprofit Lamb envelope of 1995.

Mary-Ann Penner, Director Stamp Services, USPS.
Mary-Ann Penner, Director Stamp Services, USPS.

On that same day, Mary-Anne Penner, director of Stamp Services for the U.S. Postal Service, will speak during a general session. Other general session speakers are Michael Baadke, editor of Linn’s Stamp News, on Monday; Bill Schultz, nationally accredited philatelic judge, on Tuesday; Justin Gordon, author and Holocaust postal historian on Thursday; and philatelic writer and author Kitty Wunderly, on Friday.

Variety is the keyword when it comes to course. There are more than 130 hours of instruction, including four- and two-day classes, plus electives. Major courses range from Stamp Technology and Intermediate Exhibiting to Washington-Franklins Expertizing and A Comprehensive Postal History of Great Britain, 1510-1850. Electives include King George V and the Royal Collection, First Day Covers in the Mailstream, WWI at the National Postal Museum and Spain’s Quinta de Goya Stamps of 1930.

Members of the Class of 2018 Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship will be on hand, as well Class of 2017 member Ian Hunter, who received a youth scholarship in honor of Gerhard S. Wolff, sponsored by the Wolff family.

APS Executive Director Scott English will address participants at the opening night dinner, which will be followed by a scavenger hunt.

An in-house auction with more than 250 lots will be held Tuesday evening and a Buy, Sell and Trade Night is set or Wednesday.

The APRL offers a station-by-station tour after hours on June 25. Throughout the week, there are extended hours for the APRL, Circuit Sales Division, the APS gift shop and Stamp and Cover store.

ATA VP Dawn Hamman Interviewed for USA Philatelic

ATA VP Dawn HammanThe summer edition of the U.S. Postal Service’s catalog, USA Philatelic, includes an interview with Dawn Hamman. Hamman is vice-president of the American Topical Association and an avid collector, writer and exhibitor. The interview highlights the power of topical collecting to reach broad new audiences with creative, flexible approaches to collecting. She goes on to discuss how the “thrill of the chase” makes collecting a riveting hobby for collectors old and new.

Also featured in the article is the combined StampShow and National Topical Stamp Show co-hosted by the American Philatelic Society and the American Topical Association. The U.S. Postal Service will issue the new Mythical Dragons forever stamps at the show, making for a natural show theme of “Here Be Dragons.” Both organizations are working to make this year’s show an experience for collectors of all ages and interests. The July edition of The American Philatelist will feature several articles related to the show theme and a comprehensive guide to the event. A mobile app is also available.

The USA Philatelic interview highlights the U.S. Postal Service’s interest and dedication to supporting stamp collectors and their widely varied interests. The central booth at StampShow/NTSS will be home to the USPS during the four day event and will offer a virtual reality experience sure to please even the most discerning technophiles.

For information regarding StampShow/NTSS, visit the official show page at:

More information regarding the American Topical Associationis available on their website:

USA Philatelic is available free at most U.S. Post Offices and can be requested, free of charge, from

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? On a Stamp!

Scooby-Doo – the beloved animated Great Dane who slid onto the scene in 1969 as part of an enduring Warner Bros. television cartoon – will appear on a new U.S. first class domestic forever stamp, the U.S. Postal Service announced Thursday.

The stamp will be dedicated July 14 in a ceremony at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

For nearly 50 years, the call of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” has summoned the beloved dog wherever help is needed. The Postal Service, in collaboration with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, is say the stamp will help highlight a new social responsibility initiative, called Scooby-Doo DOO GOOD(

The stamp, to be sold in 12-stamp sheets, features Scooby-Doo helping out by watering a blossoming plant in a flowerpot — a simple act symbolizing a component of the “Doo Good” campaign’s effort to provide young people with tools and activities geared toward enriching the environment. The campaign, launching this year in partnership with generationOn, the youth division of Points of Light, also focuses on helping the hungry and acting as animal allies.

Art director Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, Virginia, worked closely with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, to design this stamp.

The lovable Great Dane Scooby-Doo has solved mystery after spooky mystery, working with his teenage friends — Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy. The charismatic canine has now fronted more than a dozen TV series, plus direct-to-video animated films, comic books and live-action cinematic releases.

In Scooby-Doo’s comedy–mystery adventures, he and the gang investigate strange plots in eerie locales as they travel in their colorful van, the Mystery Machine. Scooby Snacks are always on hand; the tempting treats empower the cowardly Scooby to sniff out clues. Once the gang musters courage, cooperates, and persists in their dogged investigations, the spooky schemers’ plots are exposed.

Three generations of fans have now embraced Scooby-Doo and the “meddling kids,” as they are often called by the villains unmasked at the conclusion of each Scooby-Doo mystery.