A Philatelic Whopper: When Lady Liberty Turns Out To Be A Replica

Apr 15, 2011

The statue that adorns the U.S. Postal Service's Lady Liberty Forever stamp looks a lot like the Statue of Liberty. But look closer: the statue seems to have a wider nose, the eyelids are a bit more distinct and her brow is furrowed.

Linn's Stamp News, the premiere publication of American philately, got a tip so Jay Bigalke, and associate editor for the publication, compared the stamp to a picture he took of the Statue of Liberty in New York City and another picture he took of the replica of the Statue of Liberty that's in front of the casino New York, New York in Las Vegas.

Yep, he found out, the U.S. Postal Service had made a big mistake. In today's edition of All Things Considered, Bigalke tells NPR's Robert Siegel that the Postal Service used stock photography and someone neglected to read the caption.

So, instead of a cherished 125-year-old symbol that has welcomed huddled masses yearning to be free, the stamp is adorned by a picture of a 14-year-old statue that presides over sleepless gamblers and drinkers in Vegas.

The post office told The New York Times they had no idea, but they're just going to let it be:

"We still love the stamp design and would have selected this photograph anyway," said Roy Betts, a spokesman. Mr. Betts did say, however, that the post office regrets the error and is "re-examining our processes to prevent this situation from happening in the future."

Bigalke told Robert that this incident will likely go down in history as one of the biggest philatelic blunders.

"This is right up there with the Grand Canyon, Colorado mistake that they made ... where they accidently printed a caption underneath the Grand Canyon photograph that said 'Grand Canyon, Colorado,'" said Bigalke. The Grand Canyon is of course in Arizona.

Back in 2000, the AP reported that the Postal Service had to destroy 100 million of those stamps because of the mistake.

Tune in to All Things Considered on your local NPR member station to hear the full interview. We'll post the as-broadcast version of the interview later today. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.