Obama-Mania Is Already in the Mail

Posted January 28, 2009 at 2:55pm

Cashing in on the popularity of President Barack Obama, the U.S. Postal Service is selling souvenirs commemorating the inauguration of America’s 44th president.

The sale of Obama merchandise — including coffee mugs, T-shirts, buttons and canvas bags — has become an instant industry, thanks to the popularity of the first African-American president.

“Obama-mania is real, and it has come to USPS,” said Roy Betts, community relations manager for the Postal Service.

The USPS issued inaugural souvenirs to commemorate the inauguration of former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — but not on the same scale as Obama’s inauguration. Before this inauguration, the Postal Service normally printed only 25,000 folios.

This time though, the USPS has issued three items. Now on sale at post offices nationwide and through the USPS Web site are the official commemorative souvenir folio, “The Dream” framed art and an Election Day puzzle.

The folio includes a collectible stamped envelope with silk portraits of Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden as well as a commemorative color postmark. The folio has a brief commentary on inaugural tradition and history, biographical information on Obama and Biden, and the presidential oath of office. From Jan. 20-23, the Postal Service sold 30,000 folios out of a run of 150,000.

The Postal Service is also offering a framed picture of Obama, which is advertised as an “inspiring piece” that commemorates the “dream” fulfilled when he was elected president. The frame has a walnut and black finish, which the Postal Service says will make “a handsome piece that will fit in any décor.”

The picture frame has a photograph of Obama delivering his acceptance speech during Democratic National Convention in Denver in August last year. Also in the picture frame is a canceled Martin Luther King Jr. stamp.

The third souvenir item is a 550-piece puzzle made of a reproduction of the Boston Globe’s Nov. 5, 2008, front page with the headline, “Historic Victory.” It includes a photograph of Obama with his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, appearing at Millennium Park in Chicago on the night of the election.

On the same front page are stories about Obama being the first African-American president and about how Obama’s decisive victory over Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is a landmark in the country’s 232-year history.

The USPS will not issue Obama stamps just yet. “We don’t honor living individuals on stamps,” Betts said. The USPS has to wait one year after a president’s death before issuing the stamps. For non-presidents, the wait is five years. The last president whose image was printed on stamps was Ronald Reagan.

“We’re very ecstatic about the popularity of the products. Now is the opportunity to own a piece of history,” Betts said.

Linda Grant, a USPS employee of 35 years, said that of the 1,000 folios delivered at the branch at 2 Massachusetts Ave. NW, “only a few” are left.

“This is history,” Grant said, as she rang up a folio for a customer. “I bought one myself.”