the stamp

What is a "semi-postal" stamp?

A semipostal or semi-postal stamp is a postage stamp issued, promoted, and sold to raise money for a particular purpose (such as a charitable cause). The stamp is sold at a premium over the postal value with funds, minus administrative costs, distributed to the cause.

The first semipostal was a postal card, issued in 1890 to commemorate the United Kingdom Uniform Penny Post, which created the Penny Black—the world’s first adhesive, fixed-price stamp—in 1840.

The United States issued its first semipostal in 1998 with the Breast Cancer Research stamp, authorized by Congress.

What are the current U.S. Postal Service semipostals and how much money have they raised?

The U.S. Postal Service now sells two semipostal stamps. It has issued five, including Heroes (of 2001), Stop Family Violence, and Save Vanishing Species. 

Breast Cancer Research stamp was Congressionally mandated in July 1998. It has been reauthorized several times. To date, it has raised nearly $90 million for breast cancer research at the National Institutes of Health and the Medical Research Program at the Department of Defense. 

The Alzheimer’s stamp was issued in November 2017 under the U.S. Postal Service’s discretionary program. It has raised almost $1 million that is directed to the National Institutes of Health.

Who advocates for semipostal stamps?

Individual citizens often begin advocacy, whether the stamp is Congressionally mandated or issued through the U.S. Postal Service discretionary program. 

In the case of the Breast Cancer Research stamp, advocacy of Congress was launched by Dr. Balazs “Ernie” Bodai, surgeon joined by Betsy Mullen, breast cancer survivor; and David Goodman, who lost his first wife to breast cancer. 

Advocacy for the Alzheimer’s stamp, which was approved through the U.S. Postal Service discretionary program, started independently in 1998 by Kathy Siggins, joined in 2012 by Lynda Everman. Both women had husbands who suffered from Alzheimer’s.

Who gets to design the stamp?

The U.S. Postal Service commissions artwork to illustrate a stamp, which it designs. 

The design is important toward messaging. A Government Accounting Office report (2005) revealed that “…there was concern that the design of the Stop Family Violence [2003-2006] stamp may have negatively affected sales of that semipostal…given the image of a crying child.” 

Keeping this in mind, it will be helpful to message “Stamp Out Eder Abuse” through a strengths- and community-based lens, informed by communications research by the Frameworks Institute and others.

For example, for the Breast Cancer Research stamp, “Art director Ethel Kessler, herself a breast cancer survivor, faced a challenge in designing the stamp. She wanted a design that brought awareness to the importance of…[r]esearch while offering a positive and uplifting image. (USPS)

How much do semipostal stamps cost?

Now, semipostals are sold at a price of 65 cents, or 11 cents above the First Class stamp price. The price pays for the First Class single-piece postage rate in effect at the time of purchase plus an amount to fund causes that have been determined to be in the national public interest.

Where will the money go, if the act is passed?

Revenue from sales (minus postage and the reasonable reimbursement of costs to the U.S. Postal Service) is transferred to up to two selected executive agencies. 

Half of the amounts becoming available from the sale of the Stamp Out Elder Abuse Semipostal Stamp shall be transferred to the Department of Justice. Half shall be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services for the Administration on Community Living. 

What is the timetable, if the bill gets enacted?

According to the act, “The Postal Service shall make available to the public the Stamp Out Elder Abuse Semipostal Stamp for a period of not less than 2 years, beginning not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act.”

If the bill is enacted, the real work begins, nationwide, to advocate, year round, for the purchase of the stamp, advocacy for elder justice, and prevention of and response to elder abuse and elder financial exploitation. 

As noted in the GAO (2005) report, “Early and continued involvement of advocacy groups helps sustain semipostal support.” And, “…a semipostal’s success is dependent on the support provided by external groups or individuals.”


Aging & Demographic Change, Frameworks Institute

Cooper, Ryan. The miracle of the United States Postal Service. Opinion, The Week. August 2, 2018

Postal Service, Semipostal Stamp Program, 39 CFR Part 551, Federal Register; Vol. 81, No. 76; Wednesday, April 20, 2016; Rules and Regulations, pp. 23162-23164.  

Semi-postal stamp, Wikipedia

Stamp Out Elder Abuse Act of 2019. United States Congress. H.R.2719 (May 14, 2019), S.1784 (June 11, 2019)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living.

U.S. Department of Justice, Elder Justice Initiative.

U.S. Postal Service, Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee.  

U.S Postal Service, Postal Store: Alzheimer’s First Class Semipostal; Breast Cancer Research First Class Semipostal 

U.S. Postal Service, Semipostal Stamp Program

U.S Postal Service, Postal Store: Alzheimer’s First Class Semipostal; Breast Cancer Research First Class Semipostal 

U.S. Postal Service: Factors Affecting Fund-Raising Stamp Sales Suggest Lessons Learned. United States Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Committees. September 30, 2005