Stamping Out Danger

In February of 2010, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama announced her “Let’s Move” initiative, aiming to end childhood obesity in the country by, in part, encouraging an active lifestyle. Along the way, she found many allies in both the private and public sectors. One of those partners was the United States Postal Service (USPS), which decided to join the cause by creating a series of stamps, pictured below, highlighting fifteen different activities from independent activities like juggling and jumping rope to playing organized sports such as baseball and basketball.


The Postal Service, via the stamps, hoped to raise awareness around the issues at the center of the Let’s Move! campaign.

That’s not quite what happened.

The line of stamps was designed by the USPS and the First Lady’s office and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition went to review them. To a lay person or even a stamp designer, everything may look fine, but to a children’s fitness expert, there were problems. First, the cannonball — kids, apparently, shouldn’t do that; it’s dangerous. Then there’s the headstand. It’s not dangerous in-and-of itself, but the Council and Let’s Move teams wanted the child depicted to have a helmet on. And finally, there’s the skateboarder. While the probably-not-blue-haired child is wearing a helmet (that’s good!), he or she isn’t wearing kneepads (that’s bad).

(For some reason, the child balancing, barefoot, on a rock was OK.)

In most cases, this wouldn’t have been a big deal — the experts would weigh in and the designers would incorporate the required changes. But in this case, there was a glitch in the process. The first time the President’s Council and First Lady’s office saw the stamps was just before the ceremony announcing them — and the stamps were already printed.

A spokesperson for the Postal Service told Yahoo! News that, at first, the stamps were held in a warehouse in upstate New York, until all the parties could decide what to do with them. Ultimately, the experts won out, and the stamps were never issued. Instead, they were all destroyed — even the ones practicing safe play habits.


Bonus Fact: In October of 2013, a school in New Hampshire told children that tag could no longer be played at recess, because “students were sometimes tag[ging] each other too forcefully.”

From the ArchivesExtreme Tag: An extreme game of tag, as the title suggests. Probably too extreme for a stamp.

RelatedA predecessor of sorts to Let’s Move. OK, not really.