The United States Stamp Society
The United States Stamp Society (USSS) is the preeminent organization devoted to the study of United States stamps. It is, “a non-profit, volunteer-run association of collectors to promote the study of the philatelic output of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and of postage and revenue stamped paper produced by others for use in the United States and U.S. administered areas.” Once concerned exclusively with the production of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the USSS has expanded its coverage to include all United States issues, both classic and modern, regardless of printer.
The organization began in 1926 as the Philatelic Plate Number Association (PPNA). About 1929, R.A. Bryant, PPNA Publicity Manager, and PPNA President Hugh M. Southgate recognized the membership’s interest in expanding the scope of the organization beyond plate numbers. In March 1930, the name of the Association was changed to the Bureau Issues Association (BIA) and in 1938, the BIA incorporated as a non-profit organization.
R.A. Bryant published a three page organization Bulletin #1, February 19, 1930. The Bulletin formally became The Bureau Specialist with the third issue in April 1930 and its name was retained until 1966 (volume 37), when it changed to The United States Specialist, to better express the society’s widening interest. The award-winning monthly journal is a membership benefit and continues to provide informational updates, features, and original research. For the first 50 years of the Association, The Specialist had but four editors: R.A. Bryant, Robert C. Masters, Barbara R. Mueller, and Sol Koved – a remarkable record for any philatelic organization.
Starting in 1962, the scope of the organization was expanded to cover the entire U.S. scene as well as all the U.S. administration issues. In 1986, the BIA became affiliate #150 of the American Philatelic Society. In 2000 the organization was renamed the United States Stamp Society, reflecting the diminishing role of the BEP in printing stamps and the increasing reliance on private contractors.
The Society promotes research through numerous committees and study groups, including Booklets and Booklet Panes, Washington-Franklin Series, Presidential Issue, Revenue Issues, Marginal Markings, and Registered Mail. These committees serve as sources of information for members and also provide members with opportunities to join in their activities. A Society Annual Meeting is held each year in conjuction with a national stamp show. The annual event features a membership meeting, seminars and exhibits, and both formal and informal fellowship.
The most prestigious awards presented by the Society are the Walter W. Hopkinson Trophy, presented for the best exhibit of twentieth century material at an annual meeting show, and the Hugh M. Southgate Memorial Trophy, presented for the best nineteenth century exhibit at the annual show. The Walter W. Hopkinson Memorial Literature Award is given annually for the best article or series of articles published in The United States Specialist. The Statue of Freedom medal is presented for the best exhibit of U.S. material at a National World Series of Philately show, while the President’s Award is given at regional and local shows. The Century of Service Award is awarded for service to the Society. The Society’s highest honor is the Hall of Fame. Over the past eight decades only ten members have been inducted to the Hall in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the Society.
The USSS has contributed to philatelic research by publishing articles in The United States Specialist. Many books and research papers have been produced under USSS auspices, including the Encyclopedia and the Durland Plate Number Catalogue. Other books published by the Society cover such topics as Booklets Panes, The Prexies, Plate Varieties, the commemorative and air mail stamps of 1945-1952, the Transport air mail stamps, a collection of the philatelic writings of Elliott Perry, and a collection of the columns written by George B. Sloane for STAMPS magazine.