In 1992, the American public voted on a matter of vital
national importance: young Elvis or old Elvis?
the public to select the artwork for the Elvis Presley
stamp was an unprecedented move by the U.S. Postal
Service. The choice was between two equally superb
but thematically distinct portraits: a watercolor
of the youthful Elvis by Mark Stutzman, or a more
painted by John Berkey.
ballots were distributed in post offices around
the country and in the April 13, 1992, edition of
America spoke, returning nearly 1.2 million ballots
to the Postal Service, and the choice was clear: More
than 75 percent of voters preferred young Elvis. The
stamp was dedicated at Graceland just a few moments
after midnight on January 8, 1993—Elvis’s
the country, reaction to the voting process was boisterous
and opinionated. Members of Congress debated the worthiness
of Elvis as a stamp subject, newspaper editorialists
made lofty pronouncements, and presidential candidate
Bill Clinton publicly voiced his support for the younger
Elvis. Meanwhile, comedians and cartoonists used the
opportunity to poke fun at the Postal Service, the
1992 presidential candidates, and even Elvis himself.
decade later, the Elvis stamp is still one of the
most talked-about stamps ever issued by the Postal
Service—and the most popular U.S. commemorative
stamp of all time.
stamps that would be King
U.S. Postal Service commissioned eight artists to
develop potential designs for an Elvis stamp. Working
independently, they submitted 60 sketches and paintings
in every imaginable style, from somber watercolors
to abstract modernist designs.
artists were not restricted to any particular era
in the life of Elvis, so their designs explored various
aspects of his career, including his films, his early
performances, and his reign on the Las Vegas concert
stage. These concept sketches and preliminary designs,
which reflect the innumerable ways of looking at an
American icon, show Elvis stamps that might have been.