The Time 1.2 Million Americans Voted On A Stamp

In 1992, the U.S. Postal Service asked the public to voice their opinion on an extremely important topic: young Elvis or old Elvis? The choice between two portraits of Elvis Presley for a commemorative stamp may not have been a life-changing decision for most people, but it sure did carry a lot of controversy along with it.

While the public debated which portrait would look better, Congress debated whether Elvis was even worthy to be the subject of a commemorative stamp. Presidential candidate Bill Clinton publicly voiced his support for the young Elvis painting. Comedians and cartoonists poked fun at the U.S. Postal Service, the 1992 presidential candidates, and even Elvis himself (via the Smithsonian National Postal Museum). To this day, the Elvis commemorative stamp is one of the most talked-about stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service. The Elvis stamp would go on to become the most successful commemorative stamp release in the history of the U.S. Postal Service, with over 500 million copies in print (via History).

Eight artists were commissioned to design the stamp

Once the U.S. Postal Service had chosen to create an Elvis commemorative stamp in 1992, 15 years after his death, eight artists were hired to evoke the singer's personality. Working independently, the artists submitted over 60 sketches and paintings in almost every style one could imagine, each aiming to create a portrait that personified the legend himself (via the Smithsonian National Postal Museum). 

The artists were not given limitations on the style or any specific era of Elvis' life and career. As a result, many of the designs took inspiration from different outfits, career choices, and ages. The U.S. Postal Service narrowed down the submitted designs to two portraits: a watercolor painting of a young Elvis by Mark Stutzman and a more mature Elvis painted by John Berkey. After the two designs were chosen, it was up to the public to decide which better represented Elvis' large personality.

Almost 1.2 million ballots were sent in

The U.S. Postal Service distributed pre-addressed ballots in post offices and in the April 13, 1992, edition of People magazine. In total, almost 1.2 million ballots were sent in. The answer as to which portrait would be displayed on the Elvis commemorative stamp was clear: 75% of voters preferred young Elvis (via the Smithsonian National Postal Museum). The commemorative stamp was officially dedicated a few moments after midnight on January 8, 1993, on what would have been Elvis' 58th birthday.

In 2015, the U.S. Postal Service created another stamp for Elvis, the Elvis Presley forever stamp. It is unusual for two stamps to be issued featuring the same person. In fact, unless someone was a U.S. president or other famous national figure, such as a founding father, it just doesn't happen (via Musical Stamps). Elvis is one of the few people outside of former presidents to have a second stamp created in his honor.