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Postal Service Will Take Orders for Misprinted Bill Pickett Stamps

October 1, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Postal Service and a group of stamp enthusiasts agreed Friday that the agency can take orders for 150,000 sheets of stamps containing the misprinted 29-cent Bill Pickett commemorative stamp.

But if the stamp collectors win a lawsuit they filed Thursday, those orders may never be filled.

At issue is whether the Postal Service can sell thousands of the misprinted stamps to the public, causing the value of the 183 stamps sold by mistake last year to plummet.

Thousands of stamp enthusiasts were expected to seek copies of the stamp that was supposed to honor Pickett, a black cowboy who performed at rodeos and is credited with creating steer wrestling.

The 183 stamps previously sold actually depicted Bill’s brother, Ben Pickett. He also was a cowboy, but was not a rodeo star.

Postal officials recalled 5.2 million of the stamps in January, and Postmaster General Marvin Runyon announced that all unsold Pickett stamps would be destroyed, said the suit by six stamp collectors and one stamp dealer.

Runyon’s announcement led the plaintiffs to pay several thousand dollars for some of the stamps, which would have been worth $35,000 to $50,000 each if no more were sold, they contended in the suit filed in U.S. District Court here.

But then the Postal Service said it planned to sell sheets of its ″Legends of the West″ series - containing one Pickett stamp each - for $8.70 each.

″The stated purpose of the sale to the public is to destroy the value of plaintiffs’ stamps and to increase revenues for the Postal Service, even though it was their negligent selection of the wrong picture″ that caused the problem, the suit said. The suit names as defendants Runyon, the Postal Service and Sam Winters, chairman of the agency’s board of governors.

The Postal Service will use a lottery drawing to determine who gets the stamps. Officials do not plan to start mailing them until Dec. 1.

The stamp collectors’ suit sought a temporary restraining order blocking that distribution. Friday’s agreement allows officials to start processing orders.

A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 28.

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