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A Gift Shop Dog Day Summer Saturday

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I realize I’m far more interested in USPS stamp releases than the vast majority so I’d committed awhile back not to write about new postage stamp art (much).  It’s been some time so please indulge me for this post.

Earlier this month the USPS made available the following booklet of 20 Pets stamps.PetsThis morning, one of the two local writers groups we host every other Saturday is busily working on their critiques of one another’s work and I’m feverishly trying to plan our end of year book signings. (Why? Because the best gift is always a book and our great local writers get booked early during the holiday season.)

Because I’ve fallen prey to the ‘you must multi task in order to succeed’ mantra, my thoughts jump to my next to-do on my dog-day-summer Saturday list.  It is to review our favorite local publishers’ lists of children’s books because I know there are new goodies that we’re not stocking. I’ve already had shoppers looking for their grandson’s or granddaughter’s favorite author’s newest book.  (Yes, it’s mid-August and people are already talking Christmas gift giving.)

Those jumbled thoughts lead me to acknowledge that one of the Pets stamps is a hermit crab  which has been written about by two of my favorite locals (Anita Elco and Katherine Stelmach)  in Who’s in That Shell? for kids.  One of the other Pets is a corn snake which reminds me of Conrad Storad’s Rattlesnake Rules, another kid favorite.  Plus, parakeets and parrots are featured stamps, reminiscent of a book for the youngest readers that we love, GQ, GQ Where Are You? by Sharon I Ritt.

Dang it,  those multi-tasking “skills” have resulted in one more item on my Saturday work list:  identify additional children’s books about featured Pets written by Arizonans.  If you are aware of any candidates especially books about dogs, cats, horses, fish, mice, gerbils, please share and lighten my dog-day-summer-Saturday to-do list. In turn, I’ll happily  add to my end of year book-signing schedule to promRattote new local writers. Enjoy the weekend!


Musings Of A Shopper

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Musings Of A Shopper

Did you ever consider the word SHOPPING?  How about the SHOPPING EXPERIENCE? 

Every so often I find myself in a situation where I need to find a gift for someone: a niece graduating from high school, a coworker retiring, a grandson’s wedding, a baby shower for the neighbor’s daughter, a Christmas gift for Aunt Mary, a hostess gift for a dinner party, and on and on.  My guess is that you’ve all been there.

When I was younger I would talk to the clerk in a brick and mortar store if I didn’t have a clue, and I often didn’t, about what to get for this occasion or that.  Times changed and the World Wide Web, later the Internet, became accessible through my desk top computer.  It became possible to buy things without leaving the comfort of home.  Pretty neat, but I still had to figure out what to buy.  As time passed the “on line” stores began to carry a wider selection of goods, and it became easier to find a gift.

The problem I experienced was that I couldn’t hold the item in my hand, or see if it was well made or flimsy, until after I bought it and it was shipped and received.  It was impossible to know if the lavender sachet was too strong, or barely scented, until after I bought it.  I’m sure it has happened to someone you know as well.

Technology had given me convenience and variety, but in many ways I was still on my own and taking a risk when I was shopping on-line.

I stopped in a gift shop the other day to pick up some stamps.  I had seen the Post office sign when I stopped to eat in the restaurant at the other end of the block.  After lunch I decided to buy some stamps.

I heard a customer asking about a book for a grandchild and a store employee ask polite questions about the child and make suggestions.  The two of them ended up laughing together about one of the books.

The employee that sold me my stamps asked if I  had seen the new stamp designs that had just come out.  I bought some of both and was glad that I had been shown and offered the choice.

After I pocketed my stamps I asked about a CD Album that was laying on another counter.  The helpful employee took time to tell me about the artist and the theme of the disc.  She also told me it had just been put on sale, 50% off, and hadn’t been marked down yet.

As I turned to leave a display of figurines caught my eye and I spent a moment or two browsing and accidentally listening to another customer thanking a different employee for helping her find a book of poetry.  She talked about how pleased her father had been when she gave him the book.  She said he had really enjoyed it because it reminded him of the farm he grew up on.

As I put my stamps away at home the time I had spent in the store replayed in my head.  The store had given me a sense of comfort.  The employees had all been helpful and friendly.  There was a lot of variety.  I could pick things up and ask questions.  I realized I had just had one of the best shopping experiences of my life.

I’ll be shopping at Gifts To Go again, and if you would like a wonderful shopping experience as well, I’ll be looking for you there too.

Ken B, Surprise, AZ

Editor’s Note:  We at Gifts To Go appreciate our customers and visitors and strive to create a fun, easy-going environment that makes people want to come back and spend time with us.  We take great pride in moving our postal customers through their transactions quickly and correctly and take great joy in spending time chatting with those who aren’t in a rush.  So, receiving Ken B’s letter (above) was an immense treat that we will cherish and are thankful to Ken for sharing his thoughts.

And as in all of life’s endeavors, timing is everything.  We received this note on the first day of Small Business Week 2016.  So, if there is a small business you appreciate for their skills, location, ambience, community focus or… please take a moment this week and let them know.  And, please remember artists, authors and musicians are small businesses, too.

Caped Crusader Hits The Streets…And The Envelopes

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BatmanBat Sheet

Another USPS stamp that evokes a favorite childhood memory.  I recall jumping off the school bus and racing into the house to watch the fabulous Batman and Robin on my grandma’s color TV with my uncle.  It was a daily after school ritual.  Eventually led to my uncle and me making plaster of Paris molds of the caped crusaders in grandma’s laundry room.  A delightful time for me but I recall it didn’t end so well for him as there was residual plaster  problems in the laundry room.

I believe I’ve seen only one of the modern day Batman movies as I never moved from the after school TV show  to either comic books or the ComicCon era.  Nonetheless I’m captivated with the newest USPS stamp release and thought it worthy of a bit of blogging attention.

The following text is taken from and speaks to the sheet details. “For 75 years, Batman has protected Gotham City from the forces of evil. Since his debut, he has become one of the most iconic super heroes in history. This year, the U.S. Postal Service® chronicles the evolution of the character, from his origins to present day.

This new issuance showcases eight unique designs in a sheet of 20 stamps. Four versions of the iconic DC Comics super hero are depicted from four eras of comic book history. In addition, there are four incarnations of the Bat-Signal.

The first row of stamps features Batman with his fists clenched. This muscular, determined Caped Crusader has spent the Modern Age of Comics defending Gotham City from its most notorious villains.  The second row of stamps displays Batman dramatically staring up at the Bat-Signal. By the Bronze Age of Comics, artists had encased the super hero’s spare black bat emblem with a yellow oval. The insignia became the crime fighter’s trademark.
The third row of stamps shows Batman swooping into the frame with his cape flying behind him. The image, from the Silver Age of Comics, accentuates the super hero’s signature glowing white eyes and utility belt. The bottom row of stamps highlights Batman as first envisioned by creator Bob Kane during the Golden Age of Comics. The super hero’s black cape and cowl and gray suit formed his iconic visual identity.

A column on the left side of the sheet includes four different circular stamps. Each is affixed with a different Bat-Signal, the spotlight Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon sent into the night sky to summon Batman.

The background illustration features a silhouette of Batman standing on a bridge with the skyline of Gotham City looming above him. The flip side of the sheet features two illustrations of Batman and text about the history of the character.

Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp sheet. ”

My favorite portion of the sheet is the left hand selvage side that shows a shadowy Batman in the central Gotham City, watching and protecting.  And, the four different circular Bat-Signals are cool additions to the sheet but I do caution all purchasers to be sure to avoid discarding these simple, round stamps as they appear at first to be paper-art stamps that child might use rather than true Forever stamps but they are in fact Forever stamps.


Everything You’ve Wanted To Know About Shipping A Box But Didn’t Know Where To Get The Answer

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The delightful season of fall is upon us – most of the country will be changing clocks next week, the marathoners will hit the streets of NYC, pumpkins are being carved and those of us in the Valley of the Sun are enjoying temps in the 80s and counting down the remaining 100 days to SuperBowl XLIX.

Fall signals the stressful season of ‘prepping-for-The-Holidays’. Packing and sending The Holiday gifts is a frequent, yet easily remedied, source of stress for many.  At Gifts To Go it is our ardent wish to eradicate this stress and we’re starting with this post.  In the spirit of continuous improvement and community involvement, we look forward to your comments.

The Box

Aside from sturdy and clean, choose a box that allows space inside to appropriately cushion for the contents.  If re-using a box choose one that provides a clear space for the addresses and remember it will be weakened the more times it is used.   Avoid boxes that have lots of text or product pictures as it will make it harder for the delivery personnel to find and read the address. Do not re-use bleach or alcohol boxes such as the kind used at Sam’s Club or Costco. Draw several lines through any earlier barcodes.  Your role as the box packer is to make it as easy as possible for everyone who touches your box along the way to handle it properly.

Gifts To Go sells a small selection of new sturdy boxes ranging in price from $0.95 (6″ x 6″ x 6″) to $1.75 (12″ x 12″ x 12″).  The postage on these boxes will be based on the package’s weight and the distance it is being sent in conjunction with the speed of delivery.

USPS offers and Gifts To Go stocks several Flat Rate Priority and Flat Rate Priority Express boxes and envelopes for free.  Regardless of the shipment’s weight or US delivery location, the postage of these items is standardized and ranges from $5.75 to $44.95.  See the details below. Pricing is for US destinations but Flat Rate Priority and Flat Rate Priority Express boxes and envelopes can be used internationally.  Global rates apply.  Also, the top loading large Flat Rate Priority box postage is discounted $2 when sent to US military service personnel.

Envelope Box Size Price Chart

A Word About USPS Delivery Services

USPS offers three delivery services for items weighing 13+ ounces:  Standard (less expensive but slower  includes package tracking online), Priority (2-4 day delivery speed in US, more expensive, includes package tracking online and $50 insurance) and Priority Express (generally overnight delivery in US, most expensive, includes packing tracking online and $100 insurance).

While boxes of all shapes are acceptable for USPS shipping, the measurement of the length of the box plus the measurement around the widest portion of the box must be less than a total of 130″; for Priority or Priority Express shipment the total of length plus widest portion must be less than 108″.  The weight limit of all parcels is 70 pounds.

Prepping Box Content

Keep in mind that alcohol or anything that contains alcohol such as perfumes or bug sprays cannot be shipped as alcohol is flammable.  Liquids can be sent but should be wrapped in plastic in case they leak and then cushioned. To the extent possible distribute the contents’ weight evenly as this will help reduce the number of times the box is dropped or mishandled. Cushion all contents and remove empty space with extra filler.  Generally rolling soft items is a more efficient packing strategy over flat folding.

Place a piece of paper with the sender’s and recipient’s addresses inside the box in the unlikely event the outer address is damaged beyond recognition.

Sealing The Box

Use tape that is at least 2″ wide and either clear or brown.  Avoid using duct tape which can become sticky.  Do not use string or twine which can become stuck in post office sorting equipment.  Keep in mind that tape will add weight that you’ll pay postage for so use only as much tape as needed to close the box.

Addressing The Box

Both the sender’s and recipient’s addresses should be legible and complete with full name, house number and street name (or PO Box number), city, state and zip code.  The sender’s return address is placed to the upper left side of the recipient’s address. Make sure the text is appropriate to the size of the box.  Either write directly on the box or affix a label.  If using a label secure all edges of the label so it cannot be torn off.  It’s a good idea to place a piece of tape across the address portions not just the edges of the label.

Need to verify the zip code?

A Word About International Shipments

The above guidelines are appropriate for international shipments.  Bear in mind that the number of persons who will handle your package before it is delivered is greatly increased given the greater distances so sturdy box, weight balancing, sealing and addressing are even more important.

Packages sent outside of the US must be accompanied by a US Customs Form.  There are two different forms; one for packages under 4 pounds and the other for heavier boxes.  At federal post offices, the USPS postal clerk will key in information based on a paper form that you complete and sign.  At Gifts To Go’s Contract Postal Unit we are operating with the newest USPS deployed system and do not have the ability to key in data.  We will direct you to a dedicated laptop where you will input the required information, including weight, value and a description of the contents.  We will be available to assist you with this process which will generate a paper customs form with a bar code specific to your package.

Each country has specific prohibitions, restrictions and limitations as to the type and quantities of materials that are acceptable for delivery.  Before preparing any international shipment, be sure to check the requirements of the country to which you are sending.

Check international shipping requirements by country.

We look forward to a season of stress free shipping and are happy to help with your questions or concerns.  We are increasing our daily supply of flat rate boxes and envelopes so come by for yours at your convenience.  We are open Monday – Saturday 9a – 5p; will be open on November 11, 2014 which is a USPS holiday.  We will extend our days of service after Thanksgiving by including a few Sunday hours through Christmas.


American Treasures Series New Release: Hudson River School Stamps

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American Treasures Series New Release: Hudson River School Stamps

Normally, I’m not a fan of muted colors or browns or grays so it took me some time to warm up to the latest edition of American Treasures series USPS stamps, Hudson River School.  But our postal customers enjoy seeing the latest stamps and agonizing over which stamp art will work best on their communications.

As I pored over the Hudson River School stamps, I  noticed that one was a distant view of Niagara Falls, a favorite place of mine near my hometown and a second was a painting of the Grand Canyon, near to my current residence and business location.  I was sold at that moment and then the yellows, blues and reds in the paintings became more apparent to me.

As it turns out, my customers are fond of these stamps and we’ve had to re-order more!  Moral of the story, beauty and meaning are in the eye of the beholder, provided they take a moment to consider the art presented to them.  Enjoy.

Here is the official description of the Hudson River School Stamps:

“During the 19th century, the artists of a young America searched for a new way of viewing the world and found it in the very landscapes around them. Inspired by the stunning natural beauty of New York state, the loose-knit Hudson River School of painters flourished from the mid-1830s to the mid-1870s and gave America its first major school of art.

This 12th issuance in the American Treasures series features details of paintings by four renowned Hudson River School artists. The paintings on these stamps are: Distant View of Niagara Falls (1830) by Thomas Cole, from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago; Summer Afternoon (1865) by Asher B. Durand, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Sunset (1856) by Frederic Edwin Church, from the collection of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute; and Grand Canyon (1912) by Thomas Moran, from the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Derry Noyes was the art director and designer for the Hudson River School stamps, which are being issued as Forever® stamps. These Forever® stamps will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.

*Church, Frederic Edwin (1826-1900). Sunset,1856. Oil on canvas. Original 1870s-styleframe. 37 3/4 x 49 3/4 in.(framed). Proctor Collection, PC.21, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, NY, U.S.A. Photo Credit: Munson-Williams- Proctor Arts Institute / Art Resource, NY

*Thomas Cole, American, 1801-1848, Distant View of Niagara Falls, 1830, Oil on panel, 47.9 x 60.6 cm (18 7/8 x 23 7/8 in.), Friends of American Art Collection, 1946.396, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago.

*Durand, Asher Brown (1796-1886). Summer Afternoon, 1865, Oil on canvas, 22 1/2 x 35 in. (57.2 x 88.9 cm). Bequest of Maria DeWitt Jesup, from the collection of her husband, Morris K. Jesup, 1914 (15.30.60), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, U.S.A. Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY.

‘Songbirds’ Forever Stamps Are So Beautiful You Can Almost Hear The Chirping

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Every so often a new USPS stamp is issued that really captures our attention and that of our Contract Postal Unit (CPU) customers. The Songbirds Forever stamp has generated lots of counter talk.

Two of the most interesting features of these stamps are the vivid colors on the stark white background and the slightly larger than normal size of the stamps. Plus each of the birds is either perched upon or show with tree branches or flowers local to the bird’s home area.

According to the USPS, “The U.S. Postal Service celebrates ten melodic voices with the Songbirds stamp issuance, which features the western meadowlark…the mountain bluebird…the western tanger…the painted bunting…the Baltimore oriole…the evening grosbeak…the rose-breasted grosbeak…the American goldfinch…and the white throated sparrow. Robert Gusti painted the portraits based on photographs. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps.”

Because these stamps are so stunning, I did a bit more digging and found the following passage at “Why do songbirds make such a glorious racket every morning? In a word, love. Males sing to attract females, and to warn rivals to keep out of their territory. Between 4,000 and 4,500 different types of songbirds can be found around the planet, accounting for nearly half of all bird species. Songbirds are identified by their highly developed vocal organs, although some, like the crow, have harsh voices, and others sing rarely, or not at all. All songbirds are classified as perching birds. With three toes that point forward and one that points backward, they can grip branches, grasses, or telephone wires with ease.”

No need for stamps right now? We still welcome you to come see these Songbirds Forever stamps when you’re in the neighborhood. We’ll be open Monday – Saturday 9a – 5p and are located at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, Arizona. Hope to see you soon.

2013 USPS Muscle Cars Stamps – America On The Move

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muscle cars

We opened our Contract Postal Unit (CPU) officially on July 1, 2013 and have been having fun discovering the richness of USPS stamps. Each set represents an amazing level of research and commitment to bringing aspects of American life and history to the forefront of our minds. Plus, the artwork on each has truly impressed us.

The 2013 USPS Muscle Cars Stamps were released in February 2013, well before we opened. We’ve recently discovered them while searching for the newest and most stunning stamps. So, it’s only appropriate to share all the USPS offers in terms of research on this vibrant set of stamps. All further info on this post has been taken from the USPS site at

“Freedom, Adventure, and Burning Rubber

Fast, powerful, and eye-catching, muscle cars roared their way onto America’s roads in the 1960s. Typically equipped with big, powerful engines, these high-performance vehicles represented the era’s adventurous spirit. Muscle Cars is the third issuance in the America on the Move series.

The Muscle Cars stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps in self-adhesive sheets of 20 (4 of each design). Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce price.

First day of issue: February 22, 2013 | Daytona, FL Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda are trademarks of Chrysler Group LLC”

And now for a description of each of the featured five muscle cars….

“1966 Pontiac GTO
A New Era of 0-60

The Pontiac GTO ushered in the American muscle-car era in the mid-1960s. The first GTO was built to house the engine of a full-size sedan in the intermediate-size Tempest LeMans. The GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato, Italian for Grand Touring Homologated) could really move: in tests, it went from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds. The distinctive car featured curvy body styling and a split grille, and was available as a hardtop, coupe, or convertible. General Motors Chevelle and Pontiac Trademarks used under license to the USPS.

1967 Shelby GT-500
Spoiler, Stripes, and a Smooth Ride

Manufacturer Carroll Shelby’s take on the Ford Mustang reflected his roots as a racecar driver. Powered by a Police Interceptor engine, the 1967 Shelby GT-500 also featured a rear spoiler and rocker panel stripes. Its grille-mounted headlights, scooped fiberglass hood, extended nose, and interior roll bar and shoulder harnesses further enhanced the racecar feel. And the 1967 Shelby GT-500’s improved suspension softened the ride for highway and racetrack alike. The car was both striking and rare; only 2,048 were built. “Shelby®” and “GT-500®” are registered trademarks of Carroll Shelby Licensing, Inc. used under license. MUSTANG is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company.

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
An Aerodynamic Head-Turner

The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona was designed to dominate the racetrack, and it took the checkered flag at its NASCAR debut in September 1969 at the Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega. The Daytona was an aerodynamic head-turner: its concealed headlights, fender-mounted scoops, a rear-mounted wing nearly two feet tall, and 18-inch nosepiece helped it cut sleekly through the air. It also sported thick body stripes containing the word “DAYTONA.” These distinctive vehicles were hard to come by: only 503 were produced. Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda are trademarks of Chrysler Group LLC

1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda
Bold Design. Fierce Attitude.

The 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, a performance-oriented alter-ego of the standard Plymouth Barracuda, oozed power. Its Shaker hood scoop vibrated as air flowed through to its beast-like engine. The ‘Cuda’s styling was an extension of its bold ethos: it came in a variety of vibrant, eye-popping colors.

With hockey-stick shaped stripes denoting engine size, a shifter handle shaped like a pistol grip, and bucket seats, the ‘Cuda was unflinchingly fearless. The model is also a rare specimen: fewer than 700 were produced.
Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda are trademarks of Chrysler Group LLC

1970 Chevelle SS
Serious Style.Seriously Powerful.

With features like optional twin racing stripes, the 1970 Chevelle SS looked fierce. SS, which stood for Super Sport, was a fitting designation for this seriously powerful vehicle: its LS-6 engine is legendary among car buffs for its sheer might. The Chevelle SS was lightning-fast, finishing in the 13-second range in quarter-mile tests. The car offered more than impressive road performance: known for its unique style, it featured a black grille and SS emblems on both the grille and the rear bumper.General Motors Chevelle and Pontiac Trademarks used under license to the USPS.”

Hats off to the artwork and design on the muscle car stamps. “The Muscle Cars stamp issuance celebrates the high-performance vehicles that captured our imagination when they first roared onto our roads in the 1960s. Art director Carl T. Herrman designed the stamps, created by artist Tom Fritz, who based his artwork on photographs of the cars, using bright-colored oil paints on hardboard to try to “capture the emotive quality” of each one.”

Each sheet of 20 forever stamps sells for $9.20 and includes a full description of each car on the backside. Thanks, USPS, for keeping these powerful cars and the era they ushered in, alive in our memories.