The Lady Liberty of the Las Vegas Strip lacks the gravitas of her East Coast lookalike. She is half the size, a century younger and represents a coarser form of democracy: the freedom to choose which slot machine gobbles up your savings.
Yet the Las Vegas replica recently snatched an honor from Lower Manhattan's celebrated greeter of the tired, poor and huddled masses: a star turn on a U.S. postage stamp.
Postal Service officials, who issued the stamp in December, apparently thought the photo they'd selected was of the Lady Liberty dedicated in 1886 — not her progeny, who since 1997 has beckoned gamblers outside the New York New York Hotel & Casino, alongside an imitation Empire State Building. And a roller coaster.
An image based on the headshot, which came from photography service Getty Images and was labeled only as the Statue of Liberty, graces about 2 billion stamps, said Roy Betts, a Postal Service spokesman.
It took a sharp-eyed philatelist to notice that what was assumed to be Harbor Liberty, star of 23 previous stamps, was actually Hotel Liberty, interloper of drunken snapshots. The stamp enthusiast notified the Postal Service last month, Betts said.
The statue coiffures differ slightly, according to Linn's Stamp News, which first reported the mix-up. Hotel Liberty's crown has a rectangular patch on one of its spikes; Harbor Liberty does not. Hotel Liberty's eyes appear less time-worn. (Because of her youth? Perhaps. Though in Las Vegas, don't discount Botox.)
The Postal Service plans to change some informational material about the stamp, but not to recall it. "We love the image," Betts said. "It really was a mislabeling more than anything."
Some New York Times readers reacted with far less nonchalance. "Send these, the insipid, culture-free to me," one scoffed on the paper's website. "I lift my neon lamp beside the brothel door."
Predictably, Las Vegas tourists shrugged. Sarah and Ken Wenglewski, Oklahoma residents celebrating their 18th anniversary here, photographed themselves Friday in front of Hotel Liberty.
"We're going to tell people we were in New York," she joked after learning of the stamp fiasco.
Just up the street sits Paris, another hotel-casino with its own towering replica. Alas, the Postal Service has no plans to honor the Eiffel Tower — in Paris or Las Vegas.