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First-class forever stamps: Goodbye makeup postage

First-class forever stamps will replace denominated first-class stamps in January.

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This handout image provided by the US Postal Service shows two first-class forever stamps that will be issued in 2011. Starting in January, forever stamps will be good for a first-class letter, even if there's a postal rate hike.

USPS/AP

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Postal patron Sean Swilling is tired of the inconvenience that comes with every change in the price of mailing a letter. That makes him just the type of customer the U.S. Postal Service wants to please with a policy designating all new first-class stamps as "forever."

Beginning in January, all new stamps good for 1 ounce of domestic first-class mail will forgo a printed denomination and be acceptable for the typical letter regardless of the current postal rate. Voilà: first-class forever stamps.

"I think that's a great idea," Swilling, a research analyst for commercial property, said Tuesday during a mail run at a downtown Washington post office. "For me, a guy who uses snail mail regularly, it's a hassle to get 1- or 2-cent stamps. Streamline things — that would be perfect."

The move is designed to help customers cope with postage increases, a Postal Service official told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The official requested anonymity to discuss a policy that hasn't been announced formally.

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe plans to announce the new policy Jan. 14, the official said.

Jim Plante, a federal employee mailing a letter in downtown Washington, doesn't see the policy as a major change in doing business.

"They get my money in advance, but I'll use them eventually. It will save me a penny or two," Plante said. "It won't cure their deficit, but if it helps them out a bit, why not?"

The Postal Service unveiled its first-class commemorative stamps for 2011 on Tuesday. All were marked with the word "forever" instead of the current rate of 44 cents.

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The initial first-class stamp under the new policy will be the Lunar New Year: Year of the Rabbit stamp, to be issued Jan. 22. It will be followed by stamps commemorating Kansas statehood on Jan. 29 and, in February, the centennial of President Ronald Reagan's birth.

The Forever Stamp, first issued in April 2007 and featuring the Liberty Bell, was designed for use regardless of changes in postal rates. They are sold at the prevailing price of domestic first-class postage.

The Postal Service says that 28 billion Forever Stamps have been sold since, generating $12.1 billion in total revenue. The stamps without denominations already account for 85 percent of its stamp program, the service says.

The Postal Service sought a 2-cent increase in postage rates for 2011, but the independent Postal Rate Commission rejected the request. The post office is appealing the decision in federal court.

The Internet and the economic downturn have been cited for a 3.5 percent decline in mail volume from 2009 to 2010.

The Postal Service lost $8.5 billion in the year ending Sept. 30, even after trimming more than 100,000 jobs in recent years, and estimates it will lose $6 billion to $7 billion in the next year. One of its proposals for dealing with its financial troubles calls for cutting delivery to five days a week instead of six, a change Congress must approve.

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