- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

Signed, sealed, delivered — forever.

The U.S. Postal Service plans to print 4 billion of its new “forever” stamps, which will remain valid for sending a letter no matter how much rates increase.

The stamp, which will be adorned with the Liberty Bell and the word “forever” instead of a price, will go on sale April 12 for 41 cents. First-class stamps will increase to 41 cents on May 14.

“Who said nothing lasts forever?” Postmaster General John Potter said. “The forever stamp is a consumer innovation guaranteed to deliver unprecedented convenience and value to our customers. It’s good forever.”

The Postal Service will print more of the stamps if they run out, said spokesman Dave Partenheimer.

The average print run for commemorative stamps ranges from 40 million to 100 million.

The new stamp will be available in sheets of 18 and in booklets of 20 at automated teller machines, post office vending machines, automated postal centers and post offices. It will be recognized internationally, because the Postal Service delivers nearly half of the world’s mail volume.

Congress approved a measure last year to allow the Postal Service to adjust rates at the rate of inflation annually, said Board of Governors Chairman James Miller.

“We chose to move forward with the forever stamp to ease transition from one rate price to the next rate price.” The Postal Service is battling consumers’ increasing use of computers to do everything from e-mailing birthday cards to online bill paying. Shoppers, too, are increasingly turning to the Internet to do their purchasing instead of leafing through the stacks of catalogs that come in the mail.

The agency also is battling rising fuel prices and employee health costs, prompting the Postal Service to raise rates from 39 cents, which went into effect in January 2006.

The Postal Service says strong early sales of the “forever” stamp won’t necessarily hurt sales down the road. And Mr. Miller said he did not expect consumers to hoard the stamps, although they may want to avoid future increases.

The best time to buy the “forever” stamp is right before the Postal Service announces that it is considering a rate increase, Mr. Potter said.

The Liberty Bell was picked over other U.S. icons such as the flag because it stands as one of the most prominent symbols of American independence, Mr. Potter said.

Other rates are increasing, too. Post cards will cost 26 cents, up from 24 cents; and a 1-pound package sent parcel post will go from $3.95 to $4.50.

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