Americans will soon be stamping their mail with the faces of living figures, the United States Postal Service said Monday.
The new rule for honoring individuals on stamps replaces a former policy requiring a person to be dead at least five years before being memorialized on postage, reduced from 10 years in 2007.
"The rule is changed as of today," Stephen Kearney, USPS executive director of stamp services, told Reuters on Monday. "And we hope to have at least the first living subject on a stamp in 2012."
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement: "This change will enable us to pay tribute to individuals for their achievements while they are still alive to enjoy the honor."
Last year USPS sold 12.5 billion stamps, 700 million of which were commemorative, according to Kearney.
He said USPS thinks the move "will take stamps, which are already important and relevant to a lot of people ... and get more people involved, particularly young people."
The Postal Service is inviting members of the public to submit their top five choices for living individuals they would like to see on a stamp via social media sites Facebook and Twitter -- and, "as always," according to the USPS website, by mail.
The new stamp policy comes as personal mail use declines and budgetary obstacles mount for the Postal Service.
Republican Senator John McCain unveiled a bill on Friday to revamp USPS, including an end to Saturday mail delivery.
The Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer revenue to fund daily operations, says it faces default on a $5.5 billion retiree health payment due on Sept. 30.
Kearney said the Postal Service makes over $200 million a year from stamp collecting.
"But it's not the main reason to do it," Kearney said. "(It's) serious money, but a fairly small proportion of the financial situation we're in." (Editing by Jerry Norton and Eric Beech)
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