The traditional first-class stamp is being phased out and replaced with so-called "forever" stamps.
The United States Postal Service is expected to announce on Jan. 14 that all first-class stamps for mailing standard envelopes will become forever stamps. Forever stamps remain sufficient for first-class postage no matter how much rates rise in the future. Currently, a first-class stamp for a standard-sized envelope weighing up to one ounce costs 44 cents, with no increase planned through at least 2011.
The change is designed to make mailing standard letters convenient for consumers, who in the past have had to contend with buying one- and two-cent stamps every time there is a rate increase. The USPS began to address the issue in April 2007, when it introduced the existing "Forever Stamp," which depicts the Liberty Bell and the words "USA FIRST CLASS," without showing a denomination. Since then, more than 6 billion have been sold.
The transition to forever-only stamps will begin on Jan 22, when the postal service issues the commemorative Lunar New Year: Year of the Rabbit stamp. Other commemorative first class stamps will be converted to forever stamps as well.
The postal service expects the inventory of non-forever first class stamps to be depleted by mid to late 2011.
Those still holding older, lower-denomination first-class stamps should use them soon. Although those stamps will remain valid, the one- and two-cent stamps needed to make up the difference in the cost of mailing a first-class letter are expected to be eliminated by the start of 2012.
The postal service will continue to issue non-forever stamps for postcards, which currently cost 28 cents to mail, and for mailing oversized envelopes and those weighing two ounces or more.