NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 8, 2005

What's a "forever stamp"? It's a stamp that could always be used for the first ounce of first-class postage -- that is, most letters mailed by individuals. It would be sold at the current price of a first-class stamp but would be good for first-class letter postage indefinitely. Sound far-fetched? Well, 30 nations, including Britain, Finland, Israel, Belgium and Brazil, have used this kind of stamp. And the stamps make sense, says Ruth Y. Goldway, a member of the Postal Rate Commission.


  • There would be no more last-minute time-consuming trips to the post office, forcing customers to stand in long lines to buy new higher-rate stamps or "make up" stamps to add to the old ones.
  • Individuals might buy large quantities of forever stamps just before a rate increase, but the Postal Service would get the use of the funds -- the float -- until the stamps are finally used.
  • Postal clerks would make better use of their time than they would selling two-cent stamps.

What's more, a forever stamp would give the Postal Service an incentive to maximize the float by putting in place technological improvements that would keep its own costs -- and the need for future rate increases -- below the rate of inflation, says Goldway.

The forever stamp would do a great deal to help consumers adjust to rate increases, as well as assisting the Postal Service in managing its budget and investing in improvements. In recent years the service has been working to shed its image as a stodgy, unresponsive government monopoly. Adopting the forever stamp would signal that the Post Office is pro-consumer and ready to enact money-saving reforms, says Goldway.

Source: Ruth Y. Goldway, "A Stamp for All Ages," New York Times, November 6, 2005.

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