Photo Credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Clear Channel
In about a year, you might be able to start sending your snail mail and birthday cards with stamps featuring celebrities like Lady Gaga and Neil Armstrong. The United States Postal Service announced Monday that stamps will no longer only feature dead individuals. They're asking the public to submit their top five choices for living people they'd like to see honored on a stamp via Facebook and Twitter, which will help the postmaster general make a decision as to whose face will make the cut.
This announcement is a big step away from USPS' previous policy of exclusively commemorating deceased celebrities and historical figures. But it turns out that stamps featuring Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe are two of the best-selling stamps of all time. With their move to honor living celebrities, the revenue-starved USPS is seeking to build on the money-making success of those star-studded stamps by drawing in a younger audience and potentially encouraging a stamp-collecting renaissance.
"Having really nice, relevant, interesting, fun stamps might make a difference in people's decisions to mail a letter," the Postal Service's manager of stamp services Stephen Kearney tells The New York Times. "This is such a sea change."
The turnaround time for these new stamps will be significantly less than the previous three-year development process for stamps. Kearney says that at least one new stamp featuring a living person will be available late next year. It will join the previously announced 34 new stamps that will also be released then.
Kearney says that he expects this new venture will cause the number of suggestions USPS receives yearly to increase. On average, the Postal Service receives 40,000 suggestions from the public each year -- but between people contributing their piks on Facebook and Twitter, he expects that number to be higher. The decision won't be a popularity contest, though. The Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee will sift through the responses and then make their recommendations to the postmaster general, who makes the final decision.
There has already been some backlash toward putting living celebrities on stamps. The fear is that it could allow the influence of commercial decisions, or that an overnight star could end up being commemorated forever on a stamp. Kearny isn't concerned, though.
"I want to reassure everyone that we won't let this cheapen the value of being on stamps," he says.
So who will get the honor of being the first living person to see their face staring back at them from a stamp? Will it be a young up-and-comer like Lady Gaga, a mid-career icon like Julia Roberts or Tom Hanks, or a wizened veteran like Betty White? We'll have to wait until next year to find out, but it's not too early to start inundating USPS with your suggestions.