Hoping to boost sagging revenue, the U.S. Postal Service on Monday abandoned its longstanding rule that stamps cannot feature people who are still alive and is asking the public for suggestions.
It's a first that means living sports stars, writers, artists and other prominent - or not-so-prominent - people could take their places in postal history next to the likes of George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., and Marilyn Monroe.
"This change will enable us to pay tribute to individuals for their achievements while they are still alive to enjoy the honor," said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.
Since Jan. 1, 2007, the Postal Service has required that a person be deceased five years before appearing on a stamp. Before that, the rule was 10 years. Still, former presidents were remembered on stamps in the year following their deaths by tradition. And, more recently, people have been able to upload photos and design their own stamps for personal use through the U.S. mail.
For years, the post office has been facing severe financial problems due to the growing use of email. A burst of interest in stamp design and collecting - which the Postal Service is seeking to promote partly through social media - could bring in new dollars, since stamps that are collected rather than used for postage provide added revenue.
Illustration by The New York Times