WASHINGTON - With a postal rate increase just two weeks away, Americans are buying 30 million Forever stamps a day.
The cost of sending a first-class letter will rise a penny to 42 cents on May 12, but the Forever stamps - currently selling for 41 cents - will remain valid for full postage after the increase.
Forever stamps were introduced last year and since then more than 6 billion have been sold, with interest growing as the rate increase nears.
"We knew the Forever stamp would be a big hit with our customers and we continue to replenish our stock to meet demand," said Postal Service consumer advocate Delores Killette. "We introduced these stamps as a customer convenience to ease the transition during price changes."
The post office sold $268 million in Forever stamps in March, up from $208 million in February and $115 million in January.
Unlike the Forever stamps, other 41-cent stamps will require additional postage when the new rates take effect, and postal officials said they printed an additional 1.5 billion 1-cent stamps in anticipation of the demand.
Also, for the first time the Postal Service has stamps available at the new rate before the change takes effect.
A set of five 42-cent stamps honoring pioneering journalists went on sale last week, as did a set of four stamps featuring the American flag flying at different times of day.
But don't wait forever, because starting May 12 the cost of Forever stamps goes up to 42 cents too.
And even as the higher rates near, the post office is seeing higher gasoline prices eat away at its budget. It has been estimated that each penny increase in the price of gas costs the post office $8 million a year. Postage rates last went up in May 2007, with a first-class stamp jumping 2 cents to the current 41-cent rate.
The first-class postal rate is the one that most people notice, but other prices will also rise.
In the past, raising postage rates was a complex process involving hearings before the independent Postal Regulatory Commission, a process that could take nearly a year.