A forever stamp is a postage stamp in the United States that is valid for First-Class postage no matter when it is used. By concept, once purchased, a forever stamp is a perpetual stamp that never expires or declines in value. Its value is the First-Class Mail stamp postage rate for a one ounce letter at the time of use.
The U.S. Postal Service submitted a proposal in May 2006 to the U.S. Postal Rate Commission to create a forever stamp beginning in 2007. The proposal was approved and forever stamps went on sale in April of 2007. Forever stamps are sold at the First-Class Mail Stamp postage rate in effect at the time they are purchased. They can be used for postage within the United States and for mail sent from the United States to an international destination, although that would require additional postage.
The advantages of a forever stamp to the consumer include the ability to stock up on first class postage at the current rate and use them until the supply is exhausted. As postage rates change, it is no longer necessary to buy two or three cent stamps to add to the old postage stamp. For most consumers, the greatest advantage of a forever stamp is convenience.
An advantage to the postal service of a forever stamp is cash flow. The postal service obtains cash in the present for stamps that won’t be used until the future. Also, the postal service would not need to use employees to sell the obsolete two-cent stamps or to handle the rush of consumers seeking new higher-rate stamps.
The likelihood of people hoarding stamps was not expected to be a big problem prior to approval. Most consumers don’t want the hassle of keeping track of a large quantity of stamps. Business mail was not likely to be overly affected, either, since most businesses use metered or preprinted postage rather than stamps.
Many countries, including Finland, Israel, Belgium, Brazil, and Great Britain, use non-denominated stamps, although the way they are used varies from country to country. Some countries refer to these as “stamps for standardized mail.” The United Kingdom first began using these types of stamps, which they call non-value indicators (NVIs), in 1989 to alleviate problems when postal rates change.
Although the U.S. has used non-denominated stamps in its history, they were not the same as a forever stamp. The U.S. Postal Service used lettered stamps as contingency stamps several times when postage rates increased.