WASHINGTON — Who would you put on a stamp? Charlie Sheen? Lady Gaga? Yourself?
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.
But it seems to be at least as much about money as admiration.
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.
Poking fun at the Postal Service's money woes, Comedian Stephen Colbert has been pushing to become the first living person depicted on a government-issued stamp. His Comedy Central website proposes a "Farewell to Postage" stamp with a photo of him holding up a smartphone that shows an email telling the Postal Service "See Ya!"
Judging by initial public reaction in interviews Monday, Colbert faces competition.
Cyndi Scarlett, 54, of Alexandria, Va., who works in humanitarian development, touted her choice of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs to be the first living person on a stamp. Walking by a post office in downtown Washington, D.C., she cited his company's role in reshaping everyday life, from the ubiquitous Macintosh and iPod to the iPad.