Two of America's favorite spacemen — the cool-headed Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard and the animated Buzz Lightyear of "Toy Story" fame — join movie stars, musicians and artists being honored in 2011 with stamps from the U.S. Postal Service.
Also, beginning in January, all new postage stamps good for 1 ounce of first-class mail will be marked as "forever" as the service is doing away with issuing first-class stamps with denominations.
A Postal Service official tells The Associated Press that the move is designed to help customers who have struggled to match 1- and 2-cent stamps with first-class stamps after postal rates have changed. The official requested anonymity to discuss a policy that hasn't been announced formally.
The Forever Stamp, first issued in April 2007, is designed for use regardless of changes in postage. A first-class stamp is now 44 cents, but the Postal Service hopes to raise the price next year.
Ronald Reagan, an actor who had a more lasting impact as the 40th president, will be honored in February with a stamp on the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Also getting a stamp for a 100th birthday: the Indianapolis 500. The Postal Service announced its 2011 lineup on Tuesday.
Other events being commemorated with stamps include the 150th anniversaries of the beginning of the Civil War and of Kansas statehood and the 50th anniversary of U.S. manned spaceflight. In addition to a stamp featuring Shepard, the first American in space, is one noting the Mercury orbit of the spacecraft Messenger, expected to take place in March.
Actress Helen Hayes, twice the winner of an Academy Award (1931's "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" and 1970's "Airport"), will be honored with a stamp. Joining her is another Oscar winner, actor Gregory Peck (1962's "To Kill a Mockingbird").
Actress Carmen Miranda, whose fruit-filled headgear made her an icon of 1940s musical comedies, is one of the performers being remembered in the five-stamp Latin Music Legends series. Others are Selena, Carlos Gardel, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz.
Animated characters like Buzz Lightyear get their due in a series of Disney Pixar stamps from the movies "Cars," "Ratatouille," "Toy Story," "UP" and "WALL-E."
Among other stamps to be issued in 2011 are those for:
- Mark Twain, author of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and a bestselling autobiography just released this year.
- Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas, a groundbreaking politician and civil rights leader. She is the Black Heritage stamp honoree.
- The U.S. Merchant Marine.
- Jazz appreciation.
- Artists Edward Hopper and Romare Bearden.
New designs are also set for Purple Heart, Wedding and Holidays stamps.
When the Postal Service unveiled its first-class commemorative stamps for 2011 on Tuesday, all were marked "forever" instead of the current rate of 44 cents.
The initial first-class stamp under the new policy will be the Lunar New Year: Year of the Rabbit stamp, to be issued Jan. 22. It will be followed by stamps commemorating Kansas statehood on Jan. 29 and, in February, the centennial of President Ronald Reagan's birth.
The Forever Stamp, first issued in April 2007 and featuring the Liberty Bell, was designed for use regardless of changes in postal rates. They are sold at the prevailing price of 1 ounce of domestic first-class postage.
The Postal Service says that 28 billion Forever Stamps have been sold since, generating $12.1 billion in total revenue. The stamps without denominations already account for 85 percent of its stamp program, the service says.
The Postal Service sought a 2-cent increase in postage rates for 2011, but the independent Postal Rate Commission rejected the request. The post office is appealing the decision in federal court.
Use of the Internet as well as the economic downturn have been cited for a 3.5 percent decline in mail volume from 2009 to 2010.
The Postal Service lost $8.5 billion in the year ending Sept. 30, even after trimming more than 100,000 jobs in recent years, and estimates it will lose $6 billion to $7 billion in the next year. One of its proposals for dealing with its financial troubles calls for cutting delivery to five days a week instead of six, a change Congress must approve.