As far as the U.S. Postal Service goes, they think they might have this stamp thing licked.
People have long complained about having to lick stamps and stick them on envelopes. Of course, the less said the better about stamps that wind up glued together.
So -- between changing those confounding ZIP codes and putting out stamps commemorating Elvis and "My Fair Lady" (that'll be in January) -- Postal Service officials have come out nationally with a no-lick, no-tear stamp that can be peeled from a supporting backing. The stamp also comes in rolls.
The face of the new self-adhesive Eagle and Shield stamp was designed by Jay Haiden, a commercial artist from the Charles County town of Bryans Road.
"The government tried other no-lick stamps, but they didn't quite work because the adhesive they used deteriorated the stamp," Mr. Haiden said.
The Postal Service put out its first adhesive stamp, a Christmas dove of peace, in 1974, said Robin Minard, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. But the adhesive bled through the stamp and researchers went back to work.
In 1989, a new no-lick eagle-and-shield stamp was tested in 16 markets around the country. When the adhesive worked well, the Postal Service in 1990 put adhesive stamps in automated teller machines in a few cities. In 1991, the stamps became available through teller machines nationwide. And last month, the Postal Service decided to begin selling the adhesive stamps everywhere.
"This new one seems to be a lot better with a different adhesive and a special printing process for the face of the stamp that is holding up much better," Mr. Haiden said.
A booklet of 17 of the new 29-cent stamps costs $5 -- 7 cents more than an equivalent quantity of the old-fashioned postage stamps which, under some conditions, managed to taste like forgotten cole slaw.
Bob Novak, a spokesman for the Postal Service in Baltimore, said sales have not been brisk since the stamp was issued Sept. 25.
A check with some post office branches shows that customers have, indeed, been slow to accept the new stamp.
"I think people are balking at paying the extra 7 cents," offered Elke Buonocore at the Chewsville branch in Washington County.
In Catonsville, post office manager Richard Schuster said: "They are moving slow, I don't know why. But it looks like the future."
The stamps seem to be winning acceptance in Owings Mills.
"Sales are going extremely well," said Y. Pat Moore, the Baltimore County postal unit's postmaster. "When customers try one book, we find we are having repeat sales."
Mr. Novak, the postal service spokesman, said some 62 million of the new stamps have been distributed nationwide. Another new self-adhesive stamp will be issued Wednesday for the Christmas season.