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32 CENT RATE FOR 1ST-CLASS LETTER BECOMES OFFICIAL ON JAN. 1

SHARE 32 CENT RATE FOR 1ST-CLASS LETTER BECOMES OFFICIAL ON JAN. 1

Happy New Year from the post office: The 32-cent stamp becomes official Jan. 1.

Millions of non-priced stamps bearing the letter "G" and an American flag are en route to post offices for use until 32-cent stamps can be printed. The Love stamp being issued for Valentine's Day also will be non-priced, since it had to be printed in advance.Also planned is a non-priced "makeup" stamp, bearing a drawing of a dove, that is worth three cents and can be combined with leftover 29-cent stamps to equal the new rate.

About 90 days are needed to complete printing and distribution of a stamp, so stamps bearing the 32-cent price should begin appearing after that time.

The new rates become effective at 12:01 a.m., local time, on New Year's Day under a unanimous vote Monday of the governing board of the U.S. Postal Service.

Board Chairman Sam Winters noted that the increase of a first-class stamp from the current 29 cents is the first in four years and is below the 12.2 percent consumer price inflation for that period.

The new rates are expected to bring the Postal Service $4.7 billion in added income in 1995. It lost $914 million in the just-completed fiscal year and $1.7 billion the year before.

The independent Postal Rate Commission approved the new rates in late November after nearly nine months of hearings.

Charges for international mail will also increase, but the date and amounts have not been determined, postal officials said.

While the price for sending the first ounce of a first-class letter rises to 32 cents, each extra ounce will remain unchanged at 23 cents. The cost to send a post card rises from 19 cents to 20 cents.

The increase amounts to an 8.9 percent rise for first class and 14 percent for second-class items such as magazines and newspapers and third-class advertising mail.

Parcel post rates will rise 18 percent, but Priority Mail will only go up 4.8 percent and Express Mail by 8 percent.

Under the new rates, it will cost about 51 cents more for a year's mailing of a monthly magazine weighing a pound. The cost to mail out a 6-ounce weekly newsmagazine will rise $1.13 for a year.