The 20-cent stamp went the way of the 10-cent telephone call yesterday.
At 12:01 a.m. today, the price of a first-class stamp rose to 22 cents.
U.S. Postal Service officials said that until enough of the new 22-cent stamps, which commemorate composer Jerome Kern, are printed, a nondenominational D stamp will be issued. An increased supply of 2-cent stamps also will be available. The D stamps, which were printed before the amount of the rate increase had been set, can be used only on domestic mail.
Management at Washington's Main Post Office -- the only one in the area open after noon on Saturday -- had nearly doubled the number of window clerks on duty in preparation for an expected last-minute rush to mail letters at the 20-cent rate.
But many customers, perhaps used to frequent rate increases, seemed to take the change in stride.
"It's no big deal," said Don Kosin of Northwest Washington, as he waited to mail a pile of bills at the Post Office at North Capitol Street and Massachusetts Avenue. "I'm not going to quibble over 2 cents. It's still the best deal in town."
Some customers were unaware of the rate change. "Oh, is that what the line is about?" asked a woman who said she was there only to mail her utility bill "so they don't cut off my electricity."
Window service supervisor John Brown said the stream of customers brought about by the first rate increase in more than three years "has been pretty constant all day." But, said Brown, "We anticipated a large influx of people, and we are prepared for it. . . . So when it comes, we can groove right on through it."
In addition to the first-class increase, the post-card rate went from 13 cents to 14 cents and the basic international rate for a half-ounce letter increased from 40 to 44 cents. The rate increases should add almost $2 billion to the postal service's coffers in the first year, said agency spokesman Bob Hoobing.
"I think the increase is plausible," said Colleen Clancy of Northwest Washington. "Everything else is up these days, so why shouldn't postage be up?"
Clement Odigwe of Northeast, however, who was mailing a package to London to beat the increase, disagreed. "Everything is too high," he said. "This is too much to pay to mail a letter."
Hoobing said the second ounce of first-class letters will continue to cost 17 cents, making a two-ounce letter cost 39 cents. However, he said there are no immediate plans to issue a Jack Benny stamp in honor of the late comedian's oft-repeated 39th birthday, as some wags have suggested.