Living sports stars — not just dead ones — may soon be honored on postage stamps. (AP)

Nationally-known musicians, sports stars, artists and other notable Americans who are living and breathing — and not dead — may soon start appearing on postage stamps, the U.S. Postal Service said Monday.

In an effort to boost sales and interest in the mail, USPS is waiving a rule that requires stamp honorees to have been dead at least five years before getting the thumb-sized honor. Now, living and recently deceased people will be eligible to appear on stamps.

The new stamps will feature “American or American-related subjects,” USPS said, adding that whoever earns the postal stamp of approval (yes, pun intended) will have “made enduring contributions to the United States of America.”

(So maybe that rules out Justin Bieber? At least for now?)

Customers are encouraged to submit their top five tops picks for the honor on Facebook at or on Twitter by messaging @USPSStamps.

Allowing everyday Americans to participate in the stamp selection process is also a first: Usually the Postmaster General’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee reviews up to 40,000 suggestions for stamp subjects and select about 50 for the honor each year.

USPS spends about $40,000 to develop and produce new commemorative stamps. The process includes designing the actual stamp as well as production and distribution. Though the Postal Service does not pay license fees for the images of a character or famous person, it does pay $5,000 to various artists that design and paint the stamp’s image.

Stamps generate between $250 million and $300 million for the Postal Service, and they fuel the interests of millions of “hardcore” stamp collectors and another 10 million to 20 million stamp “accumulators” that might collect stamps related to a certain genre, according to USPS.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

Do postage stamps help or hurt?

Ronald Reagan ‘Forever Stamp’ revealed

Postal Service unveils 2012 stamp lineup