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Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran May 12, 2007): The directions to Willamette Heights Park in Springfield are: from South A Street, turn south onto South Second Street and then left on South D Street, right on South Fourth Street, right on Union Street and left on Perry to the parking lot. A story on Page 3 Friday gave incorrect directions.

Love is forever - and now so too is the cost to mail a first-class letter.

Postal rates go up Monday, a 2-cent increase that will push first-class postage to 41 cents. The impending increase explains why those people standing in front of you at the post office are buying all those 2-cent "make-up" stamps to add to their remaining supply of 39-centers.

But some postal customers have found solace in anticipating the next postal rate increase - always a matter of when, not if - by loading up on the U.S. Postal Service's new "forever" stamp.

The stamp, available in books of 20, costs 41 cents. But the stamp will remain valid to mail a one-ounce letter, even when subsequent rate increases push the cost of postage to 45 cents, 55 cents or beyond.

"Conceivably, if you buy a lot of these stamps and 100 years from now your heirs discover them, they'll still be good as first-class postage," said Kerry Jeffrey, a Postal Service spokesman in Portland.

The stamps have proven plenty popular at the River Road Station post office, window clerk Val Hong said. One customer `pulled out $200 and said, `Give me whatever this will buy,' ' she said. "I told him he must be leaving some to his grandkids."

Hong said she tries to explain that the forever stamp is basically just a 41-cent stamp. `But I think people like that word, `forever.' They like the connotation.'

The forever stamp will cost 41 cents until a future rate increase, when the cost will match the new one-ounce rate. The stamp makes most sense for people who don't send a lot of regular mail, or who really hate the idea of having to buy 1- or 2-cent stamps just prior to a rate increase.

Monday's rate increase is the first since January 2006. The Postal Service blames the hike on increased business costs - fuel, transportation, utilities and health care benefits - and points out that the cost of delivering your mail is not tax-subsidized.

The restructured rates also will push the cost of mailing a postcard to 26 cents, a 2-cent bump. But in one piece of good news, the cost of mailing a 2- or 3-ounce letter will actually be a few pennies less, because of reduced rates at those weight levels. (A 2-ounce letter will now cost 58 cents, a 3-ouncer 75 cents.)

International mailing rates are also climbing. An airmail letter will cost an extra 6 cents - to 69 cents for Canada or Mexico and 90 cents for most anywhere else in the world. A "simplified" shipping schedule for bigger packages (an example: flat rate of $22 for a half-ounce large envelope to Canada or Mexico, $25 for other countries) also becomes effective.

But through it all, the forever stamp, which depicts the timeless Liberty Bell, is good for life. So why would anyone choose to buy any other 41-cent stamp?

The answer, said Jeffrey, is the Postal Service's wide array of commemorative stamps. "The new Star Wars stamp comes out May 25," he said. "It's pretty cool."

As for stamp sticker shock, most people appear to be taking the 2-cent increase in stride.

"At least it's not going up a quarter like a gallon of gas," said Casey McMurry of Springfield, applying stamps to her daughter's birthday thank-you notes at the Gateway post office. "I'm OK with the stamp increase; I'm not happy about the gas."

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Title Annotation:General News; When postage rates increase in the future, this 41 cents wonder will still get the job done
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 11, 2007
Previous Article:SPORTS.
Next Article:Pulitzer winner: America still sees in black and white.

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