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Postage Pop Quiz: Price of First-Class Stamp a Mystery to Many

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By Rob Manker

postage_stamps(MCT)—Quick, how much does it cost to mail a first-class letter?

What once was an iconic number seemingly tattooed on our brains — a dime, a quarter or even 33 cents — has somehow been lost amid the many other digits in our lives: the cost of a gallon of gas, your Facebook friend total or any number of more pertinent numbers in these decreasingly U.S. mail-reliant times.

Of 10 random people on the street asked if they knew the current price of a first-class stamp, only two answered with the correct response of 46 cents. Of those two, only one knew that a 1-cent increase had just taken effect Sunday.

The Postal Service’s “Forever” stamps, which insulate buyers from future price increases, may be somewhat to blame. Gone are the days of scrounging enough 1-, 2- or 3-cent stamps to cobble together the right combination of usable postage. Forever stamps are enough to mail a letter regardless the current price of stamps, but they also seem to dull the awareness of what that current stamp price even is.

People also cited frequent postal rate increases — this is the third consecutive year that the stamp price has gone up, and the eighth time in 12 years.

Cory Davis, of South Holland, Ill., says he used to work for the Postal Service as a mail clerk. He knew the current stamp price is 46 cents, but said he doesn’t think that’s much of a value.

“It seems a little high,” says Davis, 34, adding that he does not use the U.S. mail very much. “You can email something for free, but can snail mail it for (almost) 50 cents? No.”

Fernando Escalante, of Chicago’s West Lawn, guessed the current price at 43 cents, but he still thought it a value even at three cents more.

“I’m going to go back to mail, writing letters to my daughter,” says the 42-year-old divorced father of two. “Just to encourage my kids to do handwriting, to encourage them to write. It’s kind of a lost art.”

The Postal Service says it’s losing an estimated $25 million a day, losses brought about in part by a decline in the use of first-class mail. Struggling to develop a new business model for the changing times, the post office has turned to more frequent rate increases. Post office closings, the elimination of Saturday delivery and other cuts have also been considered.

In addition to first-class postage going up a penny Sunday, the cost of sending a postcard rose from 32 cents to 33. The Postal Service also unveiled a global Forever stamp, allowing mailers to send a letter anywhere in the world for $1.10.

©2013 Chicago Tribune
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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