I lost track of how much a stamp cost a few years ago. It was in 2007 when the U.S. Postal Service started labeling first class stamps "Forever." Whatever you paid for those stamps, they're good no matter what the current mailing rate is.
In 2008, it cost 42 cents to mail a 1-ounce letter. It's been 44 cents since 2009.
It is jarring to think that the first stamps I remember, with Abraham Lincoln's face on them, cost 4 cents each. I also recall life before ZIP Codes. I used to live in Spokane, 36, Washington.
I can afford that penny hike, although I briefly considered doubling up my son's and my recent thank-you notes to save stamps. I didn't do it. Maybe next year.
What I'm more worried about is that Forever really won't be. Already, we know that we may soon see a serious decline in Snohomish County's mail service.
Last fall, the Everett mail processing and distribution center on Hardeson Road was listed among hundreds of facilities nationwide facing possible closure. Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson said the closure would likely end next-day delivery of our local mail.
The Postal Service announced in December that any closures are on hold at least until May 15. That won't solve the financial crisis of the federal agency, which Swanson said is losing about $23 million per day.
I'm glad postage stamps still exist, and that letters continue to be dropped in my mailbox six days a week. I do not relish a future of fewer delivery days and longer waits for my letters, bills and magazines.
Larry Mann's interest in stamps isn't so mundane. Mann, 57, is both a stamp collector and president of the Sno-King Stamp Club.
The Mukilteo man began collecting as a child. "I got started the wrong way," he said. "I'd cut stamps off our mail at home and used Elmer's Glue to paste them on pages." From those humble beginnings, he collected U.S. stamps. He hasn't done that in years.
"I stopped collecting new U.S. stamps probably back in the '70s," said Mann, who grew up in the Spokane area and also lived in California. "I collect Germany, and I also collect postal history."
He specializes in envelopes that have gone through the mail, with distinct cancellations. "I have envelopes that go back to territorial days. I have bought from dealers all over the United States," Mann said.
The Postal Service issues more commemorative stamps now than it did 30 or 40 years ago, he said. Revenue from collectors is likely the reason for that. Although Mann isn't a fan of all the recent stamps devoted to pop-culture icons -- Elvis Presley to Bugs Bunny -- he does think they encourage stamp collecting among younger people.
The Sno-King Stamp Club, with about 40 members, welcomes a younger generation. Mann said it was founded in 1960 by his father-in-law, George Jackson.
The public is invited to attend the group's annual stamp show, scheduled for Feb. 19 at the Everett Boys & Girls Club. Admission is free to the event, which includes an area for kids. At last year's Sno-King Stamp Show, the commemorative cover showed a cancellation honoring the first powered flight in Snohomish County on May 7, 1911.
This year, the commemorative cover will show a cancellation honoring the RMS Titanic. The luxury liner sank in the north Atlantic a century ago, on April 15, 1912.
History is dear to stamp collectors' hearts. I just hope stamps don't fade into history. I'd like to keep getting mail -- forever.
I wince at 45 cents, but I'll pay it.
"It seems like a lot of money, but everything else is more expensive, too," Mann said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stamps going up
U.S. Postal Service First-Class Mail prices go up Jan. 22.
Letters, 1 ounce: 1-cent increase to 45 cents
Letters, additional ounces: unchanged at 20 cents
Postcards: 3-cent increase to 32 cents
The Sno-King Stamp Club will hold its annual stamp show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Everett Boys & Girls Club, 2316 12th St., Everett. Event is free. Club welcomes new members. Information: http://sno-kingstampclub.freehostia.com/
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