Stamp futures

February 28, 2007

Diamonds are forever, they say. Probably roaches, too. Almost certainly red wine stains. And apparently memories of life's most humiliating moments - particularly among the witnesses.

But stamps? Not likely. The post office itself is on borrowed time now that most every purpose it serves can be accomplished quicker and easier online.

Even so, the "forever" stamp about to be launched by the U.S. Postal Service is a nice gesture. Once purchased at the going rate for first-class mail, it will be accepted as adequate postage when it's used. That means the dwindling band of holdouts still using snail mail to pay their bills and send greeting cards won't have to deal with the nuisance of 1- or 2-cent add-ons if they get caught with old stamps between price changes.

Those changes have come at a hectic pace in recent years as the Postal Service struggles to keep up with rising costs of fuel and health insurance for its workers. The next increase - to 41 cents from 39 cents for first class - will apply to the first batch of forever stamps, but they can be stuck in a drawer indefinitely until they are used.

So the smart money might be on stamp futures. But not so much as to constitute an interest-free loan to the post office. Plus, nothing is actually forever. Except for those embarrassing stories.

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