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Zip code numbers explained

Regarding the post offices in the Rogue Valley: Why is Medford 97501 and 97504? The ZIP codes for Central Point (97502) and White City (97503) put them "out of order" compared with other cities in the valley.

— Paula, Shady Cove

It does seem peculiar the way ZIP codes in our area — particularly in Medford — are rather scattered. Our two-code neighbor to the north, Grants Pass, can manage consecutive codes (97526 and 97527), so why can't we?

The short answer: 97502 and 97503 were claimed by the time Medford was ready for a second code.

Back when the United States Post Office first rolled out ZIP codes (short for "Zone Improvement Plan") in 1963, Medford needed only its original 97501 code. In fact, 97501 also served the city of Central Point from the late 1960s until 1976, according to an April 17, 1976, Mail Tribune story in which it was announced that Central Point would get its own ZIP code again.

"It will be 97502, the same as it was until 10 years ago when it was changed to Medford's," we wrote back then.

The Mail Tribune announced "Medford gets 2nd ZIP" on May 12, 1983. Beginning July 1, 1983, the city of Medford east of Interstate 5 adopted its nifty new 97504 code.

In that article, Postmaster L.N. Young said Medford's growth had exceeded the carrying capacity of a single code.

The article assured 1983 readers that mail addressed with the old code would still reach its intended recipients for "some time." Considering the curious addresses on stamped envelopes that make it to our question-answering mailbox, we're inclined to trust they still are.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

CORRECTED: The article previously claimed that that Phoenix's 97535 code had only been in use since 2004, and attributed a Jan. 8, 2004 Mail Tribune article stating Phoenix residents used Medford and Talent ZIP codes prior to March 20, 2004. The 2004 article was actually referring to some 250 residences on the outskirts of Phoenix, not all residents, and the 97535 code has long been in use.