How Much Is A Stamp?

How Much Is A Stamp?

Get 100 time-saving recipes your family will love, for the cost of a stamp. Tell her you’re thinking of her for the cost of a stamp. Save hundreds of dollars for the cost of a stamp. The cost of a stamp used to pop right into mind when we saw or heard a pitch like that. Do you know how much the cost of a stamp is today?

Companies used to offer recipe books to anyone that would mail in a request for one. This was before the days of the Internet or even 1-800 numbers. It might seem like a money-losing venture to print, distribute, and pay postage for a small pamphlet of recipes, but that’s not entirely true if you are the maker of Sun-Maid raisins, Campbell’s soup, Philadelphia cream cheese, or Gold Medal flour and every single recipe in the booklet calls for at least one of your products. It was not hard to convince mothers in the 1970’s to request and then use time-saving recipes since many were new to the rushed schedule of a working mom, especially if those recipes were available for the cost of a stamp.

That concept is still alive and well in some offers still available today, though it is usually for something other than a recipe booklet. There is a spice company whose web site still offers to send you a sample packet of all-purpose seasoning “for the cost of a stamp,” though in this instance you will not be posting an envelope but giving them 49 cents from your PayPal account. They will then, I suppose, buy the stamp to mail the sample. Another I found is from 2008, offering a box of Honey Bunches of Oats for the cost of a stamp. In this case, if you mailed in coupons for five cereals made by its competitors, Post would send you a coupon for a free box of Honey Bunches of Oats.

Historic Prices

The spice company apparently missed the news that on April 10, 2016, for the first time in almost 100 years, the United States Postal Service lowered the cost of a first class stamp. I know that because their “for the cost of a stamp” price is still at the temporary increase level. That two-year increase allowed the post office to recoup some of the financial losses incurred over the last several years as revenue slumped while most costs remained stable.

The postal service faces a mountain of challenges with competition. Carriers like Fedex and UPS attract much of the package and business document customers. On the consumer level, email continues to eat away at the volume of mail that is actually sent through their system. Looking at our earlier example, there is no need to put a stamp on an envelope to request recipes today. Companies offer them instantly for a few clicks on their web sites.

When is the last time you received a hard copy bill in the mail? Or mailed out a handwritten check to pay one? Online banking and bill paying has robbed the post office of a lot of its customer base.

As for costs, perhaps the most difficult challenge the post office faces is the onerous retirement fund prepayment that the U. S. Congress has put upon it. Some believe it is a means of breaking the camel’s back so that the entire postal service can be privatized. You can read more about that here.

The post office has tried to address its problems on both the income and expense side. The loss of revenue was addressed with the temporary surcharge. Better customer service is also a way this side of the equation is being answered.

As to costs, the post office has tried to introduce the possibility of ending weekend deliveries and increasing the use of mail hubs. Customers are slow to give up weekend mail deliveries. Most are not fond of proposals to change to a neighborhood mail box hub after decades of having mail delivered to the door. The postal service is definitely an important part of our lives even if we do not use it as much as we once did.

Another way the post office is saving money is the Forever Stamp. When every stamp bore the value of the stamp on its face, a postal rate increase meant throwing away millions of stamps the post office had paid to print. It also meant, in some cases, printing up low value completer stamps so that people having a lot of the former value stamps on hand could still use them. Let’s say first class stamps were 24 cents then raised to 26 cents. People had to add two penny stamps to make up the difference, so the post office would increase printing on penny stamps or issue a special 2 cent stamp for it.

All of this is eliminated with the Forever Stamp. The Forever Stamp you found stuck in the corner of a drawer, bought who knows when, is still good for postage today.

How Much

When all we have laying around the house is a few Forever Stamps, it is easy to forget how much the cost of a stamp is. If you are mailing out payments, cards, and letters as infrequently as most of the rest of us, you may go weeks without touching your stamp book. The last time you purchased stamps is probably months to a year ago. Has the price changed since then? Can you recall what you paid when you did?

The temporary price increase has stumped a few of us, too, when it comes to knowing how much a first class stamp costs now. That price has stuck in our minds. This means that when we do need to buy stamps again, we may be pleasantly surprised that it is lower, but we should always know how much the cost of a stamp is. That knowledge was once as common as knowing your own phone number or who the President is.

The answer to how much a first class stamp costs today is 47 cents. During the temporary increase, it was 49 cents, and a lot of people probably think that is still the price. You can now feel smarter than they are.

Stamp Museum

Be thankful we can pick up a regular forever stamp to post your mail. Some people have paid millions for a single stamp.

You probably guessed that a stamp collector paid that price, and you are correct. Only a bona fide stamp collector would pay such a fee. Stamp collecting is a hobby traced back to nearly the same time as the first stamp was issued. That first stamp is known as the Penny Black. It features the profile image of Queen Victoria. It was issued in 1840, and stamp collecting was going strong by 1860.

Since it would be impossible to store a collection of every stamp ever made in the world, collectors often specialize. One may focus on commemorative stamps. A good example of a commemorative stamp is the United States’ moon landing in 1969. Bearing a value of 10 cents, you can find it easily today for about a dollar. Another popular method of specialization for stamp collectors is by topic. Bird stamps, animal stamps, presidential stamps, and women on stamps are common examples. The picture of Forever Stamps, above, shows three excellent example of topics such a collector might choose.

One of the best known collectible stamps issued by the United States Post Office is the Inverted Jenny . Issued on May 10, 1918, with a face value of 24 cents, the stamp features a photo of a Curtiss JN-4 airplane in blue within a red border.

Back then, the printing process was a little more hands on than we think of printing today. First, the press was inked up with red ink and the border was printed. If you are familiar with various types of printing, it will help to know that this was letterpress printing. Each page is hand fed into place for the inked plate to strike. For various reasons, the production of this stamp was done in a rush and a small number of them were printed with the plane upside down in the center. It was simply a result of the pressman putting the sheet into the press the wrong way.

Only one sheet of 100 stamps is known to have survived, making the stamp also known as the Upside Down Jenny among the rarest misprints in the world. In May 2016, a prime specimen sold for $1.375 million.

What if one day the only place you can see a stamp is in a collector’s  case or a museum? That might happen if the U. S. Postal Service is not able to overcome its financial woes. The question then would not be, “How much does a first class stamp cost,” but rather, “What was it like when you had a mailman, Grandpa?” That’s something we’d sorely miss. While it may often contain what we consider junk mail, the mailman brings a lot of good things to our door, and there’s still a special something added to the day when we collect our mail. Do you agree? What do you think? Would you miss your daily mail if it did not arrive in your mailbox six days a week? Talk about it in the comments here and say what you really feel. And, as always, thanks for reading!

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