Mailing letters and packages has become so uncommon now that everyone has old, unused stamps in a box or drawer at home.
Finding them can be fun but can you use old stamps today? Interestingly, you can use them without any issues!
Stamps don’t expire unless subjected to extreme circumstances. If kept properly you can still use them for postage. However, doing so can be a bit tricky and is based on the cost associated with mailing a letter or a package.
The Cost of Mailing a Letter
Generally, postage stamps are used to cover the cost of mailing one, standard-sized envelope. These envelopes should also weigh as much as or less than 1 ounce. Mailing such a letter can cost around 55 cents in 2019. If the letter or package exceeds the weight limit you can expect to pay an additional 15 cents for every ounce.
Apart from the weight, a difference in the size of the letter can also push up the cost of mailing. This means that for larger envelopes, the mailing costs can be higher. On the other hand, this also means that mailing costs for smaller letters or envelopes can be lower. Prices for a legal-sized envelope start from 70 cents but prices for postcards start from 35 cents.
Additionally, there’s a price difference for international and national mailing. International mailing costs for a standard envelop, which falls within the 1-ounce weight bracket, starts from $1.15. So, when you are using a postage stamp, you have to make sure that it will cover these costs.
How to Use Old Stamps for Mail Today
Once you understand the cost of postage, you can then decide whether you can use the stamps that you have around your house or not. The major reason why people face confusion here is because of the changes in postage costs. Old postage stamps can be of lower value than the current cost but the solution is very simple. Just add two stamps!
So, let’s suppose that you opened a drawer and found stamps from 2001 with a value of 34 cents. Compared to the current prices postage prices (55 cents) this means that you are 16 cents short. So, instead of discarding the stamps, you can just choose to use two stamps on your letter in place of one.
This means that your stamps will now cover all posting prices and costs that can come up to 68 cents. Unfortunately, using two stamps can mean that you waste a bit of money here. If it only costs you 55 cents to post a letter, using two stamps means that you will end up paying 13 cents more. This extra cost won’t be refunded to you.
Most people buy additional stamps to use with their old stamps. The combination of these stamps can cover the exact postage costs. Stamps are available in different values ranging from 1 cent to $2 to $3 and more. You can buy these stamps from your local USPS office.
Getting Forever Stamps
If you don’t like doing the mental math involved with using stamps and postage costs, you can buy Forever Stamps. Forever Stamps were first introduced in 2007 by the USPS. Launched in a bid to accommodate fluctuating posting prices, these stamps quickly became a favorite.
As the name suggests, these stamps will last you forever, regardless of the changing prices. This means that if the price for postage went up, the value of the stamps will also increase. So, if the cost went up from 55 cents to 75 cents, the value of your Forever Stamp will also be equal to 75 cents. For this reason, you’ll find that most Forever Stamps don’t have dollar values printed on them.
Their worth reflects the postage costs. This also means that should you want to mail a letter next year or even after 4 years, your Forever Stamp will still be valid and useful. So, if your old stamps are Forever Stamps, you can use them for postage without any issues.
The success of the Forever stamps is the main reason why the USPS announced in 2011 that all stamps sold by them are Forever Stamps. One minor downside here is that Forever Stamps are available for sale only in bulk. You must purchase a minimum roll containing around 500 stamps.
Limitations of Using Old Stamps
Now that you know you can use your old stamps, you should know that there are certain limitations to their usage too. Most people often get confused by these and end up discarding their stamps completely.
But you shouldn’t do that.
As long as you understand these limitations, you can use old stamps without any problems. Here are the conditions that you need to meet:
Old stamps which are taken off from letters, packages or other forms of mail are stamps that have already been used. Their value will not be monetary but more based on their aesthetic or appearance. They can be great for decorative purposes. Even for collectors, stamps in mint condition with the original gum back will be worth more than these stamps.
Are Older Than 70 Years
Stamps which are older than 70 years can be lower in value than their printed value. Most people have successfully used stamps from the 1930s that were in mint condition. As a general rule, stamps released before the civil war are still usable for postage. Collectors will find that stamps that are older than 70 years generally do not have enough value to be collector’s items.
Any stamps which have faults are void for use based on the severity of their condition. Stamps which have tears, are thinning, discolored, stained or even have creases have a lower value for postage. A rare old stamp with a value of $100 could end up being worth $10 because of the faults. In cases where the stamp is severely damaged, it can lose all monetary value that it has.
So, if you want to use your old stamps for your collection or your mail, make sure that it’s in mint condition. Even if it isn’t in mint condition, as long as it is legible, it will be valid for use.
Are Your Old Stamps Valuable?
Before you put your stamp on an envelope, you should consider just how valuable it is. We’re not talking about the dollar value of the stamp but the collector’s value. Stamp collection is a huge hobby and some people invest in rare stamps. Certain varieties can be higher in market value due to their rarity, design, color and the year that they were originally printed in.
Based on this factor, a simple 5 cent stamp could end up having a huge market value. A good example of low value stamps with high market values are the Z-Grill variety. These stamps were first printed in 1847 and feature a unique Z-grill impression on the back which helped to make this stamp counterfeit-proof.
Not surprisingly, these are extremely rare. In the collection, the rarest piece is the Benjamin Franklin Z-Grill stamp which was only printed in 1868. To date, there are only two existing copies of this stamp. Its rarity and uniqueness have led to it earning a market value of $2.97 million. The original monetary value of the Z-Grill stamps was for 1 cent.
So, do you think that the old stamps you found in your grandfather’s belongings could be valuable ones? To find out if your stamp is valuable or not, you should get it appraised by a stamp dealer. They can not only tell you the value but, can also buy the stamps from you. However, unless your stamps are rare, in mint condition and are part of a set, you might not get a good price. Sets of old stamps have a better chance of selling well as compared to boxes of loose stamps.
By paying attention to these factors, you can easily use old stamps or sell them to a collector as you see fit!