Stamps have been a common sight adorning mail over the last century or so. However, things have changed and stamps are no longer as important as they once were due to this being the age of email.
Do stamps ever expire? Do they still have some value? What will happen to all those collector’s edition stamps grandma had saved in her old diary?
All of these are interesting and important questions for anyone with an interest in stamps and need answering.
For starters, if you keep stamps in good condition, they never usually expire. On top of that, their market and sometimes sentimental value might be worth something. And it’s not as if people do not use the postal service at all to deliver invitation cards and parcels.
So, do stamps ever expire and how long do they last? Is there anything that renders them unusable?
Let’s learn everything there is to know about the expiry and viability of old stamps.
Do Stamps Ever Expire?
Let us get straight to the point: stamps never expire.
This means that even if your stamp is 10 years old, you can use it for postage as long as it covers the cost. Today, the cost of mailing a standard-sized envelope, under 1 ounce in weight, is 55 cents.
Make sure your stamps have enough value to cover the amount required for postage. You can, of course, also use them in combination with new stamps to cover the cost. Make up for the missing value and you’re good to go!
What Conditions Can Ruin a Stamp?
As mentioned before, stamps don’t expire under normal circumstances. But certain conditions can ruin a stamp’s viability. Have a look at some of the most common reasons for stamps becoming unusable.
It goes without saying that if the stamp has already been used, you cannot use it again.
Look for lines or markings on the stamp that might indicate this. Used stamps can still be great for DIY projects, but you cannot use them for mail.
Minted 70+ Years Ago
Stamps that were bought more than 70 years ago may have values too low for usage now. While some people have successfully used stamps from the 1930s for postage, most old stamps may not be appropriate. For really old stamps, it is a better idea to collect them, rather than to slap them onto an envelope!
Has Obvious Faults
The degree of damage dictates whether you can use a stamp or not. Any visible damage makes it void for postage. Folded stamps, for example, can still be used. But if there are tears, rips or stain on a stamp, the postage service will most likely reject it.
Even a collector’s stamp with faults will go for a lower price, regardless of how rare it is. If your stamps seem to be too damaged for sale, don’t worry, there are some alternative activities you can do with old stamps!
If you have an album full of mint-condition old stamps, don’t worry about their expiry. They may not be suitable for mailing, but they are valuable for stamp collectors in any case.
Investigate Before Using Old Stamps
Another common question is what makes a stamp more valuable than usual? It is necessary to know this, especially if you have found some old stamps you don’t know anything about.
You don’t want to find out later that you accidentally used or discarded a stamp that was worth thousands!
The value of a stamp relies on the following factors:
As a general rule, the rarer the stamp is, the higher its value will be. Unfortunately, tracking down the history of a particular stamp can be a lengthy and convoluted process. To find out the age of a stamp, experts rely on clues in design and dive into its history.
Remember, though, that stamps from the last 70 years aren’t very valuable even in mint condition. There are still too many in circulation to make such stamps “rare”.
Look at the rarest stamps in the world for comparison and you will see why they have high values.
For instance, there is only one copy of the British Guiana 1c Magenta. And another old stamp, Ben Franklin Z-Grill, only has two copies. Ben Franklin Z-Grill was only issued in 1868 and discontinued in 1870 which contributed to its high demand and value.
The condition of the stamp greatly contributes to its value. You could have a stamp that is worth thousands of dollars but if the condition is poor, it could bring the price down to a hundred.
As a general rule, the closer the stamp is to mint condition, the higher its value will be.
Balanced Printing: This refers to the stamp border. Properly centered stamps are worth much more.
Unused: Used stamps usually have cancellation marks across the face. This nullifies their value. If the stamps have their original gum-backing, they can go for a higher price.
Vibrant in Color: The color of the stamp should not show its age and should not be faded.
Undamaged: Stamps should not have any rips, tears, or stains. Not only can these faults ruin the value of a collector’s item, but of a usable stamp too!
Did you know that certain stamps have acceptable faults? These are usually issues such as the wrong ink, incorrect values, or even missing elements in the designs. Errors in stamp printing can occur at any stage, including the perforation phase.
Stamps with faults are always discontinued immediately after detection. This adds to their rarity and thus value. One such example of a faulty stamp is The Roses in the UK, which was printed in 1978 with a face value of 13 pence. There are still three copies of The Roses. Queen Elizabeth owns two of them while an anonymous collector owns the third one. The collector bought the stamp for $118,317 in 2015.
Unfortunately, some stamps were not printed with monetary values on them, and this made them invalid for use. Since the error is quickly caught during the printing process or soon after distribution, the stamps are discontinued or destroyed.
Today, letters may be an outdated form of communication, but vintage magic is alive and well. Whether they turn out to be collector’s items or just common stamps that you can still use for mail, the anticipation of finding out is worth it!
So, do stamps ever expire? The answer depends on how well they have been preserved! If you do have some mint-condition stamps lying around, we suggest you do some research on their value before deciding what to do with them.