Stamp Prices: Looking Back Over Time

Given that the USPS has announced yet another stamp price increase, I thought that it might be interesting to look at stamp price increases over time. What follows is a graph of the price of postage for a one ounce piece of mail from 1885 through the 2008 price increase.

As you can see, this appears to be a pretty steep ascent. But how fast have prices really been increasing? When viewed in terms of the percent annual increase, the numbers don’t seem nearly as bad.

Looking all of the way back to 1885, prices have increased an average of 2.51% per year.

Looking back over my life (since 1971), prices have increased an average of 4.60% per year.

And look over just the past 20 years, prices have increased an average of 2.60% per year.

So… This doesn’t look terribly out of line given historical rates of inflation. The higher rate over the course of my lifetime appears to be mainly due to relatively large increases in the 1970s and early 1980s, which was a particularly inflationary time. This include a $0.03 (30%) jump over the span of a year (1974-1975) and a $0.05 jump (33%) in three years from 1978-1981.

While we’re on the subject of stamps, why not hop on over to for a bunch of free postage and a free digital scale? You can always cancel if you don’t like it.

9 Responses to “Stamp Prices: Looking Back Over Time”

  1. Anonymous

    My family members every time say that I am killing my time here at net, except I know
    I am getting familiarity every day by reading such
    good articles.

  2. Anonymous

    Oh Lawdy. The Constitution spells out that the federal government is responsible for post offices and post roads. Why is it that the small-government nuts continually rail against things the Constitution ALLOWS the government to do? Government’s required to ensure equal rights for every citizen (14th Amendment)? “Oh, that amendment was FORCED on the South to ratify!” Government’s allowed to run the post office? “Let’s pretend that part of the Constitution doesn’t exist.” Are you for the Constitution or aren’t you?

    I know everybody goes on and on about the superiority of FedEx and UPS (hey gee, lookie that, the ONLY realm in which the USPS has a “monopoly” is with first-class mail! Everything else is also delivered by private carriers!), but you know what? I don’t think I should have to pay out the nose for package delivery. I also don’t think I should have to pay for a carrier to pick up my parcels. With FedEx and UPS I can’t avoid either.

    As for the bank thing… *sigh* I have yet to see a paper statement from a bank that is on “special paper” or “has security signs added to it.” It’s just paper, and I can just as easily print up my bank statements from what I find online, and if the bank manages to make my money disappear anyway, it’s my own fault if I’m not keeping an eye on my account. In the old pre-Internet days I could be forgiven for not constantly calling up to ask for my balance but these days I have online access and therefore no excuse.

    As for the postage hike… *sigh* Well, I guess they have to compete with email.

  3. Anonymous

    I’m interested to see chart of the minimum income for the same period, especially from mid 50s up to now and compare it. Increase is close to 9 times over 50 years time period and the way it goes it may jump over 10 times which is 1000%.

    USPS is government monopoly, there no way of getting that data TOC.

    The other thing that concerns me is that lately many banks and CC issuers push for “paperless statements”. I like trees and my first thought was that, that would be great idea yet…. On second thought, I start asking myself when did the bankers started to care about the trees more then me. And something clicked. Every statement is a legal document. That is why they have been printed on special paper and sometimes security signs are added. Now imagine if you have no paper and something happened to the banks database. Would it be in the banks interest to disclose that event happening? (NO). Can you prove what did you had in your account? (Maybe). Now here is interesting example of what happened and how that could impact you.

    I’ll stick to my paper statements.

    PS, I’m sorry that the second part is not on the subject yet is related some how. I found it interesting to share.

  4. Anonymous

    I’d be interested to see an analysis of costs of delivering a 1-ounce piece of mail over that same period. My guess is that the cost per unit has dropped dramatically given the added efficiencies of the automatic sorting machines, delivery vehicles and delivery methods. That would mean that, while the overall cost of postage has remained relatively constant, the “profit” per piece of mail has increased.

    I know that data would be hard, if not impossible, to access and compile, but it would make for an interesting comparison.

  5. Anonymous

    OK, I love charts and graphs, and I could not wait, so I whipped up an inflation corrected postage chart and slapped it on my little blog, with a link back to you. Feel free to roll your own if you wish.


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