The Real Value of Forever Stamps

by Linsey Knerl on 6 January 2009 26 comments

I’m horribly unorganized to the untrained eye.  I’m a “stacker”, which means that while I know the general vicinity of any given piece of paper, it must be culled from a heaping pile of similarly-group items before I can use it.  It’s my own method of organization, one that gives my husband the heebie-jeebies.  It’s also the reason that just recently I’ve vowed to forever and always purchase the forever stamps. 

What are forever stamps?  For those who don’t know, they are first-class postage stamps that never decrease in their supposed value.  If I buy them today at 42cents, they are good for first-class letters.  If I keep them until the price of sending the letter goes up to 43cents, they are still good for first-class letters – no need to hunt down those pesky penny add-on stamps to legitimize my mailing. 

Are they a good investment?  There’s much debate to this topic.  Financial experts claim that it’s an investment better made in something else (like canned goods, maybe?)  I agree that postage stamps probably won’t be the next big investment vehicle; they only earn you something when you don’t use them, and then the price of postage goes up enough to justify buying scads of them in the first place.  If you’re not a heavy mailer, you’ve really saved nothing. 

But if you are a hopeless paper-collector (like myself), they may have a value above and beyond what can be measured by your annual postage budget.  There is a certain “I did it again” factor that can be completely avoided by buying these puppies.  Here’s how it works: 

I am searching frantically for a stamp.  Any stamp will do.  (It doesn’t have to have Disney princesses or the latest wildlife habitat to tickle my fancy.  It just has to be worth 42 cents.)  The mail is arriving in 10-20 minutes, and since I’m located 6 miles from the nearest civilization, I’m hoping to find precious postage that will keep me from having to make the drive to town.  (Back in the golden days, I could put an unstamped letter and pocket change right in the mailbox, and my postman would mail it for me.)  After finding a crumpled-up sheet of stamps, I realize that I don’t know how much they are worth.  They simply say “First-Class” but don’t have a monetary value printed on them.  I head to the USPS website and do a search on their online store for a stamp that looks like mine, only to find that it is worth 41cents (or possibly even 40cents.)  I continue rummaging through my files to find a 1cent stamp that I remember buying just a few months ago.  Nothing. 

Why o’ why didn’t I just buy forever stamps?  (Or maybe you’re wondering why I don’t put my stamps in a special place where I can always find them.)  Since it’s easier to change one purchasing habit than it is to reprogram my filing style, I have vowed to do just that.  There is one catch: 

Some post offices are reluctant to sell them.  They won’t deny them to you.  They just won’t offer them, either.  Similar to other forms of cheap postage (like parcel post), they won’t suggestively sell this budget-friendly option.  When I ask to buy a book of stamps, they whip out the beautifully-rendered holiday nutcracker stamps or my weakness, the Jim Henson Muppets series.  I usually don’t even consider asking for “forever stamps.” 

But all that will change.  While many New Year’s Resolutions involve vows to eat less carbs, I’ll promise myself to always buy forever stamps.  It will save a few pennies here and there, but it will also save some face.  I’m investing in my self-esteem here.

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Guest's picture

I thought the post office is phasing out the forever stamps. At least that is what I heard from the news. Last year I remember them saying that once the post office sale off their existing inventory, they will not print anymore.

Guest's picture
Roly

I haven't heard the rumor, but I feel it's akin to one I've heard for 30 years: "Social Security will be broke before you retire." So far, untrue, but many were panicked by it.

So what if the Forever Stamp rumor is true? How much difference would it make to the average stamp user? Not much, especially when many of us pay our bills on line. The main benefit of Forever Stamps is convenience, and this comes into play when the rates rise. I'm a believer in Forever Stamps and I think they'll be around . . . Forever!

Linsey Knerl's picture

There is no mention of this from USPS directly.  I know that they were phasing out over 23,000 stamp vending machines, but I don't know about the forever stamp.

The fact sheet at USPS.com just states that it will cost whatever the current rate of postage is at the time, but that a new stamp will not be issued each time. This forum post states that the stamp will be sold until they decide to stop selling them.  Not really an answer, but no evidence to support the theory that what's in stock is all there will ever be.

Can anyone confirm or deny the phasing out of the stamp?

Linsey Knerl

Myscha Theriault's picture

I hadn't heard they were being phased out either, and we just stocked up this summer for the exact reasons you mentioned. We got sick of getting caught with our proverbial pants down when it came to those odd items we did need stamps for.

Guest's picture

I once did the analysis on forever stamps to see if they were a potential investment. It came close, but not quite. My mom heard prices are going up again in 2009 so I'm going ahead and getting all the stamps I'm going to need for wedding invites this year.

Guest's picture

I like forever stamps because I use stamps so infrequently. I pay almost all of my bills online and I don't send letters or cards via the mail. Only my rent needs to be mailed so on average I'm using one stamp a month. The packet of 20 forever stamps I bought last summer will last me until sometime this fall. If the price goes up I won't have to scrounge around for those annoying "make-up stamps."

Guest's picture
Becca

When I worked at the grocery store, we had forever stamps for sale about 90% of the time. They were at every register where I worked, though sometimes they're just at the customer service desk; grocery clerks have zero interest in up-selling stamps, so you can get them with little hassle. Just something to consider. :-)

Guest's picture
jason

"..postage hikes will never surpass inflation—and the forever stamp will never become a good investment."

http://consumerist.com/consumer/usps/forever-stamps-are-a-scam-263249.php

Guest's picture
Bettie

I just caught on our local morning news the other day that the Forever stamp will not be any good come 2009. I didnt catch the exact date, but rates are going up a penny again this year.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I fail to see how forever stamps "wouldn't be any good" just because postage goes up.  They are still good for first-class rates.  They are not null and void.  The price hike that goes into effect on Jan. 18th is for mailing services (like flat rate Priority Mailers).  They would not affect any forever stamps already purchased. 

And to those of you who argue the inflationary reason for not investing in them, I understand.  I'm talking about buying a book of 20 over buying the fancy regular first-class stamps that won't increase in value.

Can anyone give me a valid reason why you shouldn't buy forevers stamps in lieu of your ordinary stamps for your regular needs?  (Not as an investment.)  I can't find any reason not too.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

I rarely use stamps - maybe two a month but I hate to buy one of anything. I would always buy a book and as soon I did I would hear on the news that the price of stamps were going up. It was a no brainer for me to purchase the stamp that would "always" be good once they started selling them. I bought two books and still have half of one left through at least one price change.

Guest's picture
Bettie

The stamp itself will be good but only for a penny value. They will no longer be making this stamp when the new rate kicks in. For some reason I am thinking they said May of this year.

Guest's picture
Bettie

I checked to USP site and if you look under the rate changes for package rates for Jan. 2009 there is a footnote about rates going up for letters in May of this year. Although they really do not give out much info about the Forever stamp. Makes you wonder why they dont have updates on them. I have some still, but will use them up. Again, it was what my local news reported. I will try to catch my postal person tomorrow here at work and ask her what she knows.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Regardless of a rate hike, postage never loses it's value.  The only stamp that would be worth a penny, is the one-cent stamp.  I collected stamps for years, and I often used the undesireables for postage.  You can always use a genuine stamp that has not been cancelled, and it is worth its face value.  As far as the Forever stamp, it would have to be honored as first class postage.  It is my understanding that the forever stamp is intended to be used on first-class letters, and may not be able to be used in conjunction with other stamps to mail, for example, a letter requiring 83 cents due to unusual weight or thickness.  A rate hike, however, couldn't devalue a previously purchased stamp to below its original value.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Wilson

Best way to buy these is from ebay with a %-discount from paypal or live.com. It's ridiculous that the post office keeps on issuing inconvenient obsolescent stamps. It's not that Forever stamps are such a deal, but that people collect denominations of stamps and are less likely to use outdated ones. Nothing like selling people little sticky squares of paper to make 99.99% profit.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I contacted the United States Postal Service's main website, and this was the response I got:

"Dear LINSEY KNERL,

Thank you for contacting us about the Forever stamp.

The Forever Stamp will be valid for the first-ounce First-Class Mail® letter postage regardless of the actual price on the date of use. The primary purpose of the stamp is to smooth the transition to new stamp prices when prices change. The Forever Stamp will be available for purchase at the First-Class Mail 1-ounce letter price until the date of a subsequent price change. At that point, it would be sold at the new First-Class Mail 1-ounce letter price.
.
If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for choosing the United States Postal Service®.

Regards,

Jenifer K"

 

I hope this helps!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
GEoff

Of course they aren't an investment. Linsey is not talking about buying a gross of these and then selling them when the value goes up, she's talking about the convenience of having stamps that actually work....

Forever stamps are perfect for me. I mail something a few times a year. On those occasions I look at my letter and my book of 41 cent stamps and know that I don't have any 1 cent stamps and know that it isn't worth my time to go to the post office and buy 1 cent stamps. So invariably I put two stamps on the letter (sometimes I do this as a precaution, I mail letters so rarely that I honestly don't know what it costs) thus paying double...

Guest's picture
Guest

I bought a bunch of these, since mailing is not something I do well. I put them in a special envelope in a special place, but apparently the last time I got them out to mail a pile of letters, I recycled or otherwise lost the envelope. Damn!

I sucked it up and bought some more, however, just not as many. Postage increases will always be with you!

Guest's picture
Kerowyn

Linsey, a forever stamp can be used to mail anything. It's valued at whatever a first class stamp currently costs, so if a first class stamp is 43 cents, and you want to mail something that needs 83 cents postage, you can use two forever stamps to mail that. Unfortunately I can't find the faq at usps.com where I figured out I could do that, but I've mailed small packages with a bunch of old forever stamps with no problem.

Linsey Knerl's picture

The report that I got the info from wasn't official (it came from a op ed column), so forgive me for misleading anyone about not being able to use the forever stamp as combined postage.  I appreciate you giving us the heads up, Kerowyn!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Guest

I think twice in probably the last year I've used an actual stamp on a regular envelope. Most things I mail (which isn't much) I take to the counter and have weighed, ask what's the cheapest way to send it, and have the clerk do the stickering. To be able to send a few sheets of paper clear across the country for less than half a buck is pretty amazing considering the prices of most everything else these days. Even if I had outdated stamps, I would probably do what GEoff mentioned and double stamp it. Still a pretty good deal. (As I recall, the USPS loses millions of dollars a year because they don't really charge enough - it's subsidized by our taxes, so I guess we're all really paying more anyway!)

Linsey Knerl's picture

One of the perks of living in the city, I think.  Out here, it's got to be errand day for me to want to trek into the P.O.  So I try to stock up.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

Hey, I love your posts. I generally love philately. That's why I'm aking you to keep posting cool posts!

Greeting! :)

Guest's picture
Michaele

My 16 year old son made an interesting point - it costs the post office a ton of money to print those one cent stamps to add to the "no longer valid because the rates just went up" stamps. They may even LOSE money on the deal initially because of the printing costs.
Ultimately,
when the post office saves money, perhaps we all do -
Anyone know if you can get them in a ROLL?

Guest's picture
Fed Up in Austin

Nope, forever stamps are only sold in the book of 20. That is to discourage the mass sales of stamps which would add up to more lost revenue for the USPS when the rates go up. Yes, still talking pennies, but it adds up if everyone buys a roll of 100 forever stamps.

I also heard that the roll of 100 for traditional stamps is now a roll of 50. I bet people were not using them up before the rate hikes and had to buy bunches of little stamps. Like 3 cents with mallards (Fargo movie reference, anyone?)

One other thing I learned. Let's say you put a stamp on an envelope, forget to mail it, and now you want to remove the stamp. You can turn in non-canceled stamps and exchange them for an equivalent dollar/cents of current stamps. This way, you are not trying to peel them off and glue them on the next envelope.

You can also do this if you find a bunch of 39 cent stamps, or if you bought some 3 cent stamps after a rate hike. As long as it has not been canceled through mailing, you can exchange.

Guest's picture
Amber

You can buy Forever stamps from the USPS website. Here's a link. Or, adversely, you can search for "Forever" under 42-cent First Class Stamps to find them. They are (as of 28 January, 2009) still 42 cents.

Forever Stamps at USPS.com