In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress. This means that the United States Postal Service (USPS), in one shape or form, is even older than the United States itself. Our USPS Stamp Guide will cover where to buy stamps as well as a number of topics surrounding the history, purchase, and use of stamps.
Continue reading for answers to your burning questions about stamps!
As of 2018, the USPS is one of the nation’s largest employers, with 497,157 employees and over 40,000 post offices. According to The History Channel, the USPS delivers 212 billion pieces of mail each year to over 144 million homes and businesses across the United States, including Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the American Virgin Islands. They also handle 44% of the world’s cards and letters.
Over the years, the United States Postal Service has adapted and expanded into the service we utilize today. But it didn’t happen overnight.
1775- Benjamin Franklin appointed first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress
1847- U.S. postage stamps issued
1860- Pony Express began 🐎
1863- Free city delivery began
1874- General Postal Union (now Universal Postal Union) established
1896- Rural free delivery began
1963- ZIP Code inaugurated
1971- United States Postal Service® began operations
1971- Labor contract negotiated through collective bargaining, a federal government "first"
1974- Self-adhesive stamps tested
1992- Self-adhesive stamps introduced nationwide
2007- “Forever” Stamp issued
📫 View the full list of USPS significant dates and historical highlights.
As of January 27, 2019, USPS increased standard First Class Mail Letter prices by .05 cents from $0.50 to $0.55.
The current domestic and international mailing prices from USPS:
Standard-sized, rectangular envelopes From $0.55
Square, Oversized, or Unusual Envelopes From $0.70
Standard-sized, rectangular postcards From $0.35
Global Forever® (International)
Standard-sized, rectangular envelopes From $1.15
Keep in mind that any stamp, no matter how rare or valuable, is only recognized by the USPS as a regular stamp. That means if you inherit an old collection, you might want to have it looked at before you begin accidentally mailing $100 stamped letters.
Where can you buy postage stamps? Why, at the post office of course! The best and most convenient place to buy postage stamps is at your local US post office. They will have stamps available for various envelope sizes and someone there who can answer any of your questions regarding postal services.
📫To locate a post office near you, use the USPSPost Office Locator.
Single stamps are (generally) only available at the post office. You can purchase them at the counter during regular business hours, or from a USPS self-service kiosk. Self-service kiosks are available if there’s a long line at the post office or at times such as Sunday when the post office is closed. There’s more information on finding USPS self-serve kiosks below.⬇️
Sheets of stamps are the easiest to come by. You can purchase sheets or books of stamps from any post office as well as a selection of stores that carry stamps including Walmart, Kroger, and Walgreens. You can also find sheets of stamps for purchase online from USPS or Amazon. There’s more information on purchasing stamps online below.⬇️
Old postage stamp value varies considerably, with some collectible stamps valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. Stamp collecting began with the issue of the first adhesive stamps in 1840. The popularity and profitability of stamp collecting increased considerably with the advent of special commemorative stamps. According to the American Philatelic Society, “The first U.S. stamps issued to specifically commemorate our history were issued in 1893 to celebrate Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World.”
🇺🇸 View a list ofthe 10 Most Valuable US Stamps.
Stamp collectors are known as philatelists. Collectible stamps can be purchased in-person at antique stores and at specialty booths in markets. There are also plenty of online resources, such asThe American Philatelic Society, Delcampe, Arpin Philately, and Postbeeldthat are dedicated to the buying and selling of collectible stamps.
The post office is closed on Sundays, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find stamps elsewhere. You can buy postage stamps on Sundays from Walmart, pharmacies, or grocery stores. If you’re in dire need of a stamp, ensure that the store is open on Sundays and check for reduced Sunday hours.
Despite the post office being closed, there is still an area to buy postage stamps on Sunday or other holidays. Many post offices have a self-service kiosk that sells stamps and postage in the lobby where you would pick up or drop off letters and parcels. USPS self-service kiosks are simple to use, and they’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What makes the kiosk extra convenient is you can immediately add a stamp to your item and place it in the dropbox yourself.
📫To locate a self-service kiosk (SSK) in your area, use the USPSPost Office Locator.
There are a variety of places other than the post office that sell postage stamps.
Online shipping is less than ideal if you need a stamp immediately, but it is a simple and convenient option for those responsible few who think ahead.
You can buy stamps from USPS.com via their online store, and they will deliver them to you—surprise, surprise—through the mail. You can also buy a wide variety of stamps online from Amazon. Stamps ordered online are only available by the sheet. Some single stamps are available on Amazon, but these are usually collectible items at a much higher cost than regular stamps.
The nice part about ordering stamps online is that you can choose from a selection of commemorative designs and specialty patterns. Many designed stamps are the same price as regular stamps whilst highlighting anything from The First Moon Landing, to Woodstock, to Sesame Street, to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
You can buy booklets or sheets of postage stamps any day of the week from Walmart, but not individual stamps. If there isn’t a Walmart close by, Walmart also has an online option for purchasing stamps, with as little as 2-day delivery. Add on any other items you need while you’re at it, such as pens and envelopes to go with your stamps.
Kroger has USPS postage stamps available for purchase any day of the week, with many locations open late or 24/7. One downside to Kroger is that they do not sell individual stamps, but booklets and sheets are available. Similar to Walmart, Kroger has the added benefit of offering a variety of other stationery supplies.
While there are not a lot of banks or ATMs that have stamps available for purchase, there are some that do. This is sometimes a frustrating experience, as the banks that do sell stamps do not have them available at every branch or ATM. Both Wells Fargo and US Bank are two banks known to carry postage stamps.
You can find stamps at many gas stations. If you’re on the road and need a stamp ASAP, try looking inside the gas station the next time you fill up. An added bonus is that gas stations are often open very late or 24/7, and some even have a USPS mailbox at their location. If you ever need to send an item or postcard from the road, try a gas station.
Walgreens and a few other pharmacies across the US also sell stamps. Many Walgreens locations are open late or 24/7, and they have the added benefit of selling both single stamps and booklets.
The best place to buy envelopes depends on the size you need, and how often you plan on sending mail.
A post office will have a wide variety of envelopes and a person working there who can guide your decision making to ensure you purchase the correct size. If you are unfamiliar with envelope sizes, or if you are mailing a large or abnormally-sized item, you should consult the post office. You may also want to purchase an envelope directly from the post office for valuable items that require a padded envelope or tracking number.
📫Learn more aboutstandard envelope sizes and styles.
Purchasing envelopes online is simple and affordable if you know what size envelope you need. People or businesses using more than a couple of envelopes over the course of the year can purchase envelopes by the box to save time and money. Online office supply or stationery stores carry a variety of envelopes sorted by standard sizes and common use. Many envelope types and sizes are available to order on Amazon.
If you’re looking for an envelope with a little more style, you can purchase colorful envelopes from a stationary or craft store. When buying creative envelopes, consider the size and shape to ensure it is eligible for mailing.
USPS says, to be eligible for mailing at the price for letters, a piece must be:
💡 To understand how envelopes have evolved, read Looking Past the Fold: A History of Envelopes.
💡 Take out the guesswork when ordering envelopes for your business needs. Business Envelope Dimensions: 10 Common Envelope Sizes Used at the Office.
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