Do Stamps Expire?
December 9, 2022
With the speed and convenience of email, you may think that sending letters and using postage stamps will soon be a thing of the past.
However, statistics indicate otherwise, with the United States Postal Service (USPS) recording $776.2 million in stamps and stamp product orders in 2021. That year, there were 13 billion stamps printed.
Moreover, the Postal Service’s delivery network grew by an average of 5,825 addresses daily that year. The government postal agency processed 425.3 million mail pieces daily in 2021.
The USPS moves mail through various means of transportation—including by bicycle and ferries—to sustain connectivity among letter-senders and recipients across the country.
FedEx and UPS rely on USPS’s infrastructure to make last-mile deliveries to rural and other remote areas on their behalf.
Amid inflation, the postal service announced a postage rates increase in July 2022, rising current postage rates for First-Class Mail to $0.60 from $0.58.
The good news is that if you stocked up on stamps before the price increase, you could still use them at their original value.
Have you ever wondered if U.S. postage stamps expire? How long is their validity? Do they change in value? What stamps does the U.S. Postal Service offer, and when should you use them?
This article discusses the lifespan of postage stamps, their current rates, the various kinds of stamps available through the USPS, and their respective uses.
You can refer to FindPostOffice.org for a list of approximately 31,330 post offices nationwide. Find the one nearest to your location by typing your zip code into the website’s search tool.
Do U.S. Postal Stamps Expire? How Long Can You Keep Them, and Will Their Value Hold?
Product labels often have expiration dates, from food items and medicine to batteries and motor oil.
However, when it comes to postage stamps, old pieces retain their monetary value beyond the year you bought them.
Even if individual stamp price changes, you can still use stamps regardless of the year you bought them.
However, the stamps must match or add up to the amount needed to send your mail. They should also be in good condition.
The USPS rejects stamps with more than minor tears. However, if more than 50% of your stamp is intact, the USPS can exchange your stamp with an acceptable one. Postal officials determine if the extent of damage is low enough to be worth the exchange.
Current Value of Stamps: What Do You Know?
The USPS has four main types of first-class stamps:
- Stamps for 1oz, standard-sized (rectangular) envelopes start at $0.60. Every additional ounce is worth $0.24
Standard-sized letters must be at least 3.5 by 5 inches. Otherwise, USPS considers these letters “nonmailable.” The maximum size for these letters is 6 1/8 inches by 11.5 inches, while its maximum thickness is 1/4 inch.
Meanwhile, the maximum weight is 3.5oz. When letters exceed the maximum weight and dimension, their rates follow those of large envelope mail pieces.
- Stamps for square, oversized, and unusual envelopes start at $0.99
- Stamps for standard-sized, rectangular postcards start at $0.44
- Stamps for 1oz international mail sent in standard-sized, rectangular envelopes start at $1.40
Do Stamps Increase in Value?
The USPS sells stamps according to the numeric value that appears on them. However, private collectors and companies that resell these stamps can increase their value.
The nation’s postal agency says that a stamp generally becomes more valuable the rarer it is. Examples of these unique stamps are pieces that show inverted images due to printing errors.
The USPS also considers older stamps or stamps with just a few pieces left in circulation more valuable than others.
The Postal Service added that stamps can rise in value when they keep their “mint” condition.
Stamps at a mint level have these qualities intact: dry adhesive, bright color, and perforations or holes around their edges. They also stay valuable when they show no creases or folds, and the image inside is at the center of the white perforation border.
Do Stamps Lose Value?
Torn or damaged stamps may no longer be valid for mailing. However, those with minor tears are still acceptable, mainly if the tears resulted from being pulled off from their host sheet or booklet.
You can exchange your current stamp with a new one if the damage is minor. However, Postal Service staff practices discretion if less than 50% of the stamp is intact.
Why Do We Need USPS Stamps?
The USPS prints and sells postage stamps to provide itself with funds to transport and deliver your mail.
The stamp on your letter proves that you paid the postage cost or the amount needed for your mail to reach its destination.
Letters without sufficient postage will be sent back to the sender if it has a return address. The Postal Service considers a piece of mail as “dead mail” when the envelope does not contain the sender’s address.
Meanwhile, letter senders whose mail originally had inadequate postage can resend their mail after adding enough stamps.
Introduction: What Are Postage Stamps? – The Basics
The USPS produces these small, label-like pieces of paper with a fixed value in the form of sheets, booklets, and coils.
Postage stamps are one of several “postage indicia” or indicators of postage payment for mail. Metered machines also print postage marks directly on your mail or on adhesive tapes that stick on the letter envelopes.
Meanwhile, permit imprints are another postage option for businesses that send mail in bulk. USPS has requirements for permit imprint discounts.
What Are USPS Stamps and Their Types?
USPS has different types of stamps. They include the following:
- Mail-use stamps are the most widely circulating pieces, printed more than once and in large quantities.
These stamps include First-Class Mail One-Ounce Price Forever Stamp, First-Class Mail Additional Ounce Forever Stamps, First-Class Mail Presorted Stamps (for marketing mail), and Postcard Stamps.
- Commemorative stamps undergo printing in smaller quantities—usually only once—as part of the agency’s annual program.
These postal pieces honor people, events, and other important subjects in American culture or history.
- Semipostal stamps are available at a price higher than first-class stamps.
The USPS prints them as fundraisers to help support particular causes, such as saving endangered species and breast cancer research.
What Are Forever Stamps?
Forever Stamps do not have any numbers to represent their monetary value. However, these stamps always carry the current price for 1oz First-Class Mail.
USPS delivers 167.3 million pieces of First-Class Mail every day on average.
Do Forever Stamps Expire? Forever Stamps Do Not Ever Expire
Like all USPS-issued stamps, Forever Stamps do not expire.
If mailing rates change, you can purchase denomination stamps, which you can buy for one cent or three cents, to add value to your older stamps.
More About Forever Stamps: What to Know About the Expiry of First-Class Stamps
The Forever Stamp retains its value no matter when you buy them.
Buying these stamps in bulk is a wise investment if you frequently send mail. Forever Stamps have the word “forever” printed on them instead of a numeric value.
How to Use Forever Stamps in a Right Way
You can attach Forever Stamps to all standard 1oz envelopes or lighter mail pieces. You can use these stamps for international mail as well.
The number of stamps you affix to the overseas letter or package depends on their weight.
Where Can I Buy Forever Stamps?
You can buy Forever Stamps in sheets or booklets of 20 at post offices nationwide, through USPS’s website, or by placing an order at 1-800-STAMP-24 (1-800-782-6724).
A Helping Hand With Shipping
First-Class Mail covers single-piece, standard-sized envelopes that weigh up to 3.5oz. This mail also includes large envelopes and small packages weighing up to 13oz.
Beyond this weight, you can send packages via USPS’s two other services—Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express.
The Postal Service offers free package pickup for both types of shipping.
Priority Mail can ship packages within the U.S. in one to three business days. A flat rate applies to packages below 70 pounds.
Meanwhile, Priority Mail Express is for more urgent shipments and USPS can deliver your mail or packages the following day or in two days.
When Did USPS Forever Stamps Start?
The USPS issued the first Forever Stamps in April 2007. The stamp, which bore an image of the Liberty Bell, sold for $0.41 each.
Due to their high demand, the Postal Service sold all first-class stamps as Forever Stamps starting in 2011.
What Are Global Forever Stamps?
Global Forever Stamps are Forever Stamps for overseas mail. They are round-shaped, and their value always represents the price of 1oz international mail.
A single Global Forever Stamp is enough for Canada-bound letters weighing up to 2oz. For other countries, you may have to prepare additional stamps with a total value that can cover 3.5oz.
Do Global Forever Stamps Expire?
Being one of the stamps of USPS, Global Forever Stamps also do not have expiry dates.
What Are Semipostal Stamps?
Semipostal stamps typically cost higher than the postage value of the stamp.
These stamps’ value is equivalent to the first-class single-piece postage rate plus the amount to fund a cause. The USPS or the law limits the duration of their sale.
Congress has so far required the USPS to issue semipostal stamps for breast cancer research, domestic violence prevention, animal conservation, and assistance to the families of fallen or injured 9/11 rescuers.
What Are NetStamps?
Unlike Forever Stamps, NetStamps have numbers on the face of the stamp that represents their value.
Another unique feature of NetStamps is that you can buy and print them from a USPS partner, Stamps.com.
This internet-based postage service caters to online retailers, small businesses, and home offices.
However, this service’s current partners also include big firms such as customizable label maker Avery, HP, and Microsoft.
Do Stamps Have Tracking Numbers?
Usually, First-Class Mail letters and postcards are not eligible for USPS tracking. However, you can pay an additional fee for a tracking label. You can also add tracking information for an additional fee at your local post office.
You can also create an account at USPS.com to print USPS tracking labels.
Why Do Stamps Have QR Codes?
In 2012, USPS printed stamps with QR codes featuring American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and French singer Edith Piaf.
The stamps’ release marked the first time the U.S. and France jointly produced postage since the French Revolution’s bicentennial in 1989.
USPS included QR codes on the stamps to give buyers a way to know more about the featured personalities.
When people scan the stamps’ QR codes using their smartphones, it brings them to a landing page showing a timeline of the artists’ lives. People can also listen to Davis’ music using the QR code.
While there is no announcement of new QR code-bearing stamps, USPS has a label broker service featuring QR codes.
This service caters to eCommerce business owners, aiming to help their customers access outbound and return shipping labels.
What Is the Stamps to Go Program?
The Stamps to Go program of the USPS allows letter and package senders to buy U.S. postage stamps at locations other than post offices.
More than 60,000 retail establishments, including supermarkets, pharmacies, department stores, and banks, are part of this program. Interested stamp sellers can download the consignment agreement and questionnaire.
What Happens if a Stamp Expires? What to Do With Old Stamps
Stamps do not expire, but you cannot reuse them for mailing again once you use them. The USPS warns that it is a federal crime for people to reuse old stamps, whether canceled or not.
However, used stamps are great collectors’ items, which can reach high prices among philatelists (stamp collectors).
The first stamp, printed in 1840 and auctioned at Sotheby’s in London in October last year was sold for $8.25 million.
Are you interested in collecting stamps, or do you want to view the latest stamp products of the USPS for your stamp collection?
You can check out the USA Philatelic catalog from the Postal Service’s Postal Store.
How Can I Find the Value of an Old Stamp?
The USPS considers all stamps valid regardless of their date of printing. The government agency recognizes stamps at their face value as long as they are in good condition.
Thus, the famed stamp showing an upside-down “Jenny,” the name of the First World War fighting plane, is worth $0.24 even if collectors prize this stamp at thousands of dollars.
If you have a rare stamp and want to know its market value, you can try searching for and contacting a stamp dealer in your area for assistance.
Visit the American Philatelic Society’s website, mainly their “Find an APS Member Dealer” page.
You can also go to the website findyourstampsvalue.com or install the Stamp Identifier or Stamp Manager app on your smartphone to get an idea of your stamp’s worth.
Tips for Using Old Stamps
You can use old, unused stamps for your mail at any time. Just stick additional postage stamps to match the required value to send your letter, as the stamp’s value remains the same, no matter when you use it.
USPS can exchange new stamps for damaged or flawed pieces you ordered from them when you submit a merchandise exchange form within 30 days of receiving your stamp order.
Meanwhile, some hobbyists add unused vintage stamps to their envelopes as part of mail art. For these vintage pieces, you can check eBay, TreasureFox on Etsy, and Edelweiss Post.
How Much Does a Postcard Stamp Cost?
Postcard stamps previously sold for $0.40 apiece. The price changes in July also affected the rates of postcard stamps, which now cost $0.44 each.
Postcards can be unique paper-based tools for reaching out to business prospects or clients as there are no envelopes to open.
For mail pieces to qualify at postcard price, they should be:
- At least 5 inches long, 3.5 inches high, and 0.007 inches thick.
The mail pieces must also be no more than 6 inches long, 4.25 inches high, and 0.016 inches thick.
Letter postage rates apply to mail pieces beyond these sizes and weights.
What if Postage Rates Go Up?
When postage prices rise, your Forever Stamp’s value will increase to the standard rate of First-Class Mail stamps for one-ounce letters.
Meanwhile, old stamps with printed values on the image will retain those rates.
- Do USPS stamps have a “use-by” date?
No. The validity of USPS stamps extends indefinitely. You can use postage stamps for mailing any time as long as they are in good condition, or have zero to minor tears and creases.
- Is it possible to reuse stamps?
You can use old stamps for mailing regardless of their date of release. However, you cannot reuse them. USPS warns that doing so is punishable by federal law.
- What should I do if I find defective stamps?
USPS has requested the public to report defective stamps by sending samples of them together with envelope samples to USPS’s quality control office.
The address to mail it to is:
Stamp Acquisition, Stamp Services
Attention: Quality Assurance
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington D.C. 20260-2436
- How do I know if the USPS will reject my stamp? How much of a stamp can be torn or damaged and still be considered valid?
USPS may reject your stamps if they look damaged. If more than 50% of the stamp is torn or missing, the Postal Office may not even consider exchanging it with a stamp of equal value.
However, if the damage is less than 50%, USPS is open to replacing your old stamp with a new stamp of the same price.
- How do I know if USPS stamps are still good?
USPS stamps are still acceptable for mailing if the tears or damage is minor.
As much as possible, the number indicating the stamp’s value must remain visible if it is a denominated stamp.
- Can you use old USPS stamps?
Yes, you can still use old USPS stamps as long as you have not previously used them and they are in good condition.
- Can I use a 2014 Forever Stamp in 2020?
As its name denotes, Forever Stamps do not expire. Your unused 2014 Forever Stamp stays valid indefinitely if it shows zero to minor damage.
- Are stamps from 2013 still good?
Yes, the stamps you bought in 2013 are still acceptable for mailing because these USPS products do not expire.
- Can I use Christmas stamps issued by USPS after Christmas?
Yes, you can use these holiday-themed stamps outside the Christmas season.
- Can I exchange my older stamps for newly priced stamps after a price increase?
You do not need to exchange your old stamps for new stamps after a price increase since postal stamps have no expiry date.
In the event of a price increase, you only need to buy denominated stamps or Forever stamps to reach the correct postage price for your mail.
- Can I purchase 1-cent or 3-cent stamps to make up for the increase in postage?
Yes, you can. USPS has 1-cent and 3-cent stamp options available for you to add to any of your old, unused stamps to match the postal rate of your mail.
- Can stamps be sold at a higher price?
USPS does not sell stamps for mailing at a higher price than the value printed on them.
The Postal Service does not control the stamp rates used by collectors and private entrepreneurs.
- Do USPS shipping labels expire?
The USPS website does not explicitly indicate how long their shipping labels are valid.
However, portals that have used their services say these labels expire 28 days from the day you purchase them.
- How many stamps do I need on a letter?
The number of stamps you must attach to your letter depends on its weight. The heavier it is, the higher the postage price.
First-Class Mail Forever Stamps carry the price for 1oz first-class letters of standard (rectangular) size. The postage price of letters starts at $0.60.
- How many stamps do I need on a large envelope?
Like in standard letter-size mail, the number of stamps you need for large envelopes will depend on their weight. The postage rates for large envelopes start at $1.20.
Mail in large envelopes should be at least 6 1/8 by 11.5 inches and no more than 12 by 15 inches. Your large envelope must be 1/4 to 3/4 inch thick for USPS to consider it for First-Class Mail Flats.
USPS will advise you to mail large envelopes as a First-Class Package Service-Retail parcel if they exceed the maximum dimension. Parcels also include non-rectangular and not uniformly thick large envelopes.
- What stamps do you use for postcards?
You can use Forever Stamps and postcard stamps for mailing your postcards.
The rate of regular postcard stamps starts at $0.44. However, you will need letter stamps, the rates of which begin at $0.60, for more oversized postcards.
- What stamps do you use for wedding invitations?
Couples and event planners usually use cardstock paper for wedding invitations that are thicker than the paper used for letters.
You can consider using the two-ounce USPS stamps, which are sold in sheets and contain 20 stamps each.
The unit price of the stamps is $0.84, while the cost of each sheet is $16.80. However, if each of your cards only weighs about an ounce, Forever Stamps will be sufficient.
- You have stamps worth 50 cents. Now, if USPS increases the stamp’s cost, can you continue using my 50-cent stamps for mailing?
Yes, you can. However, the face value of your 50-cent stamps will not change.
So when the postage rate for 1-ounce letters increases, you will have to add a few more stamps to your 50-cent stamp until their value adds up to the required postage for your mail.
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- FUN FACTS
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- What are Postage Stamps? Postage Stamps – The Basics
- Customer Support Ruling
- Mailing & Shipping Prices
- July 2022 First-Class Mail Prices
- What are the Types of First-Class Mail?
- How to Determine a Stamp’s Value
- P011 Payment
- What kinds of stamps are there?
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- Common Questions About Postage and Stamps
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- USPS Label Broker
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- USA Philatelic.
- What should I know about U.S. Postal Stamps?
- What To Do With Unused Stamps
- Postal Store Returns & Exchanges
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- How to Send a Letter or Postcard: Domestic