US Stamps

By Jay Bigalke

Cost to collect U.S. stamps steady; fewer commemoratives issued

November 13, 2014 01:25 PM

  • The $19.95 USS Arizona Memorial Express Mail stamp is one of three high-denomination stamps issued in 2014 that account for approximately one-third of the cost of all U.S. new issues released in the year.

Fewer stamps and postal stationery items were issued by the United States Postal Service in 2014, but the cost to buy one of everything issued remained steady when compared to 2013. Three high-denomination stamps — the $5.60 Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the $5.75 Glade Creek Grist Mill and the $19.99 USS Arizona Memorial — boosted the cost, accounting for approximately one-third of the overall total.

A stamp collector can expect to spend $102.26 to acquire one each of all the new U.S. mint stamps and postal stationery items issued in 2014. That projected cost is $1.53 less than the 2013 total of $103.79.

These totals count individual stamps identified as major varieties by the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, but for 2014 also include the cost of the $2 Circus souvenir sheet at its face value, even though the single mint souvenir sheet is only available with the purchase of a $64.95 stamp yearbook from the Postal Service.

The total of 127 stamp and stationery items issued in 2014 is 31 fewer than the 2013 total of 158, a decrease of approximately 20 percent, and 61 fewer than the 2012 total.

Linn’s began tracking these costs and totals in 1991.

A significant drop in the number of commemorative stamps, though mostly offset by the cost of the three higher denomination stamps, was the largest contributing factor to the slightly lower cost for 2014.

Of the 55 face-different commemoratives issued, only one set contained 10 different designs.

The 19 special stamps issued in 2014 include a larger-than-usual number of holiday stamps — which might be a new normal — increasing the numbers for that category.

Postage rate hikes are always a factor in the number of definitive stamps issued by the Postal Service, and this year there was an increase in January, plus a shipping rate adjustment in September.

When compared to 2013, the cost of commemoratives in 2014 decreased by $7.16, and the cost of special stamps went up by $2.56. The cost for definitives went down by $6.13, the cost for high-denomination stamps increased by $5.79, and the cost for postal stationery was $3.41 higher than in 2013.

Cost data is presented here in a table titled “Basic cost to collect U.S. mint new issues.” That table and the accompanying “Number of new U.S. stamps” table show data for the last 24 years, including 2014.

Each table is organized into five stamp-issue categories: commemoratives, definitive (regular-issue) stamps, special stamps (Christmas stamps, for example), high-denomination stamps (airmail, Priority Mail and Express Mail rate stamps, dollar denominations), and envelopes and cards (postal stationery). Excluded from the high-denomination category this year are the $1.15 Sea Surface Temperatures global forever (definitive) and the $1.15 Silver Bells Wreath global forever (special stamp).

The projected $102.26 cost to collect 2014 U.S. new issues, though lower than the cost for the previous year, is still significantly higher than the 24-year average of $87.17.

The totals in these tables do not take into consideration that collectors are sometimes forced to purchase a larger stamp format just to get one stamp. Typically, collectors must purchase full self-adhesive coils or full booklets to obtain only one stamp.

Calculating these elements, the cost-to-collect figure jumps to approximately $573 for 2014. This factors in having to buy the 2014 The Stamp Yearbook to purchase the $2 Circus souvenir sheet. The same cost was approximately $417 for 2013.

The totals presented in the two tables do not include the cost to collect the two varieties of press sheets — with and without die cuts — offered for most U.S. stamp issues in 2014.

A full set of all press sheets offered in 2014 would set a collector back a staggering $6,516.96. The total cost of press sheets with die cuts is approximately $3,246.48, while those without die cuts cost $3,270.48. The $2 Circus souvenir sheet is being offered only in press sheets without die-cut stamps.

Last year it cost collectors approximately $4,935 to purchase one of every press sheet issued in 2013.