Monday Morning Brief | Postage rate decrease

March 07, 2016 09:01 AM


Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty reports on the upcoming United States postage rate decrease scheduled for April 10 and on instances in the 19th and 20th centuries when the U.S. rates also went down.

Full Video Transcript: 

Welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for March 7, 2016.

Usually when we hear a report on a new postage rate, it is about how large the increase will be and how much more we will have to pay for postage stamps. But the news from the Postal Service a couple of weeks ago was different; it announced a postage rate decrease scheduled to take place April 10.

On that date, the basic domestic letter-rate will decrease by 2¢, going from 49¢ to 47¢. No stamps with that denomination have been announced by the Postal Service, but of course, forever stamps are always good for the first-class letter rate, whether it goes or, in this case, goes down.

As Linn’s Washington Correspondent Bill McAllister has reported for, the postage rate decrease wasn’t something the Postal Service wanted.

In fact, in its Feb. 25 press release announcing the decrease, the Postal Service said: “Absent Congressional or court action to extend or make permanent an existing exigent surcharge for mailing products and services – including the Forever stamp -- the Postal Service will be required to reduce certain prices on Sunday, April 10, 2016. This mandatory action will worsen the Postal Service’s financial condition by reducing revenue and increasing its net losses by approximately $2 billion per year.”

The temporary, emergency rate increase from 46¢ to 49¢ went into effect in January 2014 and was always scheduled to only last for two years.

The last decrease for basic letter rates in the United States happened almost 100 years ago, in 1919. Due to World War I, the basic letter rate of 2¢ was raised to 3¢ on Nov. 2, 1917, and after the war ended, it dropped back to 2¢ on July 1, 1919.

This wasn’t the only time that rates decreased; there were two instances in the 19th century. The rate for a letter weighing up to one-half ounce sent anywhere in the United States was set at 3¢ in 1863, and 20 years later, in 1883, it was reduced to only 2¢. And then, in 1885, the weight limit went up to 1 ounce but the rate remained the same, so technically this was a decrease as well.

And, in the 20th century, domestic airmail rates bounced around a bit before they were abolished in 1975. One of the most dramatic domestic airmail decreases occurred in 1928 when the rate was halved. The 5¢ Beacon on Rocky Mountains airmail stamp was issued July 25, 1928, to pay this lower rate. In the Out of the Vault section of its website, the Postal Service commented on the stamp, saying that is represented a rarity that collectors in the 21st century weren’t familiar with “a decrease in postal rates,” adding that “In 1928, when the domestic air mail rate dropped from 10 cents per half-ounce to 5 cents for the first ounce, the U.S. Post Office Department was ready with a beautiful stamp to further promote and popularize the service.”

For Linn’s Stamp News and Scott catalogs, I’m Denise McCarty.

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