US Stamps

Cost to collect U.S. stamps drops dramatically in 2015

Dec 11, 2015, 11 AM

By Michael Baadke

The cost to collect one each of all of the mint United States postage stamps and postal stationery items issued in 2015 dropped to its lowest level in a dozen years, reaching a dollar value that is nearly half of the cost tabulated for collecting last year.

The total one-of-everything cost for 2015 is $55.03, compared to $102.26 to obtain the new stamps issued in 2014.

These totals count individual stamps identified as major varieties by the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, but for 2015 that projected total also includes the cost of two forever stamped envelopes (Bank Swallow and Folk Art Eagle) and two forever stamps (from the 2015 Medal of Honor issue) not listed as major varieties. Without those four single items included, the total one-of-everything cost for 2015 declines to $52.81.

The 25-year average cost for collecting one of each stamp and postal stationery item issued is $85.88.

The dramatic decrease in this year’s cost total can be attributed in large part to an overall decrease in the number of items issued — 100 in 2015 compared to 127 in 2014 — and the decrease in cost for high-denomination stamps issued, which dropped to $3 this year, compared to $31.34 last year.

In 2014, the Postal Service issued three stamps denominated $5.60, $5.75 and $19.99 for different Priority Mail and Express Mail rates. No new stamps for those mail rates were issued this year. The two stamps listed in the high-denomination category for 2015 are the $1 and $2 Patriotic Waves stamps issued in January.

The highest priced single item in 2015 was the Glade Creek Grist Mill Priority Mail stamped envelope, franked with a $5.75 imprinted stamp.

The number of different commemorative stamps issued this year was half the number issued last year, 27 compared to 55. No commemoratives were issued during June and July this year, and only five commemorative issues contained multiple stamps. The five Martin Ramirez stamps were the most for any 2015 commemorative. In 2014, there were three sets containing eight or more stamps, with 10 total sets containing multiple stamps.

As a result, the cost of collecting commemoratives in 2015 was less than half that of the previous year, reduced to $13.23 compared to $27.94.

The trend of a declining number of commemoratives has been underway for close to 10 years, with ups and downs along the way. The Postal Service issued 103 commemoratives in 2005 and 122 commemoratives in 2006, but that was followed by two consecutive years with 80 commemoratives issued. Between 2009 and 2014 the quantities have ranged from 80 down to last year’s 55.

The total of 100 stamps and stationery items issued in 2015 is the lowest since Linn’s began tracking these costs and totals 25 years ago in 1991. The previous low was 120 stamps in 2003, and the biggest number was 241 just three years later. The reduced number of commemorative stamps again contributed to the change.

One important factor that concerns collectors is that many U.S. stamps cannot be purchased singly from post offices or from the USPS mail order catalog, USA Philatelic, and to obtain a single stamp, a larger multiple has to be purchased. Collectors often must buy a full coil roll or a full convertible booklet pane of 20 to obtain a single stamp, or small set, for example.

To purchase stamps in the smallest possible format in 2015, collectors had to pay an estimated $261.59, which is again less than half of last year’s estimated total of $573.

The two tables presented here are organized into five categories identifying commemoratives, definitives (regular-issue stamps), special stamps (such as Christmas and other holiday stamps), high-denomination stamps (airmail, Priority Mail and Express Mail rate stamps, and dollar denominations), and envelopes and postal cards (postal stationery).

The totals in these tables do not include the cost of collecting press sheets, which were created for all 16 commemorative issues and 13 definitive and special stamp issues. Press sheets are created both with die cuts and without die cuts for each issue, resulting in a total of 58 different press sheets issued in 2015. In 2014, there were 65 press sheets issued (the press sheet for the Circus Wagon souvenir sheet was issued only without die cuts).

The cost to purchase one of each issued press sheet in 2015 was $4,597.20, compared to $6,516.96 in 2014.