As of Jan. 27, the cost to mail a first class domestic letter will increase to 55 cents, matching my age. This will not be the first time this coincidence has happened. I’ve seen it many times before as postage has increased and I’ve aged. When I was 6 in 1969, the price of a stamp was 6 cents. When stamps rose to 8 cents in 1971, I was 8. In March 1974 when the price of a first class stamp increased to 10 cents, I was still 10. In the bicentennial year of 1976, when stamps were 13 cents, I was 13. In 1978, when I was 15, stamps cost 15 cents. In 1981, when stamps rose again to 18 cents, I was 18. In 1985, when stamps rose to 22 cents, yes, I was 22. In 1996, when I was 33, a stamp was 33 cents.
For so many years this was a pretty remarkable coincidence. Thereafter, my age started to pull away, just a whisker above postage stamp prices. I’d often joke to friends that I needed to quit aging. And I assumed stamps would never again match my age, but it is about to happen again.
I am amazed when I learned that, in 1885, the price of a postage stamp was 2 cents and was still just 3 cents on July 31, 1958. So, for three-fourths of a century, postage only ticked upward a penny. When I was born in 1963, a stamp cost a nickel. Granted, innovations in machinery and transportation costs account for some of this.
In bygone years, mail was governed by the Post Office Department. And the postmaster general was a member of the president’s cabinet. No more.
Innovations by then-U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1971 pushed through the Postal Reorganization Act, creating the United States Postal Service, or USPS, which was a grave mistake in my opinion. Rates went up, service tended to go down.
Many people of my parents’ generation told me postal mail formerly was delivered by a mailman on foot (in bigger cities) twice per day. Imagine that happening now. Of course, now I say that I get tons more “junk mail” than I receive “good mail.” I feel most people can relate to that.
Some young millennials advocate an end to the post office. I oppose that. Even the U.S. Constitution in Article I, Section 8, Clause 7, empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices and post roads.”
Less than 100 years ago, many roadways would not have been graveled or even paved except for this provision. Millennials try to counter that they can buy anything they need with their credit card or debit card. I then ask them: “How did you obtain that plastic card you hold in your hand?” They respond: “In the mail.” To that, I say: “Checkmate!”
Probably the most beautiful postage stamp I ever received came from a Marples relative in England. It depicted Prince Charles and then-Lady Diana Spencer prior to their wedding in 1981. The stamp looked like a photograph, but I looked closer and it looked like colored silk threads. Its composition looked so much like a photograph, but so detailed, and so accurate down to minute detail: it was truly a work of art.
One of the best letters I ever received was from Fr. Georg Ratzinger, brother of the retired Pope Benedict XVI. I kept it. I also kept letters from actor Ernest Borgnine and Dave Thomas, founder of the Wendy’s chain of restaurants.
Although costly, if you have a special message to somebody, such as a significant birthday, write a postal letter. I’m really grateful to a nice lady who hand drew a cupcake on my recent birthday card envelope. It made the day happier. Stock up on “forever” stamps now!