Do Stamps Expire?

It may seem peculiar, but posting has been around since before stamps came into effect. Historically, parcels and letters got mailed on a cash-on-delivery basis where the receiver had to pay for the postage.

Postal services ran into financial problems when receivers often had no money to pay for the delivery causing losses.

Stamps came in as a way for the post office to receive payment upfront and cover their costs. However, prices go up, requiring new ways to curb further losses without upsetting the postal system users.

Many things go out of date and once bought, making them unusable after a certain period. Gift cards, for example, have an expiration date after which they expire. Expiration dates put the receiver under pressure to use the gift card within a certain period.

In times such as these, with a global pandemic raging worldwide, setting a timeline on when you can use a gift card makes it tricky.

Luckily the same is not valid for stamps. Stamps can be used under certain conditions, no matter when you bought them.

Do Stamps Expire?

Any postage stamp that has been issued since 1860 by the United States will remain valid for postage within the United States between any two points that the U.S Mail service operates.

Every year the U.S Postal Service will introduce a new range of stamps with new designs and pricing.

While there are reasons that a stamp can be rendered unusable, it never expires. In theory, and provided that the stamp is in good condition, you should always be able to use it for postage purposes.

Before we know if a stamp expires, we need to know what stamps exist and whether they will lose their value. If they don’t, how can they be applied with price increases in place?

There are a surprising number of stamps for different purposes.

Priority Mail Express Stamps and Priority Stamps get used when sending one-ounce packages or envelopes through the mail. Traditionally, you will only buy what you need. Should you have stocked up, then there is no need to worry.

If a price increase has occurred since you bought the stamps others can be placed on the parcel to make up the price difference.

Called Denomination or Definitive stamps, once you have placed the original Priority stamp on the package, you add on one of these.

A Denomination will show its values on its face indicating the addition in monetary value and, they come in various monetary values. The value of the additional stamp is printed on its face, for example, 1-c or 3-c.

Priority Express and Priority Mail stamps never expire and can be used no matter when purchased. Denomination Stamps will not expire and get used when needed to make up a total amount for shipping.

Forever Stamp series will allow you to post your envelope or parcel no matter how many increases have occurred since its purchase.

When you buy a Forever Stamp, you purchase it knowing that this brand of postage payment will never expire.

They are also used to send one-ounce parcels or envelopes around the U.S and have a design element that pays tribute to commemorative events and people.

Showcasing these commemorative individuals are occurrences means that they become placed on the face of this stamp.

Forever stamps hold the same value as a Priority Mail stamp and never expire despite price increases.

You do not have to add Definitive stamps here either because the original purchase of a Forever Stamp will ensure that you will have postage coverage.

There are also Once-Ounce Forever Stamps and Additional Ounce Forever stamps. Additional Ounce Forever stamps would get used to add to the weight of a consignment that has a One-Ounce stamp on it and never expires.

When sending a postcard, there are stamps designed for this purpose called a Postcard Stamp which is slightly cheaper than a regular stamp.

Postcard stamps do not expire and are eligible for use at any time after their purchase.

Fundraising campaigns get funded through the purchase of stamps. There are called Semipostal stamps, and the proceeds go to causes such as Breast Cancer.

Semipostal stamps do not expire and will fall under the usage requirements as a Priority Stamp would.

Do Non-Conventional Stamps Expire?

There are several stamps apart from the ones highlighted above that also hold a bearing on this topic. Some of them have specific uses and could expire. Airmail Stamps are purchased to send envelopes and small packages via air.

They usually depict images of pilots or airplanes and separating their use from traditional rail or automobile distribution. Airmail stamps do not expire unless they are illegible or torn.

Cinderella stamps are not issued through the post office and only get utilized for local distribution between towns.

Ferry rides, for example, require an official postage stamp as well as a local stamp. Here is where Cinderella stamps come in, paying for the Ferry portion of the trip.

No expiration date is applicable for a Cinderella stamp unless it is illegible or torn, then it is classified as expired.

A Local Stamp gets utilized for mailing letters through a local postal service within a limited geographical area. No expiration date applies to Local Stamps, provided the face is clear and the value is legible.

Circumstances that render stamps expired.

No matter how old a stamp is, it should not expire unless it is in one of the following conditions:

  • If the stamp has a torn or damaged border, then it is rendered expired.
  • The price displayed on the stamp is illegible, smeared, or blurred puts it in the expired list. Post office staff need to identify the type of stamp that it is and what its usage capacity is.
  • If the adhesive on the back of the stamp does not stick, you can’t use it. You cannot stick glue on it or clear tape over it and send the mail that way. The stamp is rendered expired and cannot be applied.
  • Previously used stamps are not able to be used again. They would have expired on the first application.
  • If the stamp is badly faded, it is expired.

Closing off

Stamps are an age-old tradition that has kept us in touch with our family and friends worldwide for over a century. Without them, communication would have been limited.

Businesses have also benefitted from postal services issuing invoices and letters of communication to their clients through the postal system.

Without the postal service and the introduction of stamps, business and personal communication could quite possibly have stagnated.

Bringing the expiration of stamps into the mix could have proved to be more of an obstacle than a win for the post office. Instead of leaving us high and dry with out-of-date stamps, they took a positive step in the right direction and evolved with us.

Stamps will never really expire, not unless they have been damaged beyond recognition or torn. Price increases are not an issue with the addition of stamps that make up the price increase difference.

It’s safe to say that you can buy stamps knowing that you will never waste your hard-earned money somewhere down the line.

Collectors have even created an entire industry collecting stamps every year and increasing their value as they go. Some coils of stamps can fetch as much as $130 000.00 due to their age and condition.

Your money is in safe hands with the USPS. Happy stamping.

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