Old Postage Stamps: Do Stamps Expire?


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If you have ever found old stamps you have probably asked the question “do stamps expire” to yourself.

Let’s face it everybody has a junk drawer.  It’s very likely that you’ll come across some stamps from a few years ago; perhaps even longer.

A lot of people come across old postage stamps in their house that they didn’t even know that they had.  So if you’re wondering if you can use old postage stamps you are not the only one.

Many people have questions when it comes old postage stamps such as do stamps go out of date or do USA forever stamps expire?

If you’re wondering about those questions as well, then be sure to read this guide on postage stamps.  I’ll cover those topics and others in more detail below.

What are Postage Stamps?

Postage stamps are small pieces of paper (resembling a stamp) which confirms the sender of a letter or package has paid to send their parcel to its destination.  Each postage stamp has a value assigned to it.

Those values represent the cost that the sender has paid to guarantee their package be delivered to its recipient.  This is all conducted and managed through the USPS, The United States Postal Service.

While there are other private shipping companies as well that deliver packages and parcels, it is the USPS that carries the federal task to do this.  It’s a highly regulated agency of the federal government.

Why do we use stamps?

Contrary to belief, mail was sent before stamps were created.  The mail was sent as cash on delivery, also known as COD.  The problem with this business model was that often times, the recipients wouldn’t have the money to receive the stamp.  Thus the postal service wasn’t able to recoup their cost.

Stamps were created to alleviate this problem so the postal service could get all the required money up front in order to cover their costs to deliver the parcel.

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Do Stamps Go Out of Date

So do stamps expire and go out of date?  No.  A lot of people question how long stamps are valid and do stamps go out of date but that answer is no.  Stamps do not have a use by date.

You can always use a stamp for its postage face value.  Postal rates can always increase however.

It’s possible that you might have to add additional stamps of your using an older stamp to cover the current postage rate to mail your letter.

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Do stamps have tracking numbers?

The physical stamps themselves do not have a tracking number on them.  However, all First Class Mail Package Service, all Priority Mail Services, all Parcel Select Services, and all Priority Mail Express Services do have tracking barcodes on them.

This is a requirement for the USPS for these types of mail classes.

Why do stamps have QR codes?

Some stamps do have QR codes.  While this is not universal, some stamps do offer QR codes.

Other examples of stamps and QR codes include when a country has the QR code on the front of the stamp. This offers a way for the sender to receive confirmation once the mail is delivered. The QR code just needs to be scanned.

Stamps in Other Countries: Do Stamps Expire?

In just about every country, there are postage stamps.  You may be wondering do stamps expire in those other countries?  I’ve put together a list by country to address if stamps expire in other countries.

Do stamps expire in the UK?

According to the Royal Mail, stamps with no monetary value on them do not expire.  These stamps are similar to the USPS forever stamp, just the United Kingdom version.

Stamps that do have a monetary value on them can be used anytime.  If they do not cover the market rate postage cost, you will need to add additional stamps on the letter.

Do stamps expire in Australia?

Australia post stamps do not expire.  You can use any value Australia post stamp if it is higher than the current postage rate.  If its not, you will have to buy additional 10c stamps to make sure you have enough postage on your mail for it to be delivered.

Do stamps expire in Canada?

Canada also has their own version of the American forever stamp.  Canada’s “forever” stamp is known as the Canadian Permanent stamp.  This stamp is designated by a “P” in the corner of the stamp.  These stamps do not expire.

Similar to other countries, you can use a Permanent stamp at anytime no matter what the current postage is.

Do stamps expire in Canada?  No, not if you are using a Permanent stamp.

If you are using a non-Permanent stamp, you must make sure that you have enough postage stamps to cover the cost of postage.

You may need to purchase additional stamps to make sure you can cover the current postage cost.

Do stamps expire in Ireland?

Wondering do stamps expire in Ireland the answer is no.  You can use old stamps plus additional to cover the current postage rate.

Stamps in Ireland work the same way as in other countries with old stamps, the older ones can be used provided you have enough old postage stamps to cover the rate.

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Do Stamps Get Old and Do Stamps Expire?

do stamps get old

If thinking do stamps get old the obvious answer to this is yes.  Over time, stamps can become discolored and even lose some of their adhesive and may possibly become torn in some areas, thus decreasing quality.

  • Do stamps expire when considering the above facts, the answer would be yes for the fact that you would not be able to use the stamp as valid postage.  The post office won’t allow a stamp that is partially torn and not completely whole to be used.

If the stamp becomes destroyed in any way, you won’t be able to use it as valid postage.

Do stamps increase in value?

There are some stamps that are worth a lot of money.  Nobody questions that.  There are avid stamp collectors out there that have made a lot of money collecting various stamps.  Some post office stamps can gain value such as the forever stamps.

However, not all stamp collections are valuable.  If you don’t have a trained eye, you might not buy the correct stamps that are worth money.

  • An example of this would be the coveted inverted jenny stamp so rare that this stamp error only appeared in 100 stamps.  One of those inverted jenny stamps sold a few years ago for over $1.3 million dollars at an auction.

Knowing what to look for is key in markings of stamps to determine if they are worth money.

This is because a lot of the US market post office stamps have very similar markings and designs.

There are a lot of variations for stamps.

If your not an experiences stamp collector and don’t know the markings to look for, your stamp that you believe might be worth a lot of money, may actually not be worth much more than the value of the postal stamp itself!

Do stamps lose value?

Do stamps get old and lose value?  The answer to that questions is yes.   The condition of stamps matter.

  • If you are trying to create a collective stamp collection worth money, chances are that the quality will affect the value.  If they quality isn’t up to collector and investment grade, chances are your stamps won’t be worth anything and may actually lose value.

Even buying stamps from a dealer doesn’t go without risk of losing money.  Some dealers may be looking to dump some of their inferior quality stamps on uneducated “weekend stamp buyers” not knowing much about the industry.

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What are Forever Stamps?

do usa forever stamps expire

I have mentioned forever stamps in other parts of this article.  A lot of other countries have forever stamps, including the US.

Unlike some stamps that expire, forever stamps do not expire.

You can use a forever stamp on an envelope no matter what the current postage rate is for that letter.

When you use a forever stamp, you don’t have to add additional stamps to cover the current postage rate.

Do stamps expire other than forever stamps?

Yes, other stamps do expire once the postage rate increases more than the stamp amount.  You won’t be able to send mail with that stamp then.

That’s not the case with the forever stamp.  The forever stamp is the only stamp that you can use no matter what the current postage rate is.  It’s a single postage stamp you can use forever no matter what the postage rate is.

Do US forever stamps expire?

US forever stamps do not expire.  You can a US forever stamp at any time at any postage rate.  That’s the benefit of US forever stamps, they increase in value based on the price paid for them.  When postage prices increase, so does the value of your forever stamp.

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What To Do With Old Stamps

Do stamps expire when they are old is a common misbelief.  In conjunction with other stamps, you can still use them for postage.  If the postage rate has increased, you can’t use an old stamp by itself because it won’t be enough to cover the postage rate if prices have increased.

How many stamps do I need on a letter?

The current postage rate for a letter is .55 for a 1 ounce letter.  You can either use one US forever stamp or if you have old stamps you need to put enough on your envelope to add to .55.  For each additional ounce, you will need to add an additional .15 in postage.

How many stamps do I need on a large envelope?

If you are trying to calculate how many stamps you will need for a large envelope, start with a first class stamp which is valued at .55.  A 1 ounce first class mail flat (large envelope) has a base charge of $1.00.  You will need two stamps to cover postage for a large envelope up to a 1 ounce weight.  For each additional ounce of weight, you will need to add .20 in postage stamps.

What stamps do you use for postcards?

The current postage rate for postcards is .35.  You can use any .35 stamp and the USPS has a lot of options to choose from.

What stamps do you use for wedding invitations? 

If you are planning a wedding and have a handful of old stamps and thinking do stamps expire be sure to keep those stamps.  You can use them for your wedding invitations that will be mailed.

However, there is another option.  It’s a fact that wedding invitations weigh more with RSVP cards and don’t forget the envelope that has to be mailed back as well.  Therefore, the USPS has a .71 stamp that allows for up to 2 ounces of parcel weight which is an appropriate stamp to use with wedding invitations.

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Out of Date Stamps:  So Do Stamps Expire?

So many people question do stamps expire because let’s face it a lot of people have old stamps laying around their house.  Keep in mind stamps don’t expire, but based on the type of stamp you have, you may need to add more postage.

So, do stamps expire based on postage rate amounts?  Yes.

Do stamps expire based on age?  No.  You can still use old postage stamps in conjunction with other stamps to cover the current postage rate.

Do stamps expire if they are forever stamps?  No.  Forever stamps in other countries and US forever stamps don’t expire.

If you are wondering what to do with old stamps, you can use them to mail many different pieces of parcel including first class letters, large letters, and even wedding invitations.

So do stamps expire if they are old?  No as you can see they have many uses when it comes to postage.

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