Find the latest episode of "This Is Uncomfortable" here. Listen

Stamp prices to cost a cent more

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jan 20, 2012

Adriene Hill: Pull out those penny stamps the cost of mailing a letter is going up again. For those of you who’ve lost count — dropping that thank you note in the mail will now cost you 45 cents. The steady drip, drip, drip of increases has us wondering if stamps are a good deal?

So we asked Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer to find out.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer:  So maybe you’re thinking to yourself, man, 45 cents is a lot for a single stamp. But Postal Service spokesman Dave Partenheimer says, think about what you’re getting for your money.

Dave Partenheimer:  A letter carrier can pick up your letter and deliver it across the country, or Alaska, Hawaii all for just the price of what will be 45 cents.  That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Of course, Partenheimer is paid to say things like that. So, I decided to do a little street survey down the block from a post office in Washington. People generally thought first class stamps were a bargain. Even with the price hike.

Margaret Myers: I think stamps are a good deal.

Maurice Walters: It’s still an incredible value.

Adrian Coakley: To send a piece of mail halfway across the country or all the way across the country for 45 cents, that seems reasonable to me.

That was Margaret Myers, Maurice Walters and Adrian Coakley. To put their praise of stamp pricing in perspective, we compared it to a cup of joe. Here’s Cornell  economist Rick Geddes.

Rick Geddes: The price to mail a letter in 1974 was about the same as a cup of coffee. So it seems as though the coffee prices have run ahead of stamp prices over the years.

Yeah – just a little. When’s the last time you got a venti caramel frappuccino for 45 cents? Geddes says stamp prices have pretty much tracked inflation since the ‘70s.  Actually, in 2006, Congress passed a law that says stamp prices can’t rise faster than inflation. So, yeah, stamps are a good deal. And who can resist a bargain-priced stamp, right? Well…

Coakley:  Yeah I can’t remember the last time I used one, to be honest.

That was Adrian Coakley again. And yes, everyone else I talked to said they don’t use stamps much, either. Of course, stamps are only a bargain — if you actually buy them.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall-Genzer for Marketplace.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.