Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rare US Stamps Among the 7 Most Expensive


The United States Post Office has printed stamps that now are among 7 of the most sought after rare stamps in the world.  World wide, rare stamps are worth billions of dollars to collectors.

So what are the most Expensive stamps? And which U.S. Stamps are on the list?

1. The Three-Skilling Yellow
The Three Skilling Yellow is a rare misprinted stamp published by the Swedish government.  It was first printed in 1855.  The Three Skilling Yellow is one of the rarest stamps. Its value is due to the fact that there is only one left in the world.

In 1984 the “Yellow” was sold for 977,500 Swiss Franks by David Feldman.  In 1990 it was sold for one million US Dollars.  It was resold again in 1996 for a reported $ 2.3 million USD.  Each time the Stamp is sold it is recorded as the world’s most expensive stamp.

2. The First Two Mauritius.
The First Two Mauritius stamps were printed in 1847 in a series issued by the British Colonial Government. There is only one remaining one penny stamp left in unused condition, and three two pence stamps left.

In 1993 David Feldman auctioned the stamps owned by a private collector to set the highest value record for these stamps.  The first orange-colored stamps sold for approximately $ 10 million USD.  The second was sold for an even higher price.

3. The Inverted Jenny - U.S.
The Inverted Jenny is a pictorial American stamp depicting a 1918 Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” inadvertently printed upside-down. This is considered the most famous misprint in the world of American Philately. There are only about 100 of the stamps left, which makes it one of the most valuable stamp misprints ever.

A full block of inverted Jenny stamps was auctioned by Robert Siegel in October 2005 for $ 2.7 million.  In November of 2007 the Inverted Jenny stamps sold for approximately $ 9 million USD.  Also in December 2007 a group of the stamps both used and unused and in excellent condition sold to a Wall Street executive for around $ 7.8 million USD.

4. British Guiana One Cent Black on Magenta
The British Guiana One Cent Black on Magenta was printed in 1856.  The stamp was printed on poor quality paper with black ink tinted magenta in color, due to emergency conditions at the time.

It is known that there is only one piece left in the world making it the rarest and most expensive stamps in existence. In 1980 it was auctioned to John Dupont for a reported 
$ 8.8 million USD.

5. The U.S. Franklin Z-Grill - U.S.
Printed in 1867, the “Z-Grill” stamp is the rarest of all United States postage stamps.  There are only 2 pieces left in existence. In 1868 a one cent Franklin Z-Grill was sold for approximately $ 8.7 million USD.

6. Hawaiian Missionaries
The Hawaiian Missionaries series, issued in 1851, is the first group of postage stamps printed for Hawaii. The stamps were printed on low quality paper that was thin and rough.  The series had 2-cent, 5-cent and 13-cent versions.

The 1851 2-cent stamp is considered the rarest of the entire series. Only 16 pieces are said to be remaining.  A 2-cent Missionary stamp, in mint condition was sold for $ 760,000 USD.

7. The Penny Black
The Penny Black was the first official adhesive postage stamp in the world.  It was published by the UK Government on May 1, 1849 and put into use on May 6. The Penny Black stamp is actually not that rare, because of the large number of them that were printed, but it is still included in the list of the most expensive stamps. The Penny Black stamp unused was sold in 2001 for approximately $ 28.5 million USD.  A used Penny Black was also sold for $ 1.7 million USD.

I think it is safe to say that in the world of collecting, good things really do come in small packages

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Catch the New Waves of Color Stamps



The U.S. Postal Service has released a new set of high value stamps that are both visually contemporary and unique in their “engraved” method of printing.

They are designed to add a contemporary look on large envelopes and packages. The four elegant Waves of Color stamps will be issued in four denominations: $1, $2, $5 and $10.  As the denomination increases so does the stamp size with the $10 stamp being the largest.
 
Art director Antonio Alcala of Alexandria, VA, working in collaboration with designer Michael Dyer of Brooklyn, NY, created these striking and unique high value stamps.

The Waves of Color Stamps are printed using offset, lithography and intaglio printing processes, and the denomination on each stamp is embossed.  This process is more typically used in printing money and is a unique way to print these stamps.  Each stamp denomination will be offered in sheets of ten.

The designs started as simple line drawings and were then enhanced on the computer using specialized software to build their striking layered and offset appearance. The stamp designs are similar yet each denomination has its’ own unique Wave pattern and color.

The $10 Wave stamp has differently shaded colored undulating lines set on a white background.  There is white space on the right side of the stamp to display the embossed numeral 10. The denomination Ten Dollars is also printed out on the stamp. The other three denominations, $1, $2 and $5 have similar Wave designs but vary in their color palettes. The highly complicated printing process is able to create the dense, abstract patterns that normally can be found on engraved bank currency. This ‘feel’ helps denote this stamp series as high-denomination issues.

Stamp collectors have been eagerly awaiting the release of these new unique stamps. The Waves of Color Stamps will be first issued at 9 a.m. in Orlando at the Florida State Stamp Show. Customers can order the stamps by phone at 800-STAMP24 and take delivery just a few days after the December 1st issuance.

Other stamps can be purchased at usps.com/stamps

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mailing A Letter Could Cost You More!


As you all know the United States Postal Service has found itself strapped for cash yet again. In an effort to bring in more money the USPS announced that it will be raising the cost of postage stamps.

The next time you go to the post office you might notice that it cost you a penny more to mail a letter. Postage rates will be increased on January 27 2013. This will bring the cost of a first class stamp up to 46 cents. The cost of mailing a postcard will also jump to 33 cents.

If you mail through Priority Mail, the prices will also be rising as well. The United States Postal Service is going to be raising Priority Mail rates 6.3%. The prices will make the jump on January 27th, 2013 when the rest of the postal rates increase as well. Small flat rate boxes will now cost $5.80, medium boxes will also be rising to $12.35, and the large boxes will now cost you $16.85.

The United States Post Office was hoping to make a five-cent increase on the 27th. However, an increase of such a large amount is required to be approved by Congress. So far Congress has neither approved nor denied such an increase. Should they receive confirmation from Congress the cost to mail things may increase further.

Along with raising the price of postage stamps the USPS is going to be releasing a new international “forever” stamp. This newly released stamp will allow customers to mail a first class letter anywhere in the world for the flat fee of $1.10. International mailing used to vary based on the weight of the letter and the destination.

If you are wondering how much you will be paying, or if Congress will approve a higher increase this blog will follow that. Sources are saying that Congress will not approve or deny any increases until after the November Presidential Election. Continue to check back with us for more information on USPS rates.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Default From the USPS


With all the financial problems the United States Postal Service has been having, there is one more they can add to the list. For the second time in two months they have failed to pay on their retirees health care benefits.

The United States Postal Service is now required to pay the $5.6billion payments as part of the Postal Accountability Act. The act was passed by Congress in 2006 to help sustain the USPS retiree’s healthcare account. As of October 2012 the USPS has missed two of their mandated payments. They have stressed that just because they are behind by over $11billion, their current employees and retirees will continue to receive health insurance and benefits.

The USPS Post Master General has gone before Congress to ask them to pass a bill that would cut these payments by billions of dollars over the next few years. However, Congress has gone into recess until the middle of November and has not passed an amended bill.

Until the USPS can get Congress to change their payment schedule or payment amounts they have implemented some cost saving strategies to help them save some money all around. Their biggest cost saving initiative is to cut hours at low performing rural post offices or close some all together. The original plan was to close many of them, but, after many of the town’s lawmakers protested, the USPS decided to keep 13,000 opened, and allow them to have abbreviated hours. The hardest hit state in the country was Arkansas.

Another way the USPS is cutting costs is simply by cutting down on the electricity that they use at all of their operation centers. The USPS estimates it can save over $22million dollars a year, just by educating their employees and making them aware of the cost saving tips. They are encouraging their employees to turn off lights that aren’t in use, turn down the thermostats, and turn off electronics at the end of the day. In order to save this much energy the USPS has also started using a Utility Management System and an Enterprise Energy Management System.

The Postal Service is also looking to drop to a five day a week delivery schedule. They are hoping to eliminate Saturday delivery, to help eliminate their $3million budget gap. However, Congress will not approve the change in delivery schedule, nor will the National Association of Letter Carriers.

As the USPS fall further into debt, and Congress stays off of Capital Hill, they are hoping that their creative measures will help save money in the meantime. The USPS can only hope that when Congress is back in session they will take measures to help the Postal Service stay afloat. There will be more news on our site about this issue as it becomes available.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

USPS...The Start of It All!


Every day thousands of Americans walk outside, reach into their mailbox and pull out their daily mail. They probably never give much thought as to how it got there, or who started the whole process. This blog will take a look at how the United States Postal Service got started, Who started it, and Why it’s experienced such a decline over the last couple of years.

Let’s start at the very beginning. The United States Postal Service was started by Benjamin Franklin in July of 1775. The USPS was started in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The post office started off small, but was then expanded when Andrew Jackson became the President of the United States.

With any growth and expansion comes challenges. The USPS started to experience some challenges with the small number of employees they had and the lack of transportation options that were available to them at this time. The first method of delivery that the USPS used to deliver the mail was steamboats. The steamboats were a way for the post office to reach its customers who lived in towns without roads designated for use by the USPS.

By the 1820’s the USPS determined that the postal services were needed across the country. At that point railroads were designated for delivery of mail through the United States Postal Service. Once the use of trains was in effect the use of railroads and customers using the USPS increased rapidly.

Once the number of customers began to increase, the post office needed to develop a way to charge customers for mailing their letters or packages. In 1847 the Post Master General was given permission by Congress to begin issuing stamps. The first stamps were designed and printed by a company called Rawdon, Wright, Hatch, & Edson. The first stamps that were printed were sent to New York City, to be sold, on July 1, 1847. After that more stamps were printed and distributed to cities across the country.

The first method of determining what priced stamp someone needed to purchase was by weight and distance the letter or package was going to travel. A five center would get a letter less than 300 miles. If someone wanted to send an envelope anywhere over 300 miles, or send a package weighing over 1 ounce, they needed to purchase a stamp worth ten cents.

The USPS was rapidly growing and by 1847 they had also realized they needed help getting mail to different countries too! The USPS contracted with the U.S. Mail Steamship Company. By using their services the USPS was able to deliver mail as far away as Havana and Panama.

In 1869 the railway system had grown throughout the US, Panama, and Canada. The USPS began using rail cars that could not only deliver the mail, but allowed for employees to sort and deliver mail all while on board. The number of pieces of mail increased immensely.

It took the United State Postal Service quite some time before they finally improved delivery methods yet again, and were able to reach more people in different countries. In the year of 1918 the postal service began using airmail services that they privately owned. Before they took over operations airmail was the responsibility of the United States Army. The USPS started an airmail division. They hired pilots and used old military planes for the delivery. During 1918 the post office was known for having 36 pilots on its staff. By 1920 the pilots had delivered more than 49 million letters to destinations around the world.

As of 1975 the United States Postal Service discontinued the use Domestic AirMail and did the same for International Airmail. They were already using AirMail as a standard shipping method for First Class mailings.

Between now and then a lot has changed with the USPS. They have gone through many ups and downs. Just this quarter the United States Postal Service announced that its revenue was down $5.2billion. They have started seeking out ways to cut costs and bring in more revenue.

One way that many people might not think about is cutting electricity costs. The post office has taken many measures to cut back electricity consumption by more than 26%. The USPS has encouraged employees to take part in the cost saving initiative by turning down the thermostat at facilities and turning off lights that aren’t being used. They have also begun using their own systems called the Utility Management System and the Enterprise Energy Management System. These systems will locate trouble spots and recognize where money can be saved throughout the 33,000 buildings that the USPS runs out of.

Some towns will also being seeing a drastic change in how their mail is delivered to them. Instead of walking to their mailbox outside of their house, they will need to drive down the street to one centralized location, where there will be batch boxes. These boxes will resemble PO Boxes and have a key for each resident. Their mail will be sorted into the boxes and wait for them to collect it. All of the boxes will be found in spots, usually parking lots, or places off of mail roads. This will cut down on man hours for delivery time, gas for traveling throughout each neighborhood, and allow the postal workers to deliver more in a shorter amount of time.

Another change you will begin to see when shipping out of your local office is a change to delivery time guarantees. When you once were able to get a package or important letter delivered overnight, you now will need to wait 2-3, unless you are a bulk shipper. This cutback on the time guarantee will allow your local office and the stops along the way to cut back on man-hours to get packages delivered in a guaranteed time frame.

Cutting back on man-hours and the amount of locations available to the United States Postal Service Customers has also become a big money saving initiative, much to it’s employees and customers dismay. The post office has shortened hours at local branches, closed somewhere around 250 branches and distribution centers, and laid off at least 28,000 employees.

Branches and distribution center that were no longer doing the volume they once were began to see a cut-back in employees and business hours back in December 2011. Since them more locations are being closed and employees are finding themselves unemployed. The rural locations will be hit hardest with changes. Many are being kept open, but will only operate 4-6 hours a day, with many employees being cut back to part time positions and losing benefits. Along with the cut-backs the USPS is studying the numbers from the “at-risk” offices as well. Many will be evaluated to see if they are worth being kept open on a part-time basis or not.

The USPS has determined that by cutting back on the hours of branches, services offered, and employee hours can save them more than $500million.

The United States Postal Service has also started to rely on a unique form of mailings to help them bring in more revenue. The USPS has created its own mass mailing company called Every Door Direct Mail. This service was put together to encourage more small businesses to send out mass mailing marketing pieces. For 14.5cents the customer can send unaddressed fliers, coupons, or other materials to a targeted neighborhood or city. To raise the profits even more companies are encouraged to purchase an entire route. This means every person that receives mail on the specified route will get the marketing piece delivered to them. This will bring in an extra $75/route to the USPS. Want to know how much that “junk mail” has earned the USPS? In just the first year alone the USPS $180million from the new service being offered.

Not only has the United States Postal Service gotten creative about making money, but it has also reached out to Congress to help keep it afloat. Just this year the United States Postal Service defaulted on paying their retirees benefit bill. This is the first time this has happened, but may not be the last. They have asked Congress to help them with this bill.

So why all of these troubles for the Postal Service? It may have all started in the 1980’s when the fax machine was at its most popular. The use of snailmail started to decline then. To add salt to the wound, free email then gained popularity. People were passing on stamps and envelopes, and paying just for the internet service they needed. Why pay for postage supplies when you can just hit the “send” button.

To add to the use of e-mail the instant gratification generation is now turning to their mobile devices and the internet for coupons. Gone are the days of waiting by your mailbox for supermarket sale ads and weekly coupons from local restaurants. With the click of a button, or a simple “check-in” customers don’t even need to print offers anymore!

Many of the USPS competition such as UPS and FedEx have shifted gears to accommodate the ever changing market, and keep from sinking. They not only offer delivery services, but now offer small business solutions, printing/copy options, along with their quick and efficient shipping services too!

Many private sector companies are now purchasing old post offices and running their businesses out of them just to keep a piece of the nostalgia around. Many are watching and tracking the shift in the USPS and to see if it will make a rebound, and what they will have to do to stay afloat.

Each week this blog will look at the inner workings of the United States Postal Service, and even get an occasional insiders look from a now retired Post Master General.



Monday, July 23, 2012

Collecting Commemorative Olympic Stamps

Collecting Commemorative Olympic Stamps

             Humans are a being that finds it interesting and entertaining to collect things. In history we have been known to collect all kinds of things, from matchboxes to balls of string and all the way to pieces from outer space. We now have shows that highlight all kinds of collectors, some have taken their collecting to an extreme, and others enjoy the art of collecting and focusing on their own intrigue.
         Collecting stamps is a great way to enjoy many different types of collecting while keeping it down to one small item. Stamps are an art in themselves. They mark a moment in time, and refer to the economy of that time. They often regard popular figures in a culture. Stamps are often used to promote a worthy cause or a likely movement.
       As we recognize stamps to be a reflection of art, we can recognize them as a form of art themselves. The artists that are consigned to do the work for a special stamp will be remembered throughout history longer than many other “starving artists” may soon be forgotten anyway. The artist that designs or draws a cover for a stamp is honored and remembered for his own contribution to society.
            Stamps quickly become a piece of history, especially stamps that are designed to commemorate a specific point in history. Whether you choose to go and literally watch the games, in the era of modern technology and communication, it is quite feasible to add them to your collection, or to start your collection with this important item.
       We have always relied and depended on the longevity of the written letter.  Often called “snailmail” these letters are already being threatened by the popularity of technology and electronic mail. As much as I am not saying that snailmail will become a thing of the past, it is wise to support and engage in an art form that will for many years to come be a part of our cultures.
          In the case of the 2012 commemorative collector stamps that have been commissioned by the Royal Mail and many other countries, these stamps will become a part of history. For the small price of a stamp, that moment in time can be a part of you as well. The Royal mail alone has released 30 stamps that symbolize the nature of the games. A special commemorative stamp has been designed to commemorate that London is the only city to host the summer games three times. This stamp features the three logos used when hosting the Olympics each time.
           There are a variety of stamps commemorating the 2012 Olympic events in London. Whether you collect sports memorabilia or stamps or you are interested in a specific sport or player, the 2012 Olympic stamps will be an added item to your collection that will stand for a moment in time.
           Think of all of the people in the future that might be interested in these stamps. There will be stamps that have been consigned and released by other countries, as they win different events, these stamps will increase in popularity and value. As athletes rise to popularity specific stamps will also rise in cost and popularity. The 2012 Olympic stamps are an item that you can hardly overlook and pass up. A small investment today can be worth so much more in the future, if you’re willing to take the time and spend a trifling amount of money on this side. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“How Much” is Your Collection Worth?


“How Much” is Your Collection Worth?

Have you ever looked up “how much” your SnailMail collection is worth? Or ever wondered what stamps are worth? One stamp in particular is causing quite the commotion these days.

The stamp is the Penny Black Postage Stamp from Great Britain. It was the first stamp to be issued in 1840. The stamp was also the first one to have adhesive on it. They came in large sheets and had to be trimmed and cut by hand. All of these things play a role in how much your Black Penny stamp is worth.

First, you want to look the physical condition of the stamps. If they have any rips, water damage, or creases this will devalue your stamp. Next, take a look at the plate number that is printed on the stamp as well. Some plates are more rare than others. Having a stamp printed fro plate 11 is going to fetch you the most money. The last factor is the white margin. When the stamps were cut by hand sometimes the person cutting them would cut off some of the print, leave it crooked, or rip the stamp slightly. If anything like that has happened to your stamp the damage could cost you!

Don’t panic. Not all errors on a stamp can cost you money! Some will actually bring you extra cash when getting your stamp appraised. One of the highest selling stamps was the Sweden Three Skilling Banco Stamp, with a yellow color error. The stamp was printed in Sweden in 1855 on yellow paper instead of the green paper it had always been printed on. Because only one of these stamps has been found it fetched a whopping $2.3million!

Looking to make more of off your SnailMail collection than that? See if you have a Post Office Mauritus stamp. The stamp was made in 1847 for the Mauritus Island. The watchmaker who was appointed to make the stamp, printed POST OFFICE on the two pence stamp, instead of POST PAID. These stamps are rare and only 30 of them have surfaced over the years, even though 200 copies were printed. If you find these in your collection you’re bound to bring in some big bucks. In 1993 two of these misprinted postage stamps brought in $3.8million!

Inverted stamps are also very popular amongst collectors. The 1c Pan American Stamp is part of a series issued by the United States Postal Service. The photo inside the frame was inverted to fit. One of these is estimated at $50,000. The 2c Pan American was also inverted to show an upside down locomotive. This stamp from the series is said to be worth $90,000. The 4c also was inverted to show an upside down automotive. This one is estimated at it’s highest to bring in $90,000 as well. If you are looking to retire off of your collection, the highest paying inverted stamp is the Inverted Jenny. The re stamp shows an old fashioned plane inverted in the frame. The 24 cent stamp was made for air mail. This mistake can earn you $977,500.

Next time your organizing your SnailMail collection here are a few things to keep in mind: your stamps can be valuable, so take good care of them, mistakes aren’t always costly, and if you find an inverted stamp you might be sitting on a small fortune!