/ Money

When was the last time you bought stamps?

First class stamp

At the end of the month, the price of first and second class stamps will rise to 65p and 56p respectively. But how often do you even use stamps these days?

Christmas seems to be the only time of year you’ll find me buying stamps, mainly because they’re festive themed and I’m quite fond of them.

When you only buy stamps once a year you really notice the price hikes.

I recall buying a couple of books of stamps in early December last year and being slightly staggered by the cost of them.

Chances are it won’t be until this December that I buy my next book of stamps.

By then, they’ll be even more expensive, as the price of both first and second class stamps is set to go up on 27 March.

Buying stamps

Now let’s not blow this out of proportion – they’re only going up by a penny each.

And when you compare that to how much stamps cost in the rest of Europe (on average, 87p for a first class stamp and around 67p for a second class stamp, according to the Royal Mail), they’re actually fairly good value.

But it has got be thinking about how little I actually use stamps and wondering how often other people buy books of stamps or send letters/cards these days.

Personally, my stamp needs are really for Christmas cards. I’ll then have a little collection of festive-themed stamps to use for the remainder of the year, usually for the odd thing like my driving licence renewal.

But even with that most people wouldn’t need to use a stamp.

Had I not looked so ridiculously childlike on my old one, I could’ve done what everyone else does and renewed it online.

As it was, I had to root around my purse for a stamp so I could send off the new picture with the form to DVLA.

No snail mail

When it comes down to it, if I don’t see someone in person, I’ll mostly wish them happy birthday or congratulate them for life events on Facebook or via text.

For birthdays, it usually includes sending good wishes along with my favourite funny photo:

Dog birthday
I’ll rarely post a card to them.

And I don’t think I’m alone here either.

In fact, the only non-billing or statement post I really get these days is an invite to a wedding or baby-related gathering.

That said, the latest invite I’ve had for such an event came via a lovely artworked image invitation sent by text message. It must have saved the bride-and-groom-to-be a fortune in postage.

So how often do you buy stamps? Do you have any quirky stamp collections like my little hoard of festive stamps?


65p and 56p – convert that back to old money . What would my granny have said to paying over 10 shillings for a stamp to put on a letter?

What would she have said if she paid £6 for her fish and chips? In my younger days they cost 1/3d. This is what inflation does – distorts our view of worth. Perhaps all goods should be priced in a new currency – actual cost divided by average wage.

There is a benefit of inflation as you get older. When you remember the cost of things in your earlier years – houses, petrol, cigarettes, cars – you do think harder about what you are asked to pay now. Whereas those younger people without this legacy take them more in their stride. I suspect it has always been so – my grandparents used to remark on the cost of stuff compared to that in their youth.

We send quite a lot of birthday cards to friends and relatives, and about two or three letters a week that require stamps. There’s also St. Valentines Day, Easter, get well, thank you, new home, best wishes, condolences, congratulations, family correspondence, and so on. We also receive quite a lot of letters and cards from friends and family in return. Personally, I think something sent by post is appreciated more than an e-mail. In my view, invitations and important notifications about births, deaths and marriages [or equivalent] should only be sent by post. We are in touch with several elderly friends and relatives who are not in a position to open an e-mail and they enjoy receiving a card or letter with family news. Even the younger generation like receiving greetings through the letterbox. A lot of our correspondence is generated by things found in newspapers and magazines which we cut out and send, like recipes, gardening tips, houses on the market, holiday and travel ideas – don’t people do that any more? Every week my wife sends a card or a letter to her elderly aunt in a residential home, sometimes with a little gift or memento like a photograph; is there a better way than to post such things and perhaps bring a little happiness into their lives? The internet has saved so much in other ways that it makes personal correspondence affordable as well as a pleasure.

Must admit I’m with Lauren on this – except for the baby-faced photo observation… We like Christmas stamps for the same reasons, just about all other mail comes either as urgings to invest in rubber or suggestions that I am clearly missing out on the wonders of home insulation, and we get all our personal ‘mail’ via the internet and through services such as the excellent iMessage on Macs.

I do find, however, that if a major company has upset me in some way a posted letter gets more attention than an email.

. . . . the more so if you have an authoritative-looking letterhead. I don’t mind if the correspondence continues by e-mail because by then I’ve broken through the ice.

I still have about 250 second class stamps from the hundreds that I bought a couple of years ago and these should last me at least a year. They were a worthwhile investment and having run out of first class stamps recently I wish I had bought more of them when they were cheaper. I still send Christmas cards but mainly keep in touch with friends by phone.

I wish we could go back to the days when it was necessary just to check the weight of a letter rather than having to check the length, width, thickness and weight and then check prices online in case they have risen again. 🙁

I have always wondered whether 1st class stamps keep their first class status when new ones have been issued at a higher price.

I fully agree with the ridiculous new rules on letter and large letter. If a letter or greetings card goes through a letterbox it should be the same price.

Not only are first and second class ‘postage labels’ valid indefinitely for that class of postage whatever happens to prices over time, but old postage stamps can be used in multiples to make up the current values. I am still using up some stamps that have halfpenny values so the new rates from 27 March will make life easier for me as I can use a 50p stamp plus two seven pence-halfpenny stamps to make up a first class postage value. I shall use two 26p stamps [the Charles & Diana wedding special issue!] and a four-penny one for the second class items.

Don’t hold on to the old stamps for too long. I don’t think Penny Blacks are valid for postage these days, and if they were you would need so many they would cover the addressee’s name.

That’s right. I don’t use the pre-decimal stamps for that reason – I would have to use a large letter envelope and put even more stamps on! I inherited an enormous number of postage stamps from someone who did a bit of dealing but managed to buy far more than he sold. He also had a huge collection of stamps from all over the world. I gave it to a local children’s hospice charity who have contacts in the philatelic world so hopefully they got a good price for the stamps in the collection. I kept all the useable UK stamps and am gradually getting through them.

What appals me more than postage prices is the exorbitant cost of greetings cards. £2.95 is typical for a one-fold flimsy card and a thin envelope [and not even a message half the time!]. The decline in quality of cards is no doubt linked to the trend away from sending them. People blame the postage but its the cost of the card that’s killing the trade.

I make greetings cards using photo-print paper on my Canon printer. Much more fun than going through rack upon rack of naff expensive rubbish.

Yes, and much nicer to receive than cards with a big M&S or Tesco logo on the back which we receive so many of. A friend of ours does home-made cards using his beautiful line drawings of country churches. We like them so much we keep them on display for years.

A friend always produces photo print Christmas and birthday cards. Thanks to the lack of snow in recent years, some of the Christmas photos are a few years old.

The cards I like most and tend to hold on to are hand-made ones made by children.

A fellow member of a society is 104 years old and has decided to pass on all his pen & ink drawings for us to use. Maybe we could use them for cards that are more interesting than the mass produced type.

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Thanks Duncan. I suspect that we might already have the best of the drawings, which I scanned back in 1993 to put in a guide book, but it will be interesting to find out if there are drawings that might be used as you suggest. What appealed most about the drawings was that most of them focused on recognisable local scenes. I have just learned that the same chap has produced watercolours and they were deposited at the museum in the town not far from where I now live. Meanwhile back with stamps….

Franking machines have largely killed off stamps. At work we used to receive letters and small packages bearing a wonderful collection of stamps from round the world and several of my colleagues collected them for good causes. No doubt there will be people who collect franking marks but I don’t think they have the same charm.

Sue B says:
6 March 2017

I buy my greeting cards at Card Factory – they have good quality cards at very reasonable prices .

I bought a book of 1st class stamps last week to send a birthday card.

I like to receive greetings cards so also send them as electronic greetings seem a bit of a cop-out and rather impersonal. If I forget to send a card, I phone to say ‘happy birthday’, and wouldn’t dream of sending a text or email.

As Ian says there are times when a letter will get more attention than an email.

I am glad that the fad for electronic greeting cards seems to have passed. I rarely bothered to look at them.

I totally agree. E-greetings cards are terrible, and when I receive one, I wonder to whom the web site will have sold my e-mail address. I share your pleasure that they have gone out of fashion.

So far the only ones I have received have been from friends. This year it was only one and the daft thing is that the person who sent it had already sent a nice card. I share your concern about the irresponsible behaviour of (some) companies passing on email addresses.

I was actually thinking of a straight text or email when I mentioned electronic greetings.

I am guilty of sending singing E-greetings cards as well as postal ones to a couple of people I knew would enjoy them but that hasn’t been for some years and before we knew our details were being sold. They used to be free but cost around £5 the last time I looked which is why I no longer send them and they are no longer fashionable.

But searching for an example, I see they are now on YouTube. There used to be one of funny elderly gentlemen that sung this one but here are some frogs instead.


Jackie Lawson does the best E-cards I’ve ever seen. The music with them is rather effective and the total cost is around the £20.00 per annum mark for as many cards as you want. It’s a cottage industry, indeed, but just browsing the cards is quite pleasurable.

That’s what I thought to start with but when a member of a charity sent Jacquie Lawson ecards others followed, rather like a chain letter. Because of the fixed subscription they started appearing on a regular basis during the year.

Your choices are not helpful. I use a stamp form time to time, but not only for Christmas and Birthdays (in fact very rarely for those). And it’s not because it’s more personal. Sometimes it’s just not possible to send what I want to online.

I hardly send anything by post; I do everything electronically whenever possible. The last time I bought stamps was April 2012, when I bought 300 second class stamps for 36p each, total £108. I think I’ve used around 50 since then, mostly for Christmas cards.

Every now and again, American Express gives £5 back for £10 spent at the Post Office, so I sometimes buy books of £1 stamps, £10 on each of my Amex cards. I can then use the stamps for more expensive postage such as for parcels.

My sister in law in Vancouver has just celebrated her 89th birthday so a birthday card was sent via airmail at a cost of £1.65 as she is not computer literate, although like John, I always send birthday and a host of other cards throughout the year to relatives and friends and keep a book of 2nd class stamps handy in my purse.,

I love to send humourous cards to people who have been unwell to cheer them up. I recently found a card with a cartoon picture of an elderly gentleman, newspaper clutched in hand standing at the bottom of the stairs shouting up to his wife “You want me to come up and make love to you? I’m afraid it will have to be one or the other!” This was an absolute must to send to my 81 year old brother who has recently undergone hip replacement surgery. He was tickled pink 🙂

I rarely buy 1st class as I normally assess at the beginning of the month whose birthday or other occasion it is. I will then buy them altogether and post them off in good time with a 2nd class stamp. I think it’s still nice to know that someone has taken the trouble to go out and choose a card with you specifically in mind, take it home and write it and then perhaps make a special journey out to post it. Long may it continue.

If you buy a stamp marked 1st or 2nd , they are valid, as far as I know, for evermore. So a wise investment – stock up on them in the expectation that the future cost of postage will outpace inflation and then sell them to users.

I understand that business users get postage cheaper than private users, through franking machines. If this is so, is it fair? Why not have a franking machine in shops that the public can use to access lower charges?
Franking prices
UK delivery …………………………..Mailmark® franking prices Standard franking prices
1st Class letters …………………………..Price from 51p ………………..Price from 53p
1st Class small parcel 0-1kg ……..Price from £3.07 …………………Price from £3.07
2nd Class letters …………………………..Price from 37p…………………..Price from 40p
2nd Class small parcel 0-2kg Price from £2.57 ……………….Price from £2.57

I know someone who actually has a franking machine! And I used to know someone who took her cards into the office to frank. Some people’s penny-pinching really takes the biscuit.

Sometimes when people do that it’s petty theft too. 🙁

Yes – Frank was far too nice to complain.

When we send letters abroad we print the franking directly onto the envelope from the Post office site.

It depends whether they pay or not. Staff made use of our franking machine and were charged by the company.

Emgee says:
4 March 2017

Although I now write emails rather than long handwritten letters these days, I still post personal cards for all kinds of personal occasions to close friends and all family, AND send a text on the day . Just sending someone a text or a throwaway social media message trivialises the event (as you probably send that type of message to less important contacts and acquaintances in addition to those who are close because it is easy to do without it costing anything).
Electronic greetings are nowhere near as thoughtful as finding the right card for someone, handwriting a personal message and going to the bother of posting it although I have received beautifully designed wedding invitations electronically with an electronic reply function and that is a good idea. I do all official correspondence online and have paperless online accounts wherever possible so that is where the real postage savings have been in past few years.

Sadly, the increased use of on-line communications has all but killed the wonderful and educational hobby of philately. I suspect most people are not even aware of the (very attractive) stamps that are issued by the Post Office each year. In fact, you have to try quite hard to use what are termed ‘commemorative’ stamps rather than the rather dull, Queen’s head ‘definitive’ stamps. Please try to use more stamps, and make them commemoratives. The pleasure of receiving a letter or card far exceeds that of receiving an email or e-message of any sort. Put your card on your mantelpiece for a couple of weeks and then recycle it. Assuming you have a mantelpiece, that is!

I have a shed load of 1st, 2nd, large envelope stamps left from my working days’, and for the amount I use these will last me the next ten years. The only time I do use post is when I send a weekly paper to a football colleague in Germany.

I only buy a single stamp when I have no other means of communicating at all and then very reluctantly and only buy second class stamps Greeting cards were given up some years There are ways to pass you greetings on even to Australia

I stocked up on loads of 1st and 2nd class books of stamps about ten years ago. A really good investment…

How can you possibly think that your poll means anything when the options are only ‘never’ and ‘always’. Where are the probable majority who sit somewhere between ‘ quite often’ and ‘occasionally’.

‘Nine out of 10 owners who expressed a preference ………………………..’ etc. etc.

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No one has to do these pointless polls.

I used to collect stamps and I still look at them with interest and keep one or two now and then, especially from abroad.

I love receiving postcards! And I always send a few myself when I’m on holiday. I keep in touch with a few members of my family and friends exclusively by post.

Most of my business transactions take place online.

MandainMilford says:
6 March 2017

I use stamps quite a lot – posting cards and quite a bit of business mail including small parcels. Seems expensive but necessary

Michael says:
6 March 2017

Poor Lauren is being hoodwinked by the Royal Mail fake news machine when she believes that UK postage rates are lower than on the Continent. The “confusion” is caused by the fact that the lowest UK First Class and Second Class rates cover letters up to 100g, whereas the lowest rates for most postal services on the Continent cover letters up to 20g. So Royal Mail compares rates for 100g letters to make themselves look better. An inland letter up to 20g in Germany costs 0.70 €, which is slightly less than Royal Mail’s First Class 64p. As most private letters and cards weigh less than 20g, a comparison of 20g rates would be fairer.

It looks even worse for Royal Mail when you compare international letter rates. A 20g letter from the UK to Germany costs £1.05. A 20g letter from Germany to the UK costs only 0.90 €.

The difference was even more crass until the Brexit Referendum when the pound lost so much of its value against the euro.

When Which? tests washing machines, it does not (I hope) just rely upon the claims of the manufacturers; I do not see why Which? believes the claims of Royal Mail without checking the facts. It is enough to make you cancel your Which? subscription.

Thanks for that, Michael. I agree that it is important to compare like with like. There’s no need to cancel your subscription, just register on Which? Conversation, join in the debates and keep us informed.

For close friends and relatives, nothing says ‘I forgot’ or ‘I couldn’t be bothered’ quite like an email or Facebook greeting INSTEAD of a birthday card! Cards, parcels and the odd letter are about the only things I post these days as I pay bills online.

Pam says:
10 March 2017

I bought stamps last week & send letters as well as cards! Gosh, a letter! What’s that….
I love nice writing paper & brown fountain pen ink (special pen, gold nib and all) on cream paper is favourite but I’ve run out of both right now. I think emails are tedious to read as well as write, although I do both as well but my optician scares me every time, asking how much time I spend looking at a screen.
I would hate a birthday greeting by text unless the person had forgotten & had little choice. I liked the first Jaqui Lawson ecard I got – the collared doves’ eyes were amazing – but now they’ve become a bit too repetitive, for New Year especially.
There’s a parallel: those of us who have always preferred vinyl say how much nicer it is to handle the record & sleeve, so maybe letters will make a comeback too. I doubt it somehow… Walk to the postbox? Far too much like hard work.

Yes Sophie, postcards are great too!

Back to my candlelit cave now.