Postage and Pennies

Last January, postage for a first-class American stamp went from 46¢ to 49¢: a smallish change, seemingly, but one that nets the USPS millions (until another few years of inflation puts them back in the red). However, people with postage meters got a special rate of 48¢ – presumably because anyone with a meter would use more postage than the average stamp-buyer, so the post office ~magnanimously~ allowed a slight discount to such folks.

Our meter doesn't have the envelope-catching bin, such that our envelopes tend to fall on the floor.

Our meter doesn’t have the envelope-catching bin, such that our envelopes tend to fall on the floor.

We have a postage machine at my office, which we load with $500.00 at a time and which is connected directly to the Postal Powers That Be. So when they raised the meter rate on May 31st to 48.5¢, it didn’t require any programming or effort on our part; it just made us go “Buh?” when the number was different all of a sudden.

Before realizing that oh yeah, this can only possibly apply to meters since stamps cost 49 cents anyway, I started researching half-pennies (because of course I did), despite the unlikeliness that they’d make a resurgence: they’ve been out of circulation for over 150 years. The US produced them from 1793 to 1857 and, “at the time of their discontinuation, the half cent had more buying power than a dime in 2012.” They’d be about equivalent to 14 cents today.1857 Half CentLearning that makes it less surprising to read (6 months/over a year later) that pennies will be phased out.  They enable exact change in a way that nickels and dimes cannot, especially when sales tax is taken into account, but even so these coins seem more poetic than practical nowadays: a sort of living fossil, appreciated by numismatists more than anyone else.

But that’s only the coin I mean.  The value of a cent remains, even if it is a very small value; and a mere half-cent rate increase makes a huge difference if enough half-cents are involved!  Just ask the postal service.

One thought on “Postage and Pennies

  1. Losing pennies is going to drive my o.c.d. nuts. And I’m a bit afraid that it’s going to hit low income folks more than anybody. After all, if we start rounding to the 5-cent mark, those pennies are going to add up.
    I understand that the manufacturing of pennies is impractical, now, but seriously, how is this going to play out?😛

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