United States First Class Stamp Facts

The First U.S. Postage Stamps. Issued 1847. The first stamp issues were authorized by an act of Congress and approved on March 3, 1847.

According to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the Queen Anne Act of 1710 is the basis behind the American postal system which was started on June 1, 1711.

First class stamps are one of the quickest ways to send mail throughout America within about two to three days. The stamps can only be used within the United States. The Smithsonian National Postal Museum reports that the United States started using codes associated with its Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) on July 1, 1963. The system helped the post office to provide faster and more accurate delivery and tracking service. Two years later the post office incorporated an additional four digit code at the end of the first five digits.

Postal Symbols and Rates

When the United States Post Office was first created used Mercury, a Roman commerce and travel god, as its symbol. The symbol was used from 1782 until 1837. Beginning in 1837 the post office started using a running pony as its symbol. The modern day symbol is a bald eagle.

In 1845 prepaid stamps for correspondence that weighed half an ounce or less and that required 300 miles or less traveling distance to deliver cost five cents. In 1851 the same weighted document could be mailed across 3,000 miles for three cents. December 31, 1975 the cost of a first class stamp increased to ten cents for a one ounce document. Since 1975 the cost of a first class stamp has increased 15 times. As of May 2009 a first class stamp cost 44 cents.

Forever Postage Stamp

In 2007 the United States rolled out the Forever Stamp. The cost of the stamp rolled out at 41 cents. Generally the price of the stamp does not increase even while the rates of regular first class stamps go up. The stamp covers one ounce correspondence and went on sale for the first time on April 12, 2007. Postmaster General John Potter unveiled the stamp that has an image of the Liberty Bell on its front at the National Postal Forum. Forever stamps can be purchased in books of 20 stamps. Unlike standard first class stamps, the forever stamps cannot be purchased in rolls of 100.

Stamps for Collection

Collectors have a growing catalog of first class stamp designs that they can purchase and maintain. The United States post office offers collector’s stamps at their stores as well as online. Bestselling collector’s stamps include commemorative stamp booklets, the Abraham Lincoln commemorative folio, Disney, Frank Sinatra and Marvel Comic stamps. Cost of the stamps varies from $11 to over $150.

Historic and Commemorative Postage Stamps

As first class postage stamp rates continue to increase nearly every other year, the value of older stamps might rise significantly over the coming years. Collectors can purchase stamps that have historic relevance like black history month stamps with images of great achievers like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahayah Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald and Medgar Evars. They can also purchase first day cover stamps such as the United States Flag, Anne Julia Cooper, the Liberty Bell and the dolphin. On May 29, 2009, the post office rolled out the Bob Hope first class stamp.


  1. Smithsonian National Postal Museum.