As of February 2011, the cost of a first-class, 1-ounce postal stamp from the United States Postal Service, or USPS, is 44 cents, while postcard stamps are priced at 28 cents. In 1972, first-class and postcard stamps were respectively priced at only 8 and 10 cents, a difference of approximately 20 cents each from the 2011 price. However, when you take inflation and the cost of living into account, the rate of first-class stamps is relatively unchanged.
In 1972, the price of a first-class, 8-cent postage stamp did not change during the entire calendar period. However, postage stamp prices were increased by the USPS four times throughout the 1970s, from 6 to 8 cents on May 16, 1971, and from 13 to 15 cents on May 29, 1978. The other two price jumps occurred on March 2, 1974, which included an 8 cents to 10 cent increase, and December 31, 1975, which introduced a 10 cents to 13 cents jump. After 1978, the 15-cent standard price remained until 1981, when it rose to 18 cents.
The 1972 USPS first-class stamp was priced at 6 cents, but like the standard stamp, no changes in cost were announced that year. There were four postcard stamp increases and one decrease in the 1970s; on May 16, 1971, postcards increased from 5 to 6 cents, and on March 2, 1974, to 8 cents. On September 14, 1975, an unusual decrease occurred that dropped the stamp to 7 cents, but this was altered on December 31, 1975 with a jump to 9 cents, and it increased again on May 29, 1978, from 9 cents to 10 cents. The price remained at 10 cents until 1981, when an increase to 12 cents occurred.
Additional Per-Ounce Requirement Introduction
In 1972, postage stamps were priced based on the weight of the posted letter, but each additional ounce was equal to the initial stamp price. For example, a 2-ounce parcel would be two times the cost of the then-current 8-cent stamp, or 16 cents. On September 14, 1975, the USPS introduced an additional per-ounce policy, which saved consumers more on heavier packages. The 10 cent price still applied for the first ounce, but additional ounces only cost 9 cents more per ounce.
The Consumer Price Index and 1972 Stamp Prices
In the U.S., the consumer price index, or CPI, measures the changes that occur in pricing as inflation and other economical factors alter the value of the dollar over time. According to a 2009 CPI study on the Johnston's Archive website, an 8-cent postal stamp in 1972 would cost roughly 42 cents in 2009, which was only 1 cent more than the 2009 stamp price of 41 cents. In other words, the price of a stamp in 1972, with inflation taken into account, was nearly the same as its price in 2009.
Leah Waldron is the head of Traveler Services at First Abroad, a gap year travel company based in Boston and London. As a travel, research and LGBT news writer, Waldron has publication credit on magazines and newspapers including "Curve Magazine," "USA Today," "The Sun Sentinel" and the "The Houston Chronicle." Waldron has a bachelor's and master's degree in creative writing from Florida State University.