U.S. Domestic Postcard Rates

What Did it Cost to Mail a Postcard in the Past?

Postal cards were introduced in 1873 and could be mailed at a 1 cent rate (less than the first-class letter rate). Before July 1, 1898, postcards could only be mailed if the first-class letter rate was paid; they were first authorized for use at a rate lower than the letter rate on July 1, 1898. Thereafter, they have taken the same rate and functioned at the same level as postal cards except during the period from April 1, 1925, through June 30, 1928, when the postcard rate was 2 cents, the postal card rate 1 cent. (U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-1993, by Henry W. Beecher and Anthony S. Wawrukiewicz, p. 12)

From November 2, 1917, to June 30, 1919, the rate for postcards and postal cards was 2 cents.

The 2-cent rate continued from January 1, 1952 to August 1, 1958, when the rate was raised to 3-cents. Thereafter the domestic surface rate changes were:

 

4-cents

 

January 7, 1963

 

5-cents

 

January 7, 1968

 

6-cents

 

May 16, 1971

 

8-cents

 

March 2, 1974

 

7-cents

 

September 14, 1975

 

9-cents

 

December 31,1975

 

10-cents

 

May 29, 1978

 

12-cents

 

March 22, 1981

 

13-cents

 

November 1, 1981

 

14-cents

 

February 17, 1985

 

15-cents

 

April 3, 1988

 

19-cents

 

February 3, 1991

 

20-cents

 

January 1, 1995

 

21-cents

 

July 1, 2001

 

23-cents

 

June 30, 2002

 

24-cents

 

January 8, 2006

 

26-cents

 

May 14, 2007

 

27-cents

 

May 12, 2008

As working definitions, a "postcard" is considered to be a privately prepared card, generally with a picture or image on one side and sold by a stationer, while a "postal card" is one issued by, and sold over the counter of a post office.

There was a third category of card known as a "private mailing card", which was a commercial card prepared for a special occasion, or for a special reason. They actually had the legend "Private Mailing Card" imprinted upon them. The domestic postage rate for these cards was the same as the other card rates, except for the period April 15, 1925, to about June, 1928, when the rate was increased to 2-cents, while the postal card and postcard rates remained at 1-cent.


Further Reading

Henry W. Beecher and Anthony S. Wawrukiewicz. U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-1999 (Shawnee-Mission, KS: Traditions Press, 1999).

Anthony S. Wawrukiewicz and Henry W. Beecher. U.S. International Postal Rates, 1872-1996 (Portland: CAMA Publishing, 1996).