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Let's play post office

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 8/20/20

If you are looking for something to do, I suggest you go to your nearest post office. There you join a line of people waiting to do many things. This includes buying $12 money orders, purchasing …

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Let's play post office


If you are looking for something to do, I suggest you go to your nearest post office. There you join a line of people waiting to do many things. This includes buying $12 money orders, purchasing stamps, shipping packages, picking up packages and trying to avoid the guy mumbling about government greed. In the good old days, they used to display FBI Wanted posters on the wall in case you spotted Al Capone on line.

Let us talk stamps. Stamps are those decorative squares that you affix to the upper right-hand corner of your letter. They have depictions of animals, flowers, flags, famous people, various holiday images and such. Back in the old days, which millennials call 1989, you had to lick the back of the stamp to moisten the glue to stick to the envelop. In 1989 the self-adhesive stamp was introduced in U.S. Post Offices. Note: Actually, the first self-adhesive stamp in the U.S. was produced in 1974 in the form of the 10-cent dove weathervane. But that was yanked from circulation when the dove became discolored caused by instability of the adhesive. With the advent (no relation to the Advent Calendar stamp available during Christmas time) of the self-adhesive stamp, the long stream of royalties to the estate of Rowland Hill dried up. Hill, in 1837, was the inventor of stamp gum and thus the lickable adhesive postage stamp. His stamp gum, like so many other inventions such as potato chips, post-it notes, and Fox News was the result of a mistake. Hill was actually trying to make a tasty chewing gum but failed to get the correct formula. Years later his former business partner, Bill Wrigley, would go on to create a tasty chewing gum and then buy the Chicago Cubs, who for years also failed to get the correct formula.

Besides being necessary for mailing things, stamps are a good investment! On April 12, 2007 the U.S. Postal Service released the first “Forever” stamp for 41 cents. Prior to that, every time postal rates went up you had to rush to the post office to buy stamps in small denominations to make up the price difference. So next to the 37-cent stamp of the flag of the United States, you could place a 4-cent stamp of a Delaware Blue Hen or two 2-cent stamps of celebrities like Don Knotts. Eventually people just stuffed these smaller denomination stamps in their junk drawer and bought those with the current rate. But Forever stamps last forever. The lack of any price on the stamp means that regardless of price increases, the stamp will always be good.

That leads us to a guaranteed money-making scheme. Forget stocks, bonds and Publisher's Clearing House contests, the real money is in stamps! Three things are for sure…death, taxes and the frequent increase in postal rates. In 2007 the first Forever stamp was the Liberty Bell issue and cost 41 cents. If you had bought 100,000 of them back then and survived the wrath of the 23 people waiting behind you in line, your initial investment of $41,000 would today turn a profit. Let us use simple math to calculate that profit based on the current 55-cent stamp. Multiplying that $41,000 by the hypotenuse of the 14-cent price difference of today's stamp then subtracting the numerator by the denominator and factoring in the coefficient of friction, yields a profit of $14,000.

How do you parlay that $14,000 into a larger pay day? You buy a post office! There are about 31,000 post offices in the United States ranging from the smaller ones in towns like South Donkey, Montana to huge buildings in large cities that can accommodate many hundreds of angry people on line waiting to buy stamps and $12 money orders. Of that 31,000, roughly 75% are privately owned. The government only owns 25%. One advantage of owning a post office is that you own it in “fee simple”. In legal terms that means after you simply pay a lawyer his fee, he will tell you that you own both the land and property. You also are buying the rights to take over the lease with the U.S. government as a tenant guaranteeing you your monthly rent. Also, if the government decides to close your post office, they are still liable to pay you for the remaining duration of the lease. So, if your post office is located near a leaking nuclear power plant it might be a good idea to give the government a long lease extension. They will be too busy trying to convince the locals that the abundance of 2-headed deer is just nature evolving to pay any attention to your little stamp selling enterprise.

Owning a post office also has another advantage. You never have to wait on a line again! You just walk past those in line and announce your presence to the clerk by saying, “Your landlord has arrived, now give me a $12 money order”. If that causes those in line to voice a protest, you proclaim “Stamps on the house for everybody!” You will be a hero. Maybe someday that will lead the government to issue a stamp in your honor that will last forever or at least until the self-sticking adhesive deteriorates as they rot in your junk drawer.


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