1st Class Stamp Prices vs UK Average Annual Wages (1971-2022)

With these new Royal Mail price rises, I’ve been wondering how the prices of stamps compare now vs in the past when looked at relatively against average wages. I know there are so many factors that affect average wages, stamp prices, cost of living etc etc etc that haven’t been taken into account here but this was just for general interest - and I thought some postcrossers might be interested too. That said, I am not a maths expert or an analyst so if you are a whizz with numbers and I am way off the mark, please let me know :joy: Either way, it gives a loose idea of the stamp prices to average wages over time.

Where I got the data

For transparency, the data I got on stamp prices came from here: Historic Royal Mail Stamp Prices 1971 - 2019 - ChannelX and then if I remember correctly the prices in more recent years were 76p in 2020, 85p in 2021 and 95p in 2022.
The data I got on National Average Wages came from here: Nominal wages, consumer prices, and real wages in the UK - Our World in Data up until 2010 and then here: Average (median) gross weekly earnings by UK country - English region and year (£) from 2011 onwards.

How I did the calculations
  1. I took the average weekly wage and multiplied it by the number of weeks in a year.
  2. I then divided that by the price of a 1st class stamp to work out how many 1st class stamps you could buy with the average annual wage (if the whole salary was spent on stamps).
  3. I also divided the price of a 1st class stamp by the average annual wage to work out the 1st class stamp price as a percentage of the average annual wages. I have included the percentages but collapsed them below as I thought the raw number was easier to interpret than the percentage.

Example calculation for 1971 when the average weekly wage was £194.17 and the price of a 1st class stamp was 3p, the calculation was:

  1. £194.17x52=10,096.84
  2. 10,096.84/0.03=336,561.33
  3. (0.03/10096.84)x100=0.00029712266%

The number of 1st class stamps you could buy each year with the average annual wage
(if you spent the whole salary on stamps :rofl: - rounded to 0 decimal places):

1971 - 336,561
1980 - 112,246
1990 - 85,675
2000 - 84,105
2010 - 64,013
2020 - 40,074
2022 - 35,032

1st class stamp price as a percentage of the average annual wages

To 5 decimal places:

1971 - 0.00029%
1980 - 0.00089%
1990 - 0.00117%
2000 - 0.00119%
2010 - 0.00156%
2020 - 0.00250%
2022 - 0.00285%

Average annual wages went up 230% between 1971 and 2022 whilst 1st class stamp prices increased 3067% during the same time :scream:

In 1971, you could get more than 9.6 times the amount of stamps for the average wage than you could last year. Meaning relatively when compared to wages, stamps were 9.6 times more expensive in 2022 than in 1971.


I love math like this! Thanks for sharing!! :grin:


Given the amount of automaton, computerisation, and general efficiencies introduced since the 70s, I wonder what the main driver is behind the increased cost?

Also, given that NVI stamps remain valid forever, actually taking your whole salary in first class stamps in 1971 would have been a fantastic investment!


Royal Mail seem to have blamed the prices going up on less people sending letters… but less people are sending things because of the high prices! So it’s a vicious cycle that leads to stamp prices increasing more than people are willing to pay for them.

It would have! 336,561 stamps bought for £10,096.83 in 1971 would now be worth a whopping £319,732.95 - or £370,217.10 next month when they become £1.10 a piece!


This is fascinating! I love playing with numbers like this - and it does make you wonder.

1 Like

I found this very interesting as I have been doing some research on the equivalent Sri Lankan perspective.

In Sri Lanka, the postal service is operated by the Department of Posts part of the Government of Sri Lanka.

The first postage stamp in Sri Lanka was issued in 1857 during the British colonial period. Since then, stamp prices in Sri Lanka have gone through several changes.

In 1971, the year mentioned in the message, Sri Lanka was undergoing a major political change with the transition from a parliamentary system to a presidential system. At the time, the average wage in Sri Lanka was around Rs. 400 per month. A standard postage stamp in Sri Lanka cost 25 cents, which was approximately 0.06% of the average monthly wage.

Since then, both wages and stamp prices in Sri Lanka have increased significantly. As of 2022, the average monthly wage in Sri Lanka is around Rs. 56,000. A standard postage stamp in Sri Lanka now costs Rs. 15, which is approximately 0.03% of the average monthly wage.

Looking at the relative cost of stamps in Sri Lanka, it is clear that the cost of stamps has decreased relative to the average wage over the past 50 years.

In 1971, the cost of a stamp was 2.5 times higher relative to the average wage than it is today. Perhaps due to the efficiency gains in sorting and delivering mail!

Of course, this is just one way of looking at the cost of stamps. There are many other factors that can affect the affordability of stamps, such as changes in the cost of living, inflation, and technological advancements that have made traditional mail less common.

*These numbers are the equivalent of a local first-class letter as the cost of international postage varies wildly depending on region and item.

A standard letter to the UK would cost 220 rupees today. (£0.70)

1 Like

When you think of all the stamps tucked away in drawers of people who don’t realise they will become invalid soon Royal mail must be writing a huge liability off their books . A liability that probably was paid for by us the Tax Payer when it was sold and will now go as dividend to share holders.
I’d love to hear I’m wrong…


They have less postman doing fewer deliveries… it doesn’t stack up

I think the first NVIs were in 1989, with this fabulous poster advertising their release:

My parents still had some of the original booklets hidden away in drawers: all sent to swap out now for the modern barcoded stickers.


Yes the first NVI’s came about in 1989 and they where only 19p for 1st class rate!

Graham at Exploring Stamps did an excellent video, initially about pen cancels, but talks about how inflation of postage is not necessarily relative.

It’s about 10 minutes in.


This is really interesting to get the perspective of what’s happened in another country as well! Firstly, not only the fact stamp prices have decreased by about half (relative to wages) but also that stamps are generally more expensive than in the UK costing 0.03% of the monthly wage compared to 0.003% (rounded) here!

I am always intrigued by the cost of stamps in other countries so appreciated this as well. It would currently cost £1.85 to send a standard letter/postcard abroad (including to Sri Lanka). About double the price of a 1st class stamp. If I’ve understood correctly, it seems in Sri Lanka the gap between first class and international stamp prices is a lot bigger?

When was the last time the price went up in Sri Lanka? Is it annually?

1 Like

I agree, it doesn’t make sense. Especially with the increasing amount of automation, it’s just what I’d heard they’d blamed it on :unamused:

1 Like

Thank you! I’ll give it a watch :smiley:

1 Like

Postal rates are typically revised every one or two years, and the most recent revision in Sri Lanka was in 2022, following one in 2020. I have been curious about this matter and have considered that our air connections and postal agreements with other countries may be lacking. According to the current Postal Monitor, Sri Lanka does not deliver mail to 172 countries. Moreover, the use of international post for communication has decreased significantly over the years.

In comparison, the demand for inland postage in Sri Lanka is notably high, which may also account for the difference in price between local and international stamps. Additionally, as a government department, the Sri Lankan postal service has the added benefit of prioritizing service over profits. The lower local postage rate reflects the affordability of the service and ensures accessibility to customers, serving the needs of the local community.

1 Like

We had some of these donated to our local Oxfam book shop!

1 Like

This video actually made me think about getting my postcards hand-cancelled in the post office rather than sticking them in the postbox - although I’m not sure how my postcards arrive with people.

Interesting, thanks. I’m looking through some of the aerogrammes my father received mostly from Sri Lanka. Most of them in the 1960s, with the postage pre-printed on the envelope. Postage on them was 50, in 1966, but there were older aerogrammes with the 30 postage mark on (some Queen’s head, others with the lion) plus additional postage stamps.

1 Like

Depressingly, it would now be cheaper for me to fly to Germany and post my postcards from there!

Posting 24 international postcards from the UK will cost £52.80 from April.

A return flight to Köln costs £31. Deutsche Post will send a postcard anywhere in the world for €0.95, or about £0.85. For the same 24 cards, that’s a total cost of £51.40.

I might have to live in travel mode and take a monthly trip to Germany to send my cards from now on!


That’s when you know things have gotten ridiculous! :roll_eyes:

@nocsiz What is their reposting service?

The Daily Mail say that £40m of old stamps were due to be left unused at the end of January (which is 0.3% of RM’s annual turnover), however most of that will be used or converted, are less than ten years old, and would not have been used if it hadn’t switched to barcodes. So the cost of the publicity and exchanging is probably more than they will save from people not realising they can swap.

1 Like