History in Miniature: The 150th Anniversary of Stamp Issuance in Hong Kong
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Postage Rates and Commodity Prices

When they were first issued in 1862, Hong Kong stamps reflected the postage rates at that time in their denominations in cents, which ranged from the lowest at 2 cents (equal to 1 penny in pounds sterling) to the highest at 96 cents (equal to 4 shillings or 48 pennies). Compared with the commodity prices at that time when 6 pennies could buy a pound of beef or pork, postal services in the early days were very expensive.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the lowest denomination of Hong Kong stamps fell to 1 cent, but the highest denomination increased to $10. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, denominations extended from 10 cents all the way up to $20 and later $50. In 2012, Hong Kong definitive stamps came in 16 denominations ranging from 10 cents to $50.

Since the birth of Hong Kong’s first stamps, the postage rate for standard local mail has risen from 4 cents in 1862 to $1.4 in 2012, a 35-fold increase. However, in comparison with today’s commodity prices, the percentage increase in postage lags far behind inflation. As Hong Kong’s postal services have diversified in line with the territory’s urban development, the cost of sending a letter or parcel is today very attractive for the millions who continue to use the post.