Mail for Sale

Going to the Market

Every three weeks the United States Postal Service auctions its undeliverable mail. Packages are grouped by subject: musical instruments, electronics, books, toys. Interested parties bid on large bins of items, and then search them for individual treasures. Inside the bins, buyers have discovered everything from guns, to baseball cards and American flags, to marijuana and human ashes. Last month two tractor-trailers full of books were sold for $161,000. The lost mail auctions have been a major source of income for the Post Office since the 1900s, and lately, the USPS can use all the income it can get.   

The USPS lost 15.9 billion dollars last year, and has been under financial duress for some time. According to the post-master general, the Post Office loses 25 million dollars every day. Some estimate that if the trend doesn’t change, it will run out of money entirely in the next nine months. So how does a federal institution stay out of the red? Sales.

In 2011, the Post Office announced that it would be shutting down 3,700 of its underperforming branches and selling some of its most valuable properties for a profit. One of these historical art-deco buildings in California became a Restoration Hardware store, one became a production company headquarters, and one was torn down to make room for a Walgreens pharmacy.

Most recently, the Post Office announced the development of its own all-weather clothing line called “Rain Heat & Snow”. The line will be produced and designed by the Cleveland based Wahconah Group and will be in stores as early as 2014. It’s difficult to say what the future holds for the United States Post Office. Right now the best way to help save the mail is to buy a piece of it.


Blog post courtesy of Erin Swanson
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