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► Postal Savings System - Postal Savings Certificates, Bonds and Notes

The Postal Savings System was established in 1911. Individuals were initially allowed a single account with a maximum balance of $500, which was subsequently raised to $1,000 in 1916, and to $2,500 in 1918.

Postal Savings Certificates were issued as proof of deposit. The initial minimum deposit was one dollar. To facilitate saving smaller amounts, savers could purchase a Postal Savings Card, filling it with 10-cent Postal Savings Stamps. The filled card could then be used to open an account, add value to an existing account, or be redeemed for cash when the value reached one dollar.

Beginning in 1940, Postal Savings Certificates could be redeemed for Series E Defense Savings Bonds, subsequently known as War Savings Bonds. Interest was paid at the rate of 2% per annum. Simple interest was paid on certificates issued before September 1, 1954; interest was compounded annually on certificates issued thereafter.

From 1 July 1911 until 1 July 1935, Postal Savings System deposits could be exchanged in amounts of $20 or more for Postal Savings Bonds, which yielded 2.5 percent interest. Available in either registered or bearer form, issued in denominations of $20, $100, and $500, they had a maturity date 20 years from issuance. The Postal Savings Bond program was terminated on 1 July 1935, replaced by U.S. Savings Bonds.

By 1947, four million investors had $3.4 billion on deposit with the Postal Savings System. After World War II, however, competition emerged from banks and U.S. Savings Bonds, ultimately resulting in a congressional vote for termination of the program by 1967. The Post Office Department declined to open new accounts, stopped accepting deposits and ceased making interest payments to existing accounts on the anniversary of their opening.

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Over one-half million outstanding Postal Savings Certificates worth $65.1 million were ordered liquidated on 1 July 1967, the official end date of the program. In accordance with the Postal Savings System Statute of Limitation Act, unclaimed funds were remitted to a special government trust account known as "Unclaimed Moneys of Individuals Whose Whereabouts Are Unknown." Claims were to be paid upon verification of entitlement.

Destruction of records, however, made it difficult for the U.S. Treasury to validate claims when documentation was missing. Even physical possession of a Postal Savings System Certificate did not necessarily support a claim, because the Postal Service had previously paid many claims based on certification by the depositor that the certificate was lost, misplaced, or destroyed, and that no previous payment had been received.

Fifteen years later, by 30 September 1983, certificates worth $59 million still had never been redeemed. Under Public Law 98-359, the Postal Savings System Statute of Limitations Act, a statute of limitations applies on Postal Savings Certificates, but not Postal Savings Stamps or Postal Savings Bonds.