You’ve probably seen panicked posts on social media reminding people that old stamps must be used up or replaced with new barcoded stamps.Royal Mail has now added a 6-month ‘grace period’ for the use of non-barcoded stamps, so you can use them until July 31, 2023, without risking any surcharge!
Standard Queen’s Head Stamps Will Not Be Valid
After July 2023, you will not be able to use the Machin Definitive stamps with the Big Queen’s head, pictured below; you will not be able to use the non-barcoded Large Letter stamps. Whether they have a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd value, these will not work unless they have a barcode. So you’ll either have to use them before then or post them to Royal Mail in exchange for a barcode stamp. Recipients will be required to pay a surcharge if these stamps are used to send mail after July 31.
The new barcode stamps are new colors (see below), so it will be easy for Royal Mail to spot invalid orange and blue stamps after 31 July!
Picture Stamps Still Valid
Picture stamps and Christmas stamps with a first, second, or monetary value remain valid for the foreseeable future! So no need to worry about running out or swapping out your fine stamps, pictured below. I buy these in bulk from specialty sellers (and other contenders! ), so I have a lot. If you have old picture stamps with a value of (e.g., 27 instead of 1st or 2nd), you can put multiple stamps on letters and packages to make up the correct value.
National Stamps Will Not Be Valid
The National Definitive Stamps are the standard-size Welsh, Great Britain, Scotland, and Northern Ireland stamps shown below. These are now available in barcoded versions, so these older versions will not work.
How to Exchange Unusable Stamps
If you do have stamps in your home that will expire after July 2023, you can return them to the Post Office in exchange for a new barcoded stamp of the same value (if not an exact match, the one you sent will be rounded to the nearest second stamp).
■ If you are exchanging stamps for less than £200 please download this form from the Royal Mail website and send it with your stamps and write Freepost SWAP OUT on the envelope. Self-adhesive stamps must be affixed to the original backing paper or in the book. You will need to attach all non-self-adhesive stamps to the paper.
■ If you are exchanging stamps over £200 you will need to use the bulk exchange form and send to Royal Mail Swap Out, Tallents House, 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh EH12 9PB, preferably using a tracked delivery service.
■ If you do not have a printer, please request the form here or pick it up at the post office or delivery office.
There is currently no deadline for sending stamps for exchange, they aim to send back your replacement barcoded stamps within 7 business days, but it could be as long as a few weeks. Initially, stamps were exchanged on a similar basis, but Royal Mail now says they can just send all secondary stamps with barcodes, regardless of what is being sent. I sent 6 European stamps and received six £1.85 stamps with barcodes in return.
If you send in commemorative picture stamps or Christmas stamps for exchange, they may be exchanged, but they may also be returned to you as they are still valid.