January 28, 2023

Do you have a stamp booklet in your wallet, handbag or drawer at home? You may have saved them to avoid future price increases.

Then you should be aware that the official deadline for using up non-barcoded stamps – especially the regular first and second class “everyday” stamps with the profile of the late Queen – is getting closer.

After January 31, 2023, regular postage stamps without a barcode are technically no longer valid for mailing. So Royal Mail is encouraging people to use them up before then, or exchange them for the new barcodes.

Stamps with barcodes
Royal Mail introduced barcodes on its stamps in February. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The good news, however, is that after that date, for the first six months, mail with the “retired” stamps will be delivered normally. “After this six-month grace period, an item with a non-barcoded stamp will be treated as if it had insufficient postage. A supplement will be charged for any item that is underposted,” says Royal Mail.

Unfortunately, you can’t just take your old ones to the nearest post office and exchange them for new ones. You will need to complete a form and return it to Royal Mail.

However, there is positive news for those who bought a stack of Christmas stamps for their cards this year and still have some left over – or maybe even a lot left over from last year. Christmas stamps without a barcode remain valid and can therefore also be used after the deadline.

Royal Mail introduced barcodes to its stamps in February as part of what the company described as a comprehensive modernization drive. If you’ve bought some recently, you’ll have noticed that they now have a barcode.

It says this new addition will “enable exciting new services by connecting physical stamps to the digital world.” They can be scanned by customers using the Royal Mail app, allowing people to watch a video, for example.

Right now, with the barcoded stamps, people can watch and share “exclusive” Shaun the Sheep videos, one of which is Christmas-themed (it’s about the herd’s efforts to make sure Bitzer, the farmer’s dog, get a fair share of Christmas cards this year).

A Christmas stamp from 2019
Christmas stamps without a barcode remain valid even after the deadline. Photo: Royal Mail/PA

In the meantime, people with “old” stamps should probably dig them out and try to use them. Those affected by this are the standard “final” first and second class stamps with the profile of the late Queen on a plain background, and those that show a different value and are often used for packs (1p, £1 and so on).

Royal Mail is not a barcode for “special issue” stamps, which are stamps that are printed once to commemorate a person, event or anniversary. These remain valid for shipment.

Your stamps can be exchanged for new ones through the stamp exchange scheme. This means that you fill in and send a form. You can print the form, ask for one to be mailed to you, or pick one up at a post office.

When completing the form and adding up the value of your stamps, the amount you write in the box will be the value at the time you complete the form, ie the current Royal Mail prices. It says what you actually paid for the stamps when you bought them.

However, Royal Mail made this plea: “Please do not attempt to redeem your stamps at your post office as they cannot do this. You can only do that directly with Royal Mail.”

According to Martin Lewis’ website MoneySavingExpert.com, some people keep stocks of stamps to beat price hikes, and in some cases they are worth more than £1,000.

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