Which stamps are still OK to use after July 2023?

You may have seen a few panicky posts on social media, reminding people that they have to use up their old stamps, or swap them for new barcoded stamps. Compers have always loved buying stamps in bulk when there’s been a discount offer, so I’m sure there are plenty of us with a stash of stamps at home!

But there’s no need to worry, because it’s not all stamps that you must use up, or swap out. In this post I’ve explained which stamps are fine to hold on to, and which you should post off to be swapped out.

UPDATE: Royal Mail have now added a 6 month ‘grace period’ for using non-barcoded stamps, so you can use them without any risk of a surcharge until 31 July 2023!

Royal Mail have also agreed to allow people to collect the swap out forms and FREEPOST envelopes in Post Office branches.

Standard Queen’s Head stamps will not be valid

After July 2023, you won’t be able to use Machin Definitive stamps with the big Queen’s head on, like the ones below – and you won’t be able to use non-barcoded large letter stamps. Whether they have 1st, 2nd or a value on, none of these will be valid unless they are with a barcode. So you’ll either have to use them before then (maybe by entering loads of postcard entry comps!), or post them off to Royal Mail to swap for barcoded stamps. If post is sent using these stamps after 31 July, the recipient will have to pay a surcharge.

The new barcoded stamps are new colours (see below), so it will be easy for Royal Mail to spot the invalid orange and blue stamps after 31 July!

Picture stamps are still valid

Picture stamps and Christmas stamps with either 1st, 2nd or a monetary value on them will remain valid for the forseeable future! So there’s no need to worry about using up or swapping out your fancy stamps like the ones shown below. I buy these in bulk from specialist sellers (and other compers!) so I have quite a lot. If you have older picture stamps with the value on (for example 27 rather than 1st or 2nd), you can stick multiple stamps on your letters and parcels to make up the correct value.

Country definitive stamps will not be valid

Country definitives are the standard sized Welsh, English, Scottish and Northern Irish stamps, like those shown below. These are now available in barcoded versions so these older versions will not be valid.

Post & Go stamps are still valid

Stamps printed at self-service machines (known as Post & Go or Fastamps) are still valid to use.

E (Europe) stamps are still valid

Stamps marked with an E were designed to cover Europe-wide postage, and are classed as an NVI (No Value Indicated) stamp. They have a value of £2.20, which is the current cost of sending a letter or postcard under 100g to Europe.

I contacted Royal Mail in October 2022 to ask about E stamps as they were not specifically referred to anywhere on their website and they told me that they must be swapped out. However in December 2022 Royal Mail confirmed to me that E stamps will remain valid and do not need to be swapped out! However, some Royal Mail staff don’t recognise the stamps as valid, so if you use them, there’s a risk your post may arrive with a surcharge for the recipient (if this happens, lodge a complaint).

What other stamps will not be valid?

The PDF below from the Royal Mail website shows stamps which will no longer be valid and should be sent to be swapped out. Sorry it’s low quality, but Royal Mail told me they don’t have a better version!

How to swap your unusable stamps

If you do have stamps at home that will be invalid after July 2023, you’ll be able to send them back to the Post Office to swap for the same value of new barcoded stamps (if it’s not an exact match, the barcoded stamps you are sent will be rounded up to the nearest 2nd class stamp).

  • If you’re swapping less than £200 of stamps, download this form from the Royal Mail website and send it off with your stamps, writing Freepost SWAP OUT on the envelope. Self adhesive stamps must be on their original backing sheet or in a book. You’ll need to stick any non self-adhesive stamps to the sheet.
  • If you’re swapping £200+ of stamps, you’ll need to use the bulk swap form and send to Royal Mail Swap Out, Tallents House, 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh EH12 9PB, ideally using a tracked delivery service.
  • If you don’t have a printer, request a form to be posted out here or pick one up at a Post Office or Delivery Office.

There’s currently no deadline stated for sending your stamps to be swapped, and they aim to send back your replacement barcoded stamps within 7 working days, although it can be up to a few weeks. Originally, stamps were swapped on a like-for-like basis but Royal Mail now says they may just send all 2nd class barcoded stamps, regardless of what was sent. I sent off 6 Europe stamps and received six barcoded £1.85 stamps in return (this was prior to the Europe postage cost increasing to £2.20).

If you send off commemorative picture stamps or Christmas stamps to be swapped, they may be exchanged, but they may also be returned to you as they are still valid to use.

If you need more help, call the Customer Experience Team on 03457 740740.

Why are Royal Mail using barcoded stamps?

Each barcode is completely unique, to make tracking items easier. The barcodes will allow the sender to link a special message or video to the stamp using the Royal Mail app, and the recipient will be able to access this when they scan the barcode! The barcodes will also prevent stamps from being used twice, a common problem in the past with people peeling off and re-using unfranked stamps.

What are the current prices of first and second class stamps?

Find out current prices for letter and parcel post with the Royal Mail Pricefinder or see the table below for the prices . A first class stamp is currently £1.10 and a second class is 75p!

You might want to keep a look out for people selling picture stamps cheaply that they believe are no longer valid – you could find some real bargains!

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44 Responses

  1. Ju says:

    I have xt500 international postcard stamps, they come in a booklet of 5 and generally you buy them in museums or landmarks. Can you confirm if i can still use them or if they need swapped? I am confused 🙂

  2. Francis says:

    I am amazed that Royal Mail don’t have a simple 2 page website. One page showing every stamp ever make that must be swapped out, and another showing every stamp ever made that can still be used. In value order they would all be easy to find.

  3. Mrs V J Simmons says:

    I have elongated stamps from a stamp machine purchased at the Post Pffice. Has small queens head but no bar code.
    Cannot find anything on your site to say whether these stamps are still valid. Please help as have quite a few.

    • Di says:

      It sounds like these are Post & Go stamps – I’ve now amended the post to feature them, I’ve checked with Royal Mail and they are valid (including the Post & Go stamps with pictures on)

      • Ronald Pugh says:

        I have the exact same stamps which I purchased just a couple weeks ago from a machine at a post office. They are not picture stamps and are exactly as described by Mrs Simmons. I have just been told by my local post office that they will still be valid after 31st July and I do not need to exchange them for the new bar coded stamps.

        • Di says:

          I’d love to see a photo of these stamps if either of you could email to me at di@superlucky.me! If they’re currently in machines then they must be valid, and I’d like to include them in this blog post!

          • John says:

            Sounds like they were talking about the Post and Go sticky labels which are still valid.

  4. Steve Jones says:

    I have some very large parcel stamps of £5, £2 and £1 values. They are twice the size of a standard large letter sized stamp. Will these stamps still be valid or do I need to send them back for swaps.

    • Di says:

      If they’re Queens Head stamps without a barcode, you need to swap them. If they’re stamps with pictures on, you can still use them!

  5. Zack says:

    Brilliant information, just what I was looking for. I needed to check if picture stamps with a price on were valid and didn’t trust the Royal Mail explanation!

  6. Marc Scawen says:

    what about the Machin Faststamp: 2nd Class – 20 February 2013, they do not have a bar code but do have an a long individual number. Do they need to be swapped out?

  7. Jane johnson says:

    What do you mean you. It in bulk? Is this from eBay selling them very cheap?

    • Di says:

      I buy stamps in bulk either from Superdrug when they have their 5% discount (although they sold off the non barcoded stamps VERY cheaply recently!), or from Gustamps in Brighton, who sells unused picture stamp sheets.

  8. Colin says:

    Really clear and useful guidance (much better than Royal Mail’s own!) – thank you. Royal Mail seem to be making it up as they go along. The original announcement last year (quietly by Tweet, not even a press release) said that all stamps would need to be swapped or used by 31 January. An exemption was soon made for Christmas stamps, followed by other commemoratives and picture stamps, and then the deadline to use non-barcoded stamps was quietly extended to 31 July 2023. Royal Mail’s original guidance didn’t mention country definitives at all, so I emailed them to ask. Royal Mail never replied, but added these to the online guidance shortly afterwards.
    I’m still not 100% sure whether 2012 Olympics stamps and E (Europe) definitives without pictures will continue to be recognised after 31 July, so will send these to be swapped just to be on the safe side.

  9. Eva says:

    Hi! Can I use 2012 Olympic stamps that are first class?

  10. Alastair Dunn says:

    I would like to get some old stamps to make a collection. I went into a local post office and asked if I could buy them and was told no. So what happens to the old stamps

  11. Robin Hanbury-Tenison says:

    Can I go on using bar-coded stamps with the Queen’s head indefinitely?

    • Di says:

      Yes, barcoded Queen stamps are valid for the forseeable future, even when the Charles stamps are released!

  12. Thank you.
    What about Olympics 2012 definitives? Are theytreated like all other definitives?

    • Di says:

      There’s some debate about this, and Royal Mail haven’t confirmed either way, but it’s assumed they will need to be swapped out like the other definitives as they won’t be valid.

  13. Bhagmi Knott says:

    “Originally, stamps were swapped on a like-for-like basis but Royal Mail now says they may just send all 2nd class barcoded stamps, regardless of what was sent.” – yep, I can confirm that having seen “like for like” I sent off almost a whole sheet of Welsh 2nd class NVIs (bought for sending particular things to Wales or people connected with Wales), expecting to get Welsh barcoded back… and got plain barcoded back, which I’m not happy about but can’t be helped.

  14. Dawn says:

    On this website it states Royal Mail have said picture E stamps will not be valid. On the Philatelink website they were told by Royal Mail, in writing, that they WILL still be valid. Which is it?

    • Di says:

      I was told in October by Royal Mail that picture E stamps needed to be swapped out. I sent mine and received a £1.85 barcoded stamp for each one. I’ve contacted Royal Mail again to get this confirmed!

  15. Colin Webster says:

    This is all rubbish. Barcoded stamps were introduced to stop the widespread use of Chinese forgeries . They can not tell by the barcode if a stamp has slipped through the franking services and has been used again.

  16. Umesh Patel says:

    I am wanting to post some large letter self adhisive stamps to be swapped out BUT the form only has the address of FREEPOST SWAP Out. Is this all I need to put on the outsideof the envelope? DO I need to get any proof of the postage and value?

    • Di says:

      No, that’s all you need to put on the envelope. I would suggest if you’re worried about sending a high value of stamps, separate it into a few envelopes in case any go missing!

  17. Beth says:

    I am still not getting an answer anywhere about large letter stamp. Every website i read simply ignores them. Will someone please tell me what to do with unbarcoded large letter stamps.

  18. Is the deadline for to use Country Definitves January 31st as well ?? The Royal Mail should have updated the leaflet they recently sent out to (I assume) every household in the Country to show/mention Country Definitives as well.

  19. JJ says:

    The real reason why Royal Mail is doing this is probably to prevent stamps from being reused. I’m sure we’re all guilty of seeing an unfranked (not cancelled/marked) stamp, cutting it out or peeling it off and reapplying it using pritt-stick to another postal item. So one-use, traceable stamps like these are probably very long overdue. If it lends to a more reliable, trackable service in the future I’m all for it. And with less lost revenue hopefully it means less strikes too(?)

    Appreciate the article but one thing you didn’t mention is that the self-adhesive types of stamps must be on their original backing paper or book if you intend to send them back to Royal Mail to exchange them for the new stamps.

    I imagine the bulk of stamps in circulation today are the self-adhesive types of stamps. Hence this requirement is probably there to prevent people from sending in their used but unfranked self-adhesive stamps.

    • Di says:

      Thanks JJ! I’ve added in the reminder about the self adhesive stamps being on their original sheet or book.

  20. Daphne Monk says:

    Thanks for this post Di, I wanted to get the news out there, I actually got told by my local Spar shop/Post office, that the postcard I had given them to be put in the post, was no longer valid, I assured her it was, but could tell she did not believe me.
    I went in the next day with proof from the Post office web Site, so at least they now know.
    But worry about people throwing them away, if they are told the same.
    Keep up your good work

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