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, taking it to 31 July 2023! They are still advertising 31 January 2023 as the deadline but there is now an extra 6 month extension until 31 July 2023 during which recipients will not be penalised if their mail has been sent with invalid non-barcoded stamps.

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.

E (Europe) stamps are still valid (*updated Dec 2022)

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 £1.85, which is the current cost of sending a letter or postcard under 100g to Europe.

I contacted Royal Mail in October 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 they have now 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.

If you send off commemorative picture stamps or Christmas stamps to be swapped, they may 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 since April 2022. A first class stamp is currently 95p and a second class is 68p!

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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19 Responses

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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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