Barcoded stamps: which postage stamps are being changed, when and what is the Royal Mail Swap Out scheme?

New barcoded Royal Mail stamps were announced prior to the shock death of Queen Elizabeth II

The traditional Royal Mail postage stamp is being swapped in favour of a modern barcoded stamp.The traditional Royal Mail postage stamp is being swapped in favour of a modern barcoded stamp.
The traditional Royal Mail postage stamp is being swapped in favour of a modern barcoded stamp.

Royal Mail first announced back in March that it was changing its stamps early next year but now, following the sudden death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday 8 September, people are wondering if the change will still go ahead.

The traditional postage stamp is due to be swapped in favour of a modern barcoded stamp.

So, just when are the new stamps due to be introduced, will they still be issued due to the Queen’s death and what can you do with your old stamps?

Here’s what you need to know.

Are stamps with the Queen’s portrait still valid?

Stamps bearing the image of the Queen will remain valid following her death, Royal Mail has announced.

Special stamps already announced will still be issued, although there may be changes to when they are launched.

A Royal Mail statement said: “Following the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II, Royal Mail has confirmed that stamps bearing the image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II remain valid for use.

“These include definitive stamps – regular ‘everyday’ stamps – and special stamps.

“As previously announced, following the introduction of barcodes to everyday stamps, these stamps remain valid until the end of January 2023.

“All special stamps that have already been announced will be issued, although the launch dates of some may change.

“In line with past practice, following the death of a monarch all existing post boxes will remain unchanged.

“Post boxes already in production or being prepared for installation will also retain the insignia of Queen Elizabeth II.”

What will the new stamps look like, and why have they been barcoded?

The new stamps will look similar to the traditional definitive stamps we all know, and will feature the profile of the late Queen on a plain coloured background.

Definitive stamps are the regular ‘everyday’ stamps which feature the profile of Queen Elizabeth II.

Next to this will be a barcode, which links the stamp to added security features and new services.

Customers will be asked to download the Royal Mail app to access these features.

The first of these features is a video featuring children’s favourite TV character Shaun the sheep.

In time, there will be new stamps issued by the Royal Mail to show the image of our new King, Charles III, but it is not known the barcoded stamps will be changed in time for their release.

Peter Cockburn, president of the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL) did, however, tell the i that he estimates those bearing King Charles’s image will be released by Christmas.

What else do we know about new stamps with King Charles’ image?

King Charles III will be involved in the design of new Royal Mail stamps bearing his image, and they are likely to come into circulation next year, officials have said.

The Royal Mail have said that no further announcements about a change in stamps will be made until after the Queen’s funeral, with a switch likely to come only “at the appropriate time” and “after consultation with Buckingham Palace.”

David Gold, director of external affairs and policy at Royal Mail, said: “We absolutely understand what a momentous change it will be when stamps no longer have the Queen appearing on them.”

When will the new stamps be available to buy?

The new barcoded stamps are available to buy now.

How long have I got to use old stamps?

Royal Mail has said that old stamps can be used up until 31 January 2023.

Are all stamps being barcoded?

Most stamps are being barcoded, but not all stamps.

All definitive stamps are being barcoded - including Christmas stamps.

Special issue stamps, which are printed as a one-off to commemorate a person or event, aren’t being barcoded and these will remain valid as postage and don’t need to be swapped out.

Christmas Stamps are being barcoded, however previous years of non-barcoded Christmas Stamps will remain valid as postage after 31 January 2023, so there is no requirement to swap them out either.

What will happen if I use old stamps after 31 January 2023?

Mail posted with non-barcoded stamps after 31 January 2023 will be treated in the same way as if there is insufficient postage on an item.

That means the recipient will be asked to pay a fee before they can receive their item.

What can I do with my old stamps?

If you’re not able to use all of your current stamps by 31 January 2023, don’t worry.

Royal Mail have announced people can also exchange any non-barcoded stamps that they still have through its Swap Out scheme.

The good news is you don’t have to wait until next year to swap your old stamps, as the scheme opened on Thursday (31 March 2022).

If you want to exchange stamps up to the value of £200, and you have a printer, all you have to do is visit the Royal Mail website and complete a Stamp Swap Out form to send to them, along with your non-barcoded stamps.

If you want to exchange stamps over the value of £200 then you need to use this bulk Stamp Swap Out form.

You can send your stamps back to the Royal Mail free of charge, although the company recommends a “secure service with suitable cover” for stamps over the value of £200.

If you don’t have access to a printer you can request a Stamp Swap Out form to be posted to you by completing a form online.

How you then send the stamps back to the Royal Mail will depend on the form you request.

‘Stamp Swap Out’ forms are also available from the Customer Service Point at your local Delivery Offices, but only for stamps up to the value of £200. Forms are not available at post offices.

You can also call the Royal Mail Customer Experience Team on 03457 740740 for further guidance.

Royal Mail aims to process Swap Out forms within 7 working days, but has said there may be times when it takes longer due to high demand.

There is currently no end date as to when you need to swap out your non-barcoded stamps by.

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