“Regular” stamps

Those sticky little labels that we attach to letters and parcels as a way of paying the Royal Mail to take them from one place to another are changing.

We have had stamps in the UK since 1840. They have functioned the same way ever since. Now, though, postage stamps are getting that most twenty-first-century accessory: the barcode.

The idea is that, one day, people will be able to watch videos, and do fun stuff such as send birthday messages to each other through the barcodes. (As opposed to, say, the birthday card actually inside the envelope.) You can’t do that yet, but it’s always good to have a dream. (Or, as the Royal Mail website puts it: “pave the way for innovative services”.)

It will also mean greater security. No more washing off the postmark ink and reusing the stamps can occur.

The trouble is, many people still have stamps without barcodes. They buy them in little booklets with No Value Indicated — just first or second class — to beat the sometimes eye-watering price rises. (You didn’t even have to lick them!)

Now they have been given a use-by date. After 31 January 2023, regular stamps without a barcode will no longer be valid. This week, the Royal Mail has sent a leaflet announcing this news to every household in the UK. We have 100 days to sort this.

Pre-licked stamps

You can exchange your non-barcoded stamps for the new exciting versions through the Stamp Swap Out scheme. Fill in a form, send your stamps to Scotland, and someone will send you back the approved ones. (Don’t do anything as logical as going to a Post Office to swap them.)

There was much consternation, at the announcement of this scheme, as to which stamps would be suddenly non grata. Christmas stamps? The cute little stamps we sometimes get which celebrate Britain’s bunnies or daffodils? (Or, indeed, the Queen herself.)

I can’t help but feel that some of the language used to communicate this issue was not as transparent as possible. The “regular ‘everyday’ Definitive stamps” said the Post Office.

Definitive? (With that capital, it surely looked Definite.) Some called them the Machin Definitives because, obviously, we all know that Arnold Machin designed the effigy of the Queen that is used as the image on our stamps.

The postmark reminds us to use the postcode, which no-one ever did


The leaflet that came through the door said “regular” stamps. So that’s what I’m going for. Just think, for decades we have been using regular stamps and we never even knew it. After January, though, they are all going to be irregular.

No, they’re not but they’re incredibly ugly.

This is not a “regular” stamps. Aesthetics live another day

2 thoughts on ““Regular” stamps

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