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International reply coupon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An international reply coupon (IRC) is a coupon that can be exchanged for one or more postage stamps representing the minimum postage for an unregistered priority airmail letter of up to twenty grams sent to another Universal Postal Union (UPU) member country. IRCs are accepted by all UPU member countries.

UPU member postal services are obliged to exchange an IRC for postage, but are not obliged to sell them.

The purpose of the IRC is to allow a person to send someone in another country a letter, along with the cost of postage for a reply. If the addressee is within the same country, there is no need for an IRC because a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or return postcard will suffice; but if the addressee is in another country an IRC removes the necessity of acquiring foreign postage or sending appropriate currency.


US Postal Service International Reply Coupon 1978

International reply coupons[1] (in French, Coupons-Réponse Internationaux) are printed in blue ink on paper that has the letters "UPU" in large characters in the watermark. The front of each coupon is printed in French. The reverse side of the coupon, which has text relating to its use, is printed in German, English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Russian. Under Universal Postal Union regulations, participating member countries are not required to place a control stamp or postmark on the international reply coupons that they sell. Therefore, some foreign issue reply coupons that are tendered for redemption may bear the name of the issuing country (generally in French) rather than the optional control stamp or postmark.

The Nairobi Model was an international reply coupon printed by the Universal Postal Union which is approximately 3.75 inches by 6 inches and had an expiration date of 31 December 2013. This model was designed by Rob Van Goor, a graphic artist from the Luxembourg Post. It was selected from among 10 designs presented by Universal Postal Union member countries. Van Goor interpreted the theme of the contest – "The Postage Stamp: A Vehicle for Exchange" – by depicting the world being cradled by a hand and the perforated outline of a postage stamp.

The Doha Model is named for the 25th UPU congress held in Doha, Qatar, in 2012. The Doha model, designed by Czech artist and graphic designer Michal Sindelar, shows cupped hands catching a stream of water, to celebrate the theme of Water for Life. It expires after 31 December 2017.

The Istanbul Model was designed by graphic artist Nguyen Du (Vietnam) and features a pair of hands and a dove against an Arctic backdrop representing sustainable development in the postal sector. Ten countries participated in the competition which was held 7 October 2016, during the UPU congress in Istanbul, Turkey. It expires after 31 December 2021.

The Abidjan Model was designed by graphic artist Valeryia Tsimakhavets (Belarus) and features a Tree with New Leaves and Birds which represent the Eco-System and Climate Protection. Congress held in Abidjan, (Cote d'Ivorie) - Ivory Coast on 9th to 27th August 2021. It expires after 31 December 2025.



The IRC was introduced in 1906 at a Universal Postal Union congress in Rome. At the time an IRC could be exchanged for a single-rate, ordinary postage stamp for surface delivery to a foreign country, as this was before the introduction of airmail services. An IRC is exchangeable in a UPU member country for the minimum postage of a priority or unregistered airmail letter to a foreign country.

The current IRC, which features the theme "the Post and sustainable development", was designed by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Du for 2017–2021 and was adopted in Istanbul in 2016, it is known also as the "Istanbul model" for this reason.[2] The previous design, "Water for Life" by Czech artist and graphic designer Michal Sindelar, was issued in 2013 and was valid until 31 December 2017.[3][4]

IRCs are ordered from the UPU headquarters in Bern, Switzerland by postal authorities. They are generally available at large post offices; in the U.S., they were requisitioned along with regular domestic stamps by any post office that had sufficient demand for them.

A British 1 Shilling IRC issued in 1959.

Prices for IRCs vary by country. In the United States in November 2012, the purchase price was $2.20[5] USD; however, the US Postal Service discontinued sales of IRCs on 27 January 2013 due to declining demand.[6] Britain's Royal Mail also stopped selling IRCs on 31 December 2011, citing minimal sales and claiming that the average post office sold less than one IRC per year. IRCs purchased in foreign countries may be used in the United States toward the purchase of postage stamps and embossed stamped envelopes at the current one-ounce First Class International rate (US$1.20 as of November 2020) per coupon.[7][8]

IRCs are often used by amateur radio operators sending QSL cards to each other; it has traditionally been considered good practice and common courtesy to include an IRC when writing to a foreign operator and expecting a reply by mail.[9] If the operator's home country does not sell IRCs, then a foreign IRC may be used.

Previous editions of the IRC, the Beijing, Nairobi, Doha and Istanbul Models and all post-2000 versions, bear an expiration date. The current IRC, the Abidjan Model, will be valid until 2025 and since 2009 new models have been issued every four years.[10]

Country details


Since about 2010, several countries have ceased selling International Reply Coupons. Below is information about different countries.



As of July 2024, Australia Post still sells International Reply Coupons at a cost of $4.55 each.[11]

China (Mainland)

A 2021 Abidjan IRC, Mainland China's version (printed by Beijing Stamp Factory)

As of 2024, China Post sells a IRC for 12 CNY, and exchanges a valid IRC for 7 CNY worth of postage[note 1] (including equivalent imprinted stamps on a postal stationary). [12]



As of November 2022, Posti sells International Reply Coupons for 3.25 EUR, and exchanges a valid one for 2.25 EUR worth of stamps.



As of 2023, La Poste sells IRC for 1.80 EUR.



As of 2022, Deutsche Post sells IRC for 2 EUR.[13]

Hong Kong


As of December 2022, International reply coupons are sold by the HongKong Post for 19 HKD,[14] and exchanges a valid IRC for 5.5 HKD worth of postage.[14]



Poste Italiane is slowly phasing out the sales of IRC. The last series, named "Istanbul", was issued in 2017 in only 10,000 pieces, which expired at the end of 2021.[15]



After October 2023, The Japan Post sells an IRC for 180 JPY, and exchanges a valid IRC for 160 JPY worth of stamps.[16]

160 JPY is enough to deliver a letter all over the world by airmail (120 JPY by shipmail).



As of 2024, Macau Post and Telecommunications (CTT) sells IRCs for 12 MOP, and exchanges a valid IRC for 6 MOP worth of postage, with a cost of redeeming stamps for 5 MOP.[17]



As of March 2024, Posten sells IRCs online, and at their 30[18] remaining post offices. The cost is 38 NOK per IRC.[19]



Singapore Post sells IRCs at its GPO in Paya Lebar.[20] IRCs are sold for S$2.50, and can be redeemed for S$1.40.



International reply coupons are sold by the Swiss Post in packs of 10 for 30 CHF.[21]



After the adoption of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, the Republic of China (Taiwan) lost its membership in the Universal Postal Union starting from April 13, 1972, and Chunghwa Post no longer issues IRCs since then. As of 2024, they only accept and exchange valid Japanese IRCs, for 13 TWD worth of stamps per Japanese IRC.[note 2]



Thailand Post sells IRC for 53 THB as of 2020.


An International Reply Coupon issued by Turkish Post in 2019

As of 2022, Turkish Post only sells IRCs through their administration branches.

Turkish Post exchanges a valid IRC for 10 TRY worth of stamps as of 2021. 10 TRY is not enough to deliver a letter all over the world. (E.g. a postcard to Japan requires 21 TRY.)

United Kingdom


The Royal Mail stopped selling IRCs on 31 December 2011[22] due to a lack of demand.

United States


The United States Postal Service stopped selling international reply coupons on 27 January 2013.[23]

The Ponzi scheme


In 1920, Charles Ponzi made use of the idea that profit could be made by taking advantage of the differing postal rates in different countries to buy IRCs cheaply in one country and exchange them for stamps of a higher value in another country. His attempts to raise money for this venture became instead the fraudulent Ponzi scheme.[24]

In practice, the overhead on buying and selling large numbers of the very low-value IRCs precluded any profitability. The selling price and exchange value in stamps in each country have been adjusted to some extent to remove some of the potential for profit, but ongoing fluctuations in currency value and exchange rates make it impossible to achieve this completely, as long as stamps represent a specific currency value, instead of acting as vouchers granting specific postal services, devoid of currency nomination.[25]

See also



  1. ^ section 380 Supplemental Services, subsection 381 International Reply Coupons."Summary of Changes, Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, International Mail Manual, Issued July 7, 2014" (PDF).
  2. ^ "Universal Postal Union: New illustration for 2017–2021". Upu.int. Archived from the original on 16 March 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Universal Postal Union: About international reply coupons". Upu.int. Archived from the original on 30 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Czech out new coupon design". www.upu.int. 12 December 2012. Archived from the original on 6 December 2021. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  5. ^ "International reply coupon cost listed on USPS Extra Service Price List" (PDF). United States Postal Service. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  6. ^ "IMM Revision: Changes to Pricing and Mailing Standards for International Mailing Services". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  7. ^ "International Reply Coupons". Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service - International Mail Manual. United States Postal Service. 2 November 2020. Archived from the original on 4 December 2020. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Notice 123: Price List - First-Class Mail Int'l". United States Postal Service. 18 October 2020. Archived from the original on 2 November 2020. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  9. ^ "International reply coupons". Amateur Radio Station N6HB. 28 July 2007. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
  10. ^ "Ham Radio: Int'l Reply Coupons". ad1c.us. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  11. ^ "Australia Post MS11 Post Charges Booklet as at 1 July 2024" (PDF). auspost.com.au. 1 July 2024. Retrieved 17 July 2024.
  12. ^ State Post Bureau of the People's Republic of China (2022). 国际及港澳台邮件处理规则 [Rules of International and HMT (Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) Mail Processing] (in Chinese (China)). Beijing.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  13. ^ "Internationaler Antwortschein, Shop Deutsche Post". Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  14. ^ a b "HongKong Post International Reply Coupon". Archived from the original on 8 September 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  15. ^ "MODELLO ISTANBUL". Replycoupons.it. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  16. ^ "International Reply Coupon". japanpost.jp.
  17. ^ 澳門特別行政區行政長官辦公室. "第62/2005號行政命令" (in Chinese (Macau)). 印务局. Archived from the original on 1 December 2022. Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  18. ^ John Thomas Aarø (17 June 2012). "Reisen fra 3.500 til 30 postkontorer - Media - E24". E24.no. Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  19. ^ "Forhåndsbetaling av svarporto". posten.no.
  20. ^ "International Reply Coupon". www.singpost.com. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  21. ^ "Set: Internationale Antwortscheine | postshop.ch". postshop.ch (in Swiss High German). Retrieved 18 January 2024.
  22. ^ "Reply to sender". Upu.int. Archived from the original on 11 June 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  23. ^ "381 International Reply Coupons". US Postal Service. Archived from the original on 17 October 2020. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  24. ^ Zuckoff, Mitchell (10 January 2006). Ponzi's scheme - the true story of a financial legend. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks. ISBN 0812968360.
  25. ^ "The Economics of Stamp Collecting". Investopedia. Retrieved 30 June 2024.


  1. ^ postage value equivalent to the highest standard for international ordinary airmail ≤ 20 grams
  2. ^ There is no express document, but this is an email reply from Chunghwa Post.