International Reply Coupons

From Stamps of the World

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.

Proof of the IMPERIAL Type International Reply Coupon bottom right Marginal of sheet

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.

The different types of IRC are shown here >> IRC TYPES & FLAWS

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 "Water for Life," designed by Czech artist and graphic designer Michal Sindelar, was issued in 2013 and is valid until 31 December 2017. A new design by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Du for 2017-2021 was adopted in Istanbul in 2016.

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 are requisitioned along with regular domestic stamps by any post office that has 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 USD; however, the US Postal Service discontinued sales of IRCs on 27 January 2013 due to declining demand. Britain's Royal Mail also stopped selling IRCs on 18 February 2012, 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 ($1.05 USD as of April 2012) per coupon.

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. If the operator's home country does not sell IRCs, then a foreign IRC may be used.

Previous editions of the IRC, the "Beijing" model[clarification needed] and all subsequent versions, bear an expiration date. Consequently, a new IRC will be issued every three years.


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. This subsequently became the fraudulent Ponzi scheme.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.

Australia

Australia 1957 Spit Junction PO N.S.W. IRC model "London".
Australia 2019. IRC model "Istanbul" Sent from Bright (Australia) to Riga (Latvia).

Austria

Austria 2004. IRC model "Beijing".


Bangladesh

Bangladesh 1973 বাংলাদেশ (Bengali) Bangladesh Overprint on Pakistan IRC, issued at Dacca G.P.O.

Belgium

Belgium IRC Model Rome
Belgium, used 1967. IRC Model London
Belgium 1970. IRC Model Vienna
Belgium 1977. IRC Model Lausanne, code C22
Belgium 2000. IRC Model Seoul, code CN01
Belgium 2005 Issued Vosselaar. IRC model Beijing.
Belgium not used. IRC Model Istanbul
Belgium not used. IRC Model Nairobi

Belgium under German Occupation

Germany 1915 issued in Brussels during occupation. IRC model "Rome".

Belize

British Honduras 1970 issued in Belize City Post Office.

Brasil

Brasil 1948 R- Sa. SEC TESORARIA - DF BRASIL Rio de Janeiro
Brasil 1953 JR- Sa. SEC TESORARIA - DF BRASIL Rio de Janeiro

Cambodia

Cambodia 1960 (Cambodge)Issued in Phnom Penh Cambodge

Cyprus

Cyprus 2019. Sent from Cyprus to Latvia. IRC model "Istanbul".


Estonia

Estonia 1935 - See also Paris and Tallinn Estonia

Germany-Bohemia & Moravia Prot.

German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia 1940 IRC issued in Prague redeemed in Quito, Equador

Germany

Chemnitz, Germany 1939. IRC model "London".
Berlin, Germany. IRC model "Beijing".

Ghana

Ghana 1972 Issued in Accra

Great Britain

Great Britain 1912 Weston-super-Mare
Great Britain 1927 London SW (GB) 87 to 135 BROMTON RD SW the address of the post office in Harrods in London
Great Britain 1939 6d Margate
Great Britain 1950 London W (GB) issued at Mount Street W1
Great Britain 1952 - Britannia IRC issued by Brecon PO
Great Britain 1952 - Britannia IRC issued by Bournemouth PO
Great Britain 1953 - Sloane square B.O. S.W.1
Great Britain 1955 issued Birmingham
Great Britain 1967 Exchange Buildings Newcastle-on-Tyne

Hong Kong

Hong Kong 1972 Issued in Hong Kong and Cashed in in Paris France.

India

India 1965. Issued by the Ludhiana office

Indonesia & Dutch East Indies

Dutch East Indies 1931 Tjireungas on the Island of Java.
Dutch East-Indies 1940 (Netherlands-Indies) MALANG Variety IRC with missing dot in border at top left
Indonesia 1956
Indonesia 1957 IRC, London type 16n, issued in Probolinggo, Indonesia.

Iraq

Baghdad 1949 (بغداد) type Lo-XIVo with Baghdad in Arabic script.

Isreal

Israel 1960

Japan

Japan 1931 issued in Shimanto (JP)

Jordan

Jordan 1953 IRC issued in Jerusalem

Korea

Korea 1960

KUT

KUT 1940 Imperial Reply Coupon of Kenya, Uganda and Mandated Territory of Tanganyika type Im 3 (watermark B), issued in Mombasa (Kenya)
KUT 1965 Kampala Uganda

Madagascar

Madagascar 1956 Tananarive

Malaysia (& Malaya)

Federation of Malaya 1959 Issued in Kuala Lumpur

Mauritius

Mauritius 1959 Issued in Port Louis
IRC Mauritius model "Istanbul". Sent 2018 from Port Louis (Mauritius) to Istanbul (Turkey).

Mozambique

Mozambique 1954

Netherlands

Netherlands 1909, model "Rome"
Netherlands 1920, model "Rome"
IRC source Rotterdam, 1960, type "London".
Netherlands 1970 - Bussum, model "Vienna"
Netherlands 1972, model "Vienna"
IRC Hengelo used in 1975, type "Lausanne" 110c 1975.
Netherlands, unused type "Seoul" (1998), which is a modified version of type Lausanne (1975), new code CN 01, 1998

New Caledonia/Nouvelle Caledonie

New Caledonia 1957 NOUMEA NOUVELLE CALEDONIE

Poland

IRC Poland 1938. IRC model "London".

St Helena

St Helena 1962

South Africa

South Africa 1927
Cape Town 1958, South Africa, Type London

Spain

Spain 1910

Sweden

Sweden 1909, IRC model "Rome".
IRC Sweden used Stockholm 1948. IRC model "London".
IRC Sweden used Stockholm 1975. IRC model "Lausanne".

Swaziland

Swaziland 1973

Tunisia

Tunisia 1962 Tunis

United Nations

United Nations 1957 New York cancelled. The coupons are the same for USA and UN but the coupons of the United Nations are easily recognized by the postmark which are found in four different types. Coupons of United Nations are not only issued by UN´s post office in New York but also in Geneve, Schweiz and Vienna in Austria. This is US coupon, type Lo-16u, issued 17 July 1957.

United States of America

USA 1969 Decatur Illinous, model "London" (1930?)
USA 1972 Miami Post Office Issue, model "Vienna"
USA 1989 Wayne Post Office Issue, model "Lausanne"