Stamp trade reacts to barcoded stamp plans


30 March 2022
The world of philately is reacting to the news that all British definitive stamps will feature barcodes (actually data matrix codes) and existing definitives will soon lose postal validity.

Collectors quickly pointed out that what Royal Mail are referring to as ‘barcoded stamps’ actually feature something more like a QR code or matrix code. But it is the effect the new stamps, and what their replacement of all previously issued definitive stamps by January 2023 will have on collecting, that has raised most concerns.

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‘Specialist Machin collectors in the future will want at least one of each Machin issued but they may be very expensive if they are rare because people have used them or handed them in on the exchange scheme,’ said collector Richard Camp.

‘And what about collectors who have built up a collection over many years and then find they cannot use the stamps when they give up collecting just because they do not have a code on them?’

The same concerns were expressed by members of the stamp trade, many of whom will have accumulated definitive stamps over the years and continue to use these stamps for postage. 

Allan Grant of Rush Stamps said:

‘As far as trade is concerned, it is technically a disaster. This effects all stamps issued since 1971, so there’s no fall-back value in respect of face value, they will only be collectors’ items. It’s like the pre-decimal stamps that had a high value, suddenly they have no postal validity.’

‘There are so many other factors that are unclear. We don’t yet know what the requirement will be for stamps from prestige books or smiler sheets. When you send them in you’ll need to send them special delivery to ensure they are not lost, so swapping the stamps won’t be free. The public are not aware of what the swap involves – it needs to be clarified.’

Dealer and blogger Ian Billings shared these concerns, having written a lengthy letter to Royal Mail, including a ‘two-and- a-half page list of grey areas.’

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Writing on his Norvic Philatelics blog Ian explained:

‘I believe that many dealers will continue as before, but may rationalise their stocks, trading in the over-stocks for new stamps. But some older dealers who were contemplating retirement and wondering which other dealer would want their stockholdings may use this as a reason to retire sooner, disposing of much of their stock to Royal Mail on trade-in.

‘Most collectors who have been collecting for many years must have, at some time, thought long term, and about the eventual disposal of their collections... they will now be reassessing their options for the future...

'Newer collectors and those for whom this does not represent a threat should be looking to add to and complete their collections as quickly as possible, while the stocks are still there to be bought. Never was “when it’s gone, it’s gone” truer.’

What do you think?

We’d love to know what you think about Royal Mail’s plans.

Will you be swapping any of your stamps for the new versions or keeping them safe in your album?
Do you like the barcoded stamps and will you be collecting them too?

Let us know your thoughts, and if you have any questions you’d like us to put to Royal Mail.