Sunday 20 November 2022

Invalidating non-barcoded definitives: a summary consolidation

Despite an update on this blog a few days ago, there are still comments being added to the earlier posts drawing attention to something which has since been reported.  This is as much my fault for not linking those blogposts together, so I am doing so now.

Please read through carefully before asking questions either by email or in comments.  Any comments/questions which are clearly answered here will not be posted or answered. If you don't get an answer from me, then please read it again.  If I have misunderstood, email me again.  I just don't have time to do a stand-in job for Royal Mail's team.

 It is quite possible I have made errors, although I try not to. I hope nobody suffers a loss due to anything they rely on here, but this is purely my interpretation of what has been published by Royal Mail and the stated experience of others and I can accept no liability for any errors.


1. To repeat the latest news:

Official statement from Royal Mail's Matthew Parkes, Managing Director Stamps and Collectibles :


[1a] Royal Mail is transitioning to digital, barcoded stamps in order to provide new and innovative future services for our customers. In order to give our customers even more time to use up any remaining non-barcoded stamps, we have decided to introduce a six month grace period starting from the original deadline of January 31 2023 where non-barcoded definitive stamps will still be delivered as normal. 


[1b] To make things even easier for our customers, we have also agreed with Post Office to include swap out forms alongside Freepost envelopes in Post Office branches. This means that customers will be able to fill out a form, insert it into a freepost envelope with any remaining non-barcoded stamps and hand it over for posting in a Post Office branch.


AS CONTEXT for editors


[1c] Royal Mail first announced the transition to barcoded stamps in February 2022. Under the original scheme, Royal Mail had planned to stop accepting letters bearing non-barcoded stamps into its network from January 31.


[1d] Customers will not be out of pocket as there is no end date as to when customers should swap their non-barcoded stamps by. Customers will still be able to access the “Swap out” option after 31 January 2023. The process of swapping out is free and we are sending a leaflet and a swap out form to all 31 million UK addresses to make this even easier.

2. This is said to be not an extension of the deadline, but a 'grace period' during which Royal Mail will not surcharge items which are partly or wholly prepaid in 'invalidated' stamps.  Do not expect a further change to the Terms and Conditions.  Effectively it means everybody has until 31 July 2023 to use their old stamps.  There is still no end-date for swapping any that you have.


Volumes and delays.

3. It seem that Royal Mail can no longer meet their initial promise of turning round Swap-Out forms within 7 days.  I understand that many people have experienced longer delays but this might be expected from the volume of applications - which Royal Mail probably grossly underestimated.  Recent press comment - although it mainly referred to people not being aware due to a lack of publicity - will have contributed to that increased volume.

So I don't think anybody should get worried about a delay of 2-3 weeks.   

What's in and What's out.

4. In describing the stamps which will or will not be invalidated Royal Mail have used the terms 'valid (for) postage' and 'valid for swap(-out)': I will try to avoid such confusion.

4a. Will be invalidated

(i) All unbarcoded national Machin definitives, large and small, from the 10p cerise through to date, including the large format Parcel Post high values, Profile in Print PSB, embossed £1 gold, and £5 Accession Anniversary stamps.  

(ii) All country definitives, with Machin profile and national emblem, and the pictorial ones with the small cameo head.

(iii) All substitute definitives: Queen Victoria/Queen Elizabeth double-heads, the original and the later 20p and 1st class; both Olympic definitives (1st class and airmail).

(iv) Smilers/Generic sheets containing country definitives, excluding those with the St George's flag, the Welsh Dragon flag, and the Scottish Saltire. 

4b What will not be invalidated

(i)  Frama stamps, Post and Go stamps of any kind;

(ii) Decimal Wildings; Decimal Wilding Regionals; Wilding Castles (I think the pre-decimal £1 will be OK because Royal Mail won't see it as old);

(iii) Definitive-sized commemoratives: Dr Who, Game of Thrones, Poppy, Union Flag, Dragon, Saltire and St George's flags, Music Giants - Queen, Greetings/Smilers excluding country definitives in 4a(ii) above.

(iv) Christmas stamps of any sort and size from 1971 to date.

(v) Commemorative/Special/Greetings stamps from 1971 to date. 

(vi) Smilers/Generic sheets containing the St George's flag, the Welsh Dragon flag, the Scottish Saltire, Poppy, and any small-size greetings stamps.

4c What may be swapped (although some in 4b above).

(i)  Mixed content retail booklets for the whole value.

(ii) Mixed Prestige Book panes, ie those with a mix of Machin or Country definitives and others.

(iii) Some complete Prestige Books (ie those not containing special stamps): 

all up to and including DX10 1989 Scots Connection
DX14 Tolkien
DX22 Profile on Print
DX24 Special by Design
DX39 Machin Anniversary
DY21 Machin 50th Anniversary

(iv) Miniature sheets which contain any Machin or country definitive even if they contain other stamps will be exchanged for the complete value, or the invalidated stamps may be extracted from them. Examples (this list is not complete): Lest We Forget, Diamond Jubilee, Long To Reign Over Us, Robert Burns (2009), Celebrating England, Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales.


4d. What may be swapped but we think will still be valid for postage.

(i)  Castles definitives

(ii) £10 Britannia definitive 

(iii) Special stamps contained in miniature sheets if sent in complete (see 4c (iv) above).


4e. What will not be accepted for swapping despite containing stamps in section 4a

(i) Some whole Prestige Books: 

DX11 London Life
DX13 Wales
DX15 Agatha Christie
DX16 Northern Ireland
DX17 National Trust
DX18 Euro96
...and all later unless mentioned above in 4c(iii)

The Process and a warning about Post Offices

5. Two forms are available from Royal Mail, one for sendings of under £200 and one for over £200. (see details in original post below.)  

6. There is a short Freepost address which has caused problems for some users at some Post Offices which have refused to provide a certificate of posting.  This makes it difficult to make a claim if no stamps are returned from the Swap-Out.  We recommend that you use this address:

Royal Mail Swap Out
Tallents House
21 South Gyle Crescent
EH12 9GT

You can also copy & save the image to print it onto an envelope.

7.  Following distribution of a leaflet to all/most households in the summer, Royal Mail allowed stamps to be sent in on plain paper accompanied by the complete leaflet or a copy of the reverse of it.


What you get back.

8.  Royal Mail originally said that stamps would be replaced on a like-for-like basis, ie send in 5p and 2nd class, get back 5p and 2nd class.  Any stamps with no direct equivalent (E, Worldwide Posctard, 13p, 68p, £1.33 etc) would be aggregated and divided by the value of a 2nd class stamp (rounded up) and replaced with 2nd class stamps, and this is how the scheme worked for the first few months.

9.  This was changed in July to "... we will typically return to you 2nd class barcoded stamps although we may at our discretion return alternative barcoded stamps, including, for example, where the aggregated value of the stamps is lower than the value of a 2nd class stamp." 

10.  So you may get anything - indeed there is a report of a single E stamp being replaced by a £1.85 or others by a £2.55 stamp.  One thing this does mean, is that you might send in a lot of stamps for which there is no barcoded equivalent and get back fewer stamps than you expected.  For instance for mixed £25 worth you might get just over 26 x 1st class stamps instead of 36 x 2nd class stamps.

11.  Royal Mail have indicated to some people that, now that the country definitives have been issued with barcodes, they will be used to replace similar stamps sent in.  I haven't tested this yet.  Country definitives or regionals do NOT including decimal Wildings issued on the 50th anniversary of the originals.

Oops you made a mistake

12.  So, you mistakenly include in your sending a very small percentage of loose stamps listed in 4b above.  If this really is only a few/small percentage it seems that Royal Mail are swapping them rather than wasting time sending them back. (Aside from anything else many of these are gummed and if you've stuck them on their form they can't easily extract them to send them back to you!)   But I have to stress that these are from individual reports and include only a few stamps which are not to be invalidated.

UPDATE 23 November - Oops, THEY made a mistake.

13. I've put this on a separate post as it is so mind-blowing but any comments on it should be here please.


UPDATE 13 December.  My thanks to Tim C who reminded me of something I should have included in this post originally.

Tim points out that (especially after the effect of strikes) postage rates will increase next year, maybe earlier than usual (but not 1 January*).  So if you are using stamps for postage, use the ones with values which have no direct equivalents.  Currently 2 x 34p stamps = 2nd class.  Some time next year, 2 x 34p stamps will be short and you will need to pay more, whereas a 2nd class stamp will be good for 2nd class after the rates rise.

* Royal Mail have to give one month's notice to the Stock Exchange about price rises. That hasn't happened yet so there will be no rates rise until at least 13 January.

UPDATE 17 January.  There have been suggestions that Post Offices will not accept letters and packets with non-barcoded stamps after 31 January 2023.  I asked in my Crown PO today and was told that this was not true: they have been specifically told that they should continue to accept them as normal.

On the other hand the Royal Mail Special Handstamp Centres will not accept items for postmarking with a date after 31 January which have non-barcoded definitives on.

UPDATE 30 JANUARY:   Royal Mail have recently confirmed that they made what they say was a very complicated change to their Swap-Out software/database to ensure that people sending in stamps with the Europe rate (E, Europe 20/40g) would get £1.85 bar-coded replacements.

Tim C (see earlier) has pointed out that whilst this may have solved a problem which we all wish they had addressed before the scheme launched, there is more to come.

a.  If postage rates change as usual this spring, then the system will have to be changed so that the new value of 2nd class letter stamp is used to determine how many new stamps are supplied in exchange for those for which there is no direct equivalent. (This is, in essence, another effect of the point made on 13 December above).

b. However there are four other NVIs at least - 2 x Signed For, 2 x Special Delivery - and the worldwide airmail stamps which will have a new higher value.  This will be important when aggregating the total and these details will have to change in the system as well.  (This would not have been a problem if the usage hadn't been extended to 31 July.)

Currently for 100 x 1st Large Letter stamps the calculation is (100 x 235p) / 68p = 345.58 stamps.

If the rates rise to £2.45 and 70p, then it will be (100 x 245p) / 70p = 350 stamps.

If they fail to change one or the other their calculation might be:

(100 x 245) / 68 = 360.3 stamps or (100 x 235) / 70 = 335 stamps.

Be alert to swaps after the rate change and before 1 August.

Comments are now open for questions not answered here, and your experiences not already mentioned on previous posts.



The earlier post

For the record, here are elements of the earlier blogpost nor repeated above.  I have excluded anything shown or corrected above (I hope),  and if you want to read about the experiences of other readers I suggest you go back to the original here.

31 March 2022

Royal Mail will launch an ongoing nationwide awareness programme, that will run throughout the year, to ensure that everyone who wishes to swap out their stamps will have the opportunity to do so. The campaign will include press and radio advertising and a national door drop leaflet delivered to every household in the UK.


There are two Swap-out forms, one for consignments worth up to £200 and one for bulk swaps.

For consignments under £200, gummed stamps (ie not self-adhesive) must be stuck to the form. Self-adhesive stamps should remain affixed to their original backing paper.

For bulk consignments, gummed stamps must not be stuck to paper and must instead be clearly batched by the stamp value and colour in clear plastic bags of 50 stamps (less than 50 stamps must be collated together in value order). [1]


Some dealers I have spoken to have confirmed that they will trim their Machin stocks according to popularity. It makes sense if you overstocked on some values to liquidate them now, especially if they were purchased at a lower price than the current tariff.

Those dealers who already offer discount postage – and probably some who don't – will offer discounted barcoded stamps after trading-in because they will be hugely overstocked with those.

Another has said that they will consider retiring more quickly and get the benefit of full value for at least the Machin & Country stocks. And that is where life gets difficult – what does he do with £50,000-worth of barcoded 2nd class stamps?


If you are a collector, it is time to sort your collection and check all packets and stock-books for mint duplicates, or for gaps in your collection. If you are going to carry on collecting, look out for dealer special offers. 

Postage and losses

Anybody using the scheme can use the address FREEPOST Swap Out.

[My earlier blogpost included an extract from the Terms and Conditions but these have changed from time to time - the latest was on 7 November 2022.

Many comments on the above were actually answered in the blog itself, and if not, were answered in the comments.  Most have now been realised, but I will mention these:

Post & Go:  On 8 March Royal Mail customer service confirmed (wrongly) that Post and Go stamps would become invalid.  This is not the case at all and it was never intended that they would be. 

'E' & Airmail stamps: some early submissions were processed without these being replaced but I haven't heard of such an instance recently,

Postage refund: similarly some early submissions had returns for the stamps but not the postage.  Nobody has mentioned this in the last few months so things must have settled down.


  1. I sent in 30 stamps, and got back 30 stamps -- twice! Thank you, Royal Mail.

  2. Not a question - but thank you for trying to make sense of the trail of changing info from RM.

  3. In your opening paragraph you stated "from the 10p cerise" did you mean 1p cerise,?

    1. Chronologically no - the 10p cerise was issued in July 1970.

    2. Does this mean the Machin HIgh Value Definitive at £1 issued in 1969 will remain technically valid?

    3. No it won't; I forgot the pre-decimal one.

  4. I received a leaflet similar to the one sent out in summer a few weeks ago which allowed for the stamps to be sent loose in an envelope rather than stuck to paper, along with the filled in form on the reverse of the leaflet.

    1. Please send me a copy of this reverse by email so that I can show everybody else. Mine clearly reads:
      "Self-adhesive stamps must be attached to their original backing paper or book. Individual stamps that are not self-adhesive must be stuck to a sheet of paper attached to this form."

  5. Just validates my decision, after over 50 years, to stop collecting new issue GB stamps. Royal Mail appear to be descending further and further into the abyss.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Well that sounds like another ****-up. They are supposed to send the value not the quantity! Doh!

  7. I too received an early Christmas present - they sent me 88 first class stamps in exchange for 88 stamps of face value £29.00

  8. On another forum I have seen multiple people saying they received the "no stamps enclosed letter" and wanting to know how they challenge it. I have also read of people complaining that they received the correct value but in 1st class rather than 2nd (and thus don't have the quantity of stamps they wanted for their Christmas cards). Plus one person who received all Large 1sts - as an overpayment since the value was the same quantity of 1sts.

    So it really looks like the team at Tallents House are overwhelmed, don't have the supplies of barcoded 2nd etc. What we don't know is what percentage of packages sent in are coming back with errors.

    1. And more people will tell about shortages than overs.

    2. Absolutely - or rant about not being able to just change at the Post Office...

      (Don't know why it came up as Anon forts time - sorry!)

    3. Or have they taken on extra staff who don't know what they're doing?

  9. I sent a third package yesterday. As usual I put £6.85 of stamps on the envelope and claimed for postage, only for the old guy on the Post Offfice till telling me I shouldn't put stamps on a Special Delivery Guaranteed letter it would slow down delivery. I should pay cash for this service. I told him I would be reimbursed postage with stamps so I won't be doing that and besides I told him, I don't care how long it takes to get there, as long as it does.

    1. Special Delivery is guaranteed next day delivery, tracked throughout with a tracking number, no matter what stamps are used, so this post office worker was clearly talking out of the proverbial.

  10. I also got an early Christmas present, hundreds of low value stamps replaced by the equivalent number of 1st class stamps, it really is crazy.

  11. Maybe I have missed a point where it was actually clarified, but with regard to the 3,000 people told that they had sent a form but neglected to enclose any stamps to swap-out, was this just a case of mistakenly sending out the letter to the affected people (but their application was still being processed, and they would have received stamps in due course anyway) or had their applications actually been rejected?

    1. I don't know whether the applications were being processed or had been rejected; it may just be that when those 3,000-ish batches were logged somebody pressed a wrong button and said 'empty letter' to all of them. I'm sure they have such a device for all the chancers who do send in envelopes with no stamps in.

  12. I sent a batch on the 18th of November and received them yesterday. Despite the fact I sent many values that still exist - 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, etc - I only received the total value in 2nd Class stamps. Ditto the regional stamps, they were just swapped for normal 2nd Class ones. A little bit of a shame as I was in need of some of the lower values for making up international postage rates.

  13. Is the deadline for swapping old stamps still 31st January or has it been extended ?

    1. There has never been deadline for swapping old stamps, despite widespread media coverage to the effect that the 'use-up' and 'swap-out' deadline are the same day. FAKE NEWS!

      Happy Christmas!

    2. Ian,
      Thanks for that.
      I was wrong but now see no deadline on the "Stamp Swap Out Form" I've just printed.
      Obviously it makes sense to send it in BEFORE postage rates rise - whenever that will be - so as to get a few more Second Class stamps back.

  14. An update hopefully of interest to readers about the swap of my Regional stamps. At the end of August, well after the production of new barcoded versions on 11th, I rang the Swap Out department to establish that the old Regionals I wanted to swap WOULD be exchanged for barcoded Regionals on a like for like basis, Wales for Wales, Scotland for Scotland etc, and I was assured they would be. I therefore dispatched assorted 1st and 2nd Regionals to the value of £221.44 by Special Delivery on 9th September. On 6th October I received back STANDARD 1st and 2nd class barcoded stamps. After an initial telephone call to complain, a helpful person told me she would register a complaint and they'd "probably send a return label to swap them". On 14th October I received a phone call from someone saying they DO NOT send out Regionals as replacements, despite what I had been assured, and said "it is impossible to exchange them". She went on to say "what I was told 'was a mistake, we’re only human and mistakes happen'.". I was told that if I was still unhappy I could contact the Postal Review Panel.
    This I did on 17th October, and on 16th November I received a reply stating that Country Definitive stamps are excluded from the Royal Mail Swap Out scheme [replacements]. However they went on to say "on this occasion I have arranged with Royal Mail that if you return the stamps to me then I will send the Country Definitive equivalent. I must stress that this is a gesture that cannot be repeated, since you received the correct stamps initially, in line with the Swap Out terms and conditions". The stamps were returned by Special Delivery on 17th November, and I received a cheque for the refund of the postage on 25th November.
    80 of the 121 1st class Wales stamps were returned to me by Special Delivery on 19th December, 18 of the 27 2nd class Wales stamps arrived by First Class post on 28th December, and finally today 30th December I received the remainder (bulk) of the stamps totalling £133.20 by First Class post! I got there in the end, but what a shambles! Why not send the entire order in one go by Special Delivery?

    1. Hi busmap ! You mention in your post that you rang the Swap Out department - would you be kind enough to share the number? I've read elsewhere that there is no dedicated Swap Out phone line, but it looks like this is incorrect. I have a few quid shy of £200 worth of stamps, and want to ask them (unless anyone here knows) if I can send them using a Signed For service, as I'm very reluctant to send them using the Freepost address (especially with all the foul-ups documented here!). I've considered buying a book of non-barcoded stamps on eBay to take my total over £200, but am afraid of ending up with fakes (potentially resulting in Royal Mail regarding the whole lot that I send in as fake). Many thanks if you can provide the phone number, and for any other advice that you or others can offer.

    2. The phone number for previous swap-outs that I have received is on the top of the accompanying letters - 03452 660 804 - but in the specific example that I posted about Regionals, the stamps were sent from Stamps & Collectibles at Tallents House. I don't think Royal Mail will regard ALL stamps as fake, even if some were found to be, which is unlikely if you buy from a reputable source.

    3. Thanks for the reply, busmap, I appreciate it! (And thanks also to Ian - Norvic for approving my post). I'll try that number tomorrow, but will also look on eBay for a book of stamps to take me over the £200 threshold (if I can find a source that looks reputable - apparently, it's a bit of a minefield buying valid & legit stamps on eBay).

    4. You could always use a reputable Stamp Dealer like BB Stamps who not only sells mint and used stamps from 1840 to date, but also sells mint stamps for postage.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. @ busmap - Thanks. I called that number, and the person I spoke to was very helpful (I was half-expecting her to say "How did you get this number?"). I was going to report back here with what she told me, but I need to contact them again to confirm something first. I started looking through BB Stamps' listings (ordered by price: low to high), but couldn't find any of the 'basic' stamps I need (ideally a plain old book of 4 x 1st class letter, as the face value would be the exact £3.80 I need to reach the £200 mark). I've messaged them, but haven't heard back yet - I'm a bit worried that they thinks it's a suspicious request, or that they don't deem it worth their while to reply! I've also looked at other sellers on eBay, but by golly, it really IS a minefield. Multiple China-based seller accounts for what appears to be one actual person/company based on the fact that the photos, wording and format of the listings are all exactly the same... Confusing listings in which the Buy It Now price is far in excess of the face value... Listings by people who have clearly set up seller accounts very recently to sell their stamps (with such quantities available as to make me wonder why they aren't just sending them off to be swapped, rather than selling them on eBay (with fees) for much less than the face value... My wariness appears to be justified, and I feel way out of my depth here, so any other recommendations for reliable, honest sellers would be much appreciated. By the way, I'm also asking friends and family, but keep drawing blanks there.

    7. If you read BB Stamps' website they have a minimum order value of £20. There's nothing wrong with going over £200 as you'll get back the same value that you put in (in new stamps). Buy some of the discounted values and that will offset the postage costs. No need to be desperate as there's no end date at present for swapping. As for eBay sellers, the reason many are over face value is because eBay fees and postage have to be taken into account. My eBay listings also take that into account, but most are sold as 'collectibles' rather than basic stamps for postage. But yes, do be very wary of overseas sellers or those without good history.

    8. @ busman - Hello again, and thanks for your latest reply. BB Stamps got back to me the following day, and told me that (quote): "Our minimum postage order is for £50.00 of face value as not worth doing below that." Maybe it was £20 when you last looked. Your point about going over £200 is entirely reasonable and valid, but I was still struggling to find the appropriate stamps anyway, i.e. 'useable' stamps valid for posting (until the end of July 2023), as opposed to collectable stamps (I acknowledge that some stamps fulfil both those criteria, so perhaps I shouldn't say "as opposed to", since that creates a potentially false distinction - hopefully though, you know what I'm trying to say). I should point out - although it's probably already apparent - that I know practically nothing about philately; I just happened to come across this blog while trying to find more information on the Stamp Swap scheme. Thankfully, I no longer have to fret, or hunt around on eBay, thanks to Ian - Norvic's kind offer below, which I've just responded to. Nevertheless, I appreciate your taking the time to offer additional advice. Just to address your other remarks, yes, I know that there's (currently) no deadline for the swap scheme, but I'd rather do it sooner than later, then I won't need to try and remember (amongst all the other things one has to try and remember to do) to keep checking whether or not RM have announced a deadline. And yes, again you make a valid point regarding eBay fees etc. - nobody wants to sell at a loss, or merely break even. And, on the buyer side, I recognize the fact that there are some people who, for whatever reason, might be prepared to pay over face value in exchange for the convenience of having stamps delivered to their door. However, with all that said, at least one of the listings I saw had a Buy It Now price of two or three times the face value (maybe somewhere inbetween), and that looks to me like gross profiteering, rather than merely factoring in fees, P&P, time, etc., which any seller would be perfectly justified in doing.

  15. I know another, closer to home, who hasn't sold all his stock yet! {eye-roll}

    1. @Ian - Norvic - Well, I, for one, would be interested - as you can tell from the other post I've just submitted for approval, I'm getting a bit desperate - but probably not worth your while for just one book of 1st class.

    2. Always worthwhile, my friend. Send an email with your name and address, to the address at the top right of the pahe, and I'll send you a four or six x 1st class

  16. I was in my local Post Office branch today and they said "we get told nothing, we have no idea if you can still use the old Queen's head stamps or not". I told them about validity (or at least the allowance) until 31 July 2023 and they got it as they know me and accepted what I said. I foresee difficult times ahead for us all.

    I've still got a lot of Machins to use up, so will have to do another swap out. Each one has ended in a complaint so far - and who wants the horrible second class values? I would have found £1.85 or even first class better .... I am a Postcrosser and I dread having to try to send postcards with my swapped out values after 31 July. Not only will be there be no room for the message, there probably won't be much room for the address! Why are they so much bigger than the German barcode stamps?


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