A piece of postal history tours the globe

20.09.2018 - UPU is taking its historic collection of international reply coupons (IRCs) on the road. Next stop: Macao.

Special edition IRC to be sold in Macao

IRCs allow a recipient in a foreign country to send a reply letter free of charge. The sender simply purchases an IRC from the post office, includes it with their international letter and then the receiver can exchange the coupon for the minimum postage for an international priority or unregistered airmail letter.

Though little known when compared the postage stamp, the IRC has been around for more than 110 years. The first Universal Postal Congress in 1878 took note of a growing need to find a solution for prepaid international letter post. It was there that 13 postal administrations decided to exchange prepaid reply cards.

More countries began using the cards, leading the 1906 Universal Postal Congress to add the service to the UPU Convention. The first IRCs were sold in 1907. Their design has changed numerous times since then – with nine different models, 21 iterations and three special anniversary editions – making them an attractive collector’s item.

Raising awareness

In an effort to raise awareness of the philatelic product, the UPU has taken it on a tour around the world, showcasing it at stamp exhibitions, seminars and training workshops far and wide.

“We have drawn up a development plan to promote IRCs among collectors and make new generations aware of IRCs as a secondary philatelic product akin to postal stationery,” says Olfa Mokkadem, manager of UPU’s Philately and International Reply Coupons Programme.

The philatelic product will be showcased during the 35th Asian International Stamp Exhibition taking place in Macao, China, in September 2018. Interested collectors will be able to purchase a special edition of the IRC created on the occasion of the event, along with UPU service stamps. These will be available at a booth shared with the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA).

The 35th Asian International Stamp Exhibition will be held from 21-24 September at The Venetian Macao Conference and Exhibition Centre. For more information about the Macao event, check out the website: www.macao2018.org.mo

This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of Union Postale magazine. Subscribe now to be the first to receive content like this.



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  1. Dirk at 19.01.2016
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