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) will suffice; but if the addressee is in another country an IRC removes the necessity of acquiring foreign postage or sending appropriate currency.
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. As of 2006 an IRC is exchangeable in a UPU member country for the minimum postage of a priority or unregistered airmail letter to a foreign country.
As of February 2007Bern, 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.
, the current IRC is called "Beijing Model No. 2" and is available from post offices in more than 70 countries. They have an expiration date of December 31, 2009. IRCs are ordered from the UPU headquarters in
Prices for IRCs vary by country. In the United States in late 2008, the purchase price was $2.10USD. IRCs purchased in foreign countries could be used in United States toward the purchase of postage stamps and embossed stamped envelopes at the rate of $0.94 USD 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.
As stated above, previous editions of the IRC, the "Beijing" model and all subsequent versions bear an expiration date, consequently a new IRC will be issued every three years. The current IRC will become obsolete on 31 December 2009. Current stockpiles in the hands of users should be expended by then, or exchanged for the new "Nairobi" issue. The current issue (Beijing 2) IRC may be exchanged until 31 December 2009 (date printed on coupon). In principle, Beijing 2 coupons will no longer be sold after 31 August 2009. The new international reply coupon (Nairobi model) is due to go on sale starting 1 July 2009, and will be valid for exchange until 31 December 2013.
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