Recently a Stitching Cards customer contacted me to say that she had been told by her post office that International Reply Coupons (IRCs) were no longer available. This is a typical response from post office staff who do not know what IRCs are, or do not want the bother of ordering them.
An IRC is a way of sending the cost of reply postage to someone in a foreign country. The recipient can exchange the coupon at their local post office for stamps to reply to you. Some businesses such as Stitching Cards allow small payments to be made by IRC. They will then use the coupons towards the cost of overseas postage in their day to day business, thus redeeming their value.
The redemption value of an IRC is equal to the cost of sending a small letter up to 50g by air mail to any country in the world. The purchase price of an IRC varies from country to country. Typically they are roughly double the cost of sending a small letter overseas.
The history of the IRC began in 1906 when a Universal Postal Union congress in Rome, Italy, introduced them. The early IRCs could be exchanged for a single-rate, ordinary postage stamp for surface delivery to a foreign country, because this was before the introduction of airmail services. With the advent of airmail post the value of an IRC was updated to cover an airmail letter to a foreign country.
Any post office that has sufficient demand for IRCs can requisition them along with regular domestic stamps. If your post office does not have them just ask them to order them for you next time they order stamps.
Information on your own country’s supply of IRCs can be obtained from the following web sites: