The IRC and Ham Radio
United Postal Union
International Reply Coupon
An international reply coupon (IRC) is a coupon that can be exchanged for one or more postal 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.
This is the current model called the "Nairobi" Issued 01 JUL 09 and expires on 31 DEC 13
When you purchase an IRC, be sure that it is postmarked on the Left box, A postmark on the right
box cancels the IRC making it worthless. The IRC is worthless until it has a postmark, If you have a current issue IRC without a postmark in the left box, any US Post Office can do the honors!
Oh, IRC's do have an expiration date.
How this works for the Amateur Radio operator
Example, A ham in the US makes a DX contact in Germany and both operators swap QSL cards direct because they didn't want to wait 800 years for the bureau* to process the cards. Most hams enclose a SASE which is fine if they are both from the US or the same country, however, if they are from different countries, the enclosed postage stamp will not be valid.
This technical problem was solved in 1906 when the Universal Postal Union, during its Congress in Rome, introduced the International Reply Coupon service. As the service began before the days of airmail, the earliest coupons could only be redeemed for a single-rate ordinary postage stamp to a foreign country. In terms of today's UPU Convention, International reply coupons (IRC) are exchangeable in all member countries for the minimum postage of a priority item or an unregistered airmail letter sent to a foreign country.
The UPU's International Bureau processes several million coupons each year and deals with of all accounting aspects. The International Bureau does not sell IRCs directly to customers; they must buy them from their local post office. Although Posts are not obliged to sell IRCs, it is mandatory for Posts to exchange the coupons. US Post Offices are required to sell IRC's (Most don't because they don't have a clue what they are) If a Post does not sell IRCs, it is possible to purchase them in a post office located in a neighbouring country. You can order them on line too.
* The bureau is an el-freebo if you don't mind the wait.
The previous model was called the ""Beijing" and expired in 2009. The one below is what hams used back in 1959. A (1) British Shilling issued in '59
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