Universal Mail stamps UK

Yesterday my wife visited a castle and brought me back a handful of postcards from the gift shop - nothing unusual there.

She also handed me a strip of “international postcard stamps” - I hadn’t seen those before. They didn’t appear to be issued by Royal Mail but were apparently valid for all destinations outside the UK (postcards only). Furthermore, they could be dropped into any Royal Mail postbox.

I did a little research and discovered these stamps are issued by a third-party carrier called Universal Mail. Apparently Royal Mail will collect these items and send them to the headquarters of Universal Mail. They are then taken by courier (presumably in a large batch) to another country for “re-posting”. The Philippines cropped up in many discussions.

I read mixed reports on delivery times. The general consensus was sometimes the cards arrived within a reasonable timeframe but often the transit period was several weeks, or even a few months. At £7.50 for five stamps (from the souvenir shop), this is slightly cheaper than the regular Royal Mail air mail rate. Today I found packs of five postcard stamps on eBay for just £6 (including shipping).

I’m guessing the retailers receive enough commission to make pushing these universal stamps worth their while. Most probably they neglect to mention the whole third-party subcontracting deal.

I’ll try these stamps on postcards to places like China and Russia, where delivery via the normal channels can take weeks anyway. Nothing to lose there.

Has anyone else come across Universal Mail in the UK? Do similar arrangements exist in other countries?

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Hi, I’ve used these stamps you can get them often at English Heritage sites, and sometimes on the website Postcards & Stamps - Cards - Stationery
They’re on sale 5 for about £2, which of course is a bargain! The postcards i sent all reached there final destination and in a reasonable time, did not know about them going via a third party…

Hope this helps, all the best.

Ed

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My experience is that they take longer. I’ve just recently received this card sent with Universal Mail:

50 days for UK to Germany is a very long time!

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Yes, that’s a long time. UK to Germany is normally less than 10 days. Sometimes as quick a 3 or 4 days.

I think I’ll try the stamps for destinations that already take a long time with regular mail.

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My brother used them by accident for two cards from Edinburgh to me in Germany a couple of years ago. One card never arrived and one card came 3 months later to me with a stamp “sent via the Philippines”. :slightly_frowning_face:
I cannot recommend this company and would advise to use Royal Mail. :+1:

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Hello - interesting. I recently purchased a strip of 5 in the National Gallery in London. They were decorative/famous paintings



and I thought people might like them for a change… I’ve sent 2 out so far & I’ll let you know how I get on

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I bought some of these recently! I have used a couple but can’t remember on which postcards so can’t comment on delivery times…but will use them again soon and let you know!

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Oh, please don’t use these stamps: I unwittingly used them to send three beautiful postcards from London to Germany, France, and USA. Those postcards arrived over 4 months later, with ugly white non-removable Philippines barcode labels over the pretty stamps, and every instance of the word “London” blacked out with heavy marker.
Such a crushing disappointment.

Edit: photo of label obliterating Universal Mail stamp

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I picked some strips of these up at an English Heritage site. Of the cards I used them on, one made it to Germany after 220 (!) days and two are still travelling.

EDIT: That’s a lie. I just remembered that the FIRST one I used got to Germany in like six days - but that card was sent at Christmas, when a lot of stuff doesn’t get checked as closely.

I’ve never bought anything from EH that turned out to be rubbish before…but I think these stamps rather might be. :frowning:

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It’s common for tourists to ask if stamps are available when purchasing postcards at a castle, museum etc. If they are being offered third-party stamps that provide an inferior service, that’s not entirely ethical, even if these stamps are a little cheaper.

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I’ve received several postcards with these stamps but had no idea they were not Royal Mail. I was not looking at how long they took to get here.

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Whenever I have used these Universal stamps in the past they have been a disaster with months to deliver or disappeared into the ether.
I have also had friends from abroad staying who did road tours / trips around the UK and sent me Postcards to the UK in country using these stamps not realising they can only be used Outwards from the UK going abroad. I have had multiple requests to visit the Sorting Office as I had mail waiting for collection, went down there got told it would cost me £2 to collect each item, I declined , £6 for 3 Postcards ? They would then destroy. Royal Mail act as collection and delivery agent in their Network on behalf of Universal Mail. The “abroad only” requirement is not usually explained when tourists get offered these stamps. I do not understand why English Heritage and other UK tourist traps don’t offer ordinary stamps, Postcards currently @ £1-70 stamp, anything else, this is the address of the local Post Office.
They’re not recognized by collectors generally either, just pretty labels printed by a Private company who have some sort of deal with Royal Mail although I can’t imagine there’s much margin in it, personally I would avoid them based on experience and I tell anyone I know visiting the UK likewise. Avoid , avoid D

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Universal Mail and similar services operate in a few other countries. Travelers beware! For more horror stories, Google it. I believe there was one post on a travel site from a British citizen who actually requested the revenue data and found that tourist traps actually make money off these stamps, while next to nothing if they sell Royal Mail stamps. The old Postcrossing forum had a thread on Universal Mail problems as well.

I have used these stamps twice. The first cards arrived two months later and the others 6 months later.
My friend has sent some cards to me with these stamps and the fastest card arrived after a month. I can’t remember how long the others took.

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Wow you guys got Bargains,
I was charged £5.10 for these three Universal Mail stamps from Hastings back in May, essentially the same £1.70 per stamp.

I’m reluctant to use them having read up on them online and what is written above.

My father sent me a postcard from New Zealand back in 2015 and unknowingly sent it via a private mail carrier DX Mail instead of NZ Post.
Was routed via Brunei and took about six weeks.
At least it was forwarded in clear envelope.

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I used one of these for a card going to The Philippines - I thought seeing as it’ll detour there anyway might as well use it for that destination!

It arrived today after 99 days: Postcard GB-1464024

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I got recently my first card from the UK carrying a Universal Mail stamp and, indeed, the delivery took a lot longer than with Royal Mail stamps:

The stamp itself is, however, quite pretty:

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I did not realize that these were what the dreaded Universal Mail stamps looked like – the last five postcards I sent used them! :fearful: I got them from a tourist information at £9.25 for 5 (i.e. £1.85 each, normal royal mail abroad postcard prices).

If I’m remembering which ones I put them on, either two or three have arrived after 2 weeks (US, Germany, Japan) and one hasn’t (Lithuania). I’ve just sent two more today to Germany and Canada! I handed them in at the Post Office, as I was also buying a couple of postcards, and the worker there didn’t say anything about the stamps.

I shall refrain from buying stamps Tourist Information in the future!

There is quite a financial incentive for tourist sites to supply these stamps to unsuspecting tourists. Universal Mail gives them quite a cut of the proceeds, making them another cash cow while genuine Royal Mail stamps have little or no profit margin.

I used these stamps a couple times, and the things I sent arrived with no problem, although I do remember them taking a while longer to get there.