What happens when stamps are no longer valid for use

As some of you may know Royal Mail has introduced barcoded stamps and the old non barcoded Machin stamps will no longer be valid for postage from February 2023. (Commerative stamps are not affected thankfully).

These stamps can be swapped out for equivalent barcoded stamps by completing a form and sending the stamps back to Royal Mail.

This got me wondering what other postal services did when stamps became no longer valid , such as when a country changed currency or became independent etc.

Could the old stamps still be used for a period of time/was there a similar swap out process? Maybe some people just kept them as part of a collection?


In Finland you could use old stamps with the value in Finnish marks until the end of 2011. After that they became invalid and could no longer be used for posting.

But sure, you can still see old mark stamps (cancellated or uncancellated) circulating on auction and philatelistic sites. Funny enough, forever stamps (1st and 2nd class, no value indicated) from the mark era can still be used, as they always correspond to the current value of domestic postage rate (in 2022 1,95 €). So I have used stamps which are as old as I am! :grin:


Fortunately, we don’t have that situation here. Really unused postage from decades ago can still be used as long as it meets current postal rates. Dealers here buy up at auctions large quantities of these stamps at face value. They either resell them to collectors or use them on their own mail.

Good to hear that Commemoratives in the UK are unaffected by this policy. I have thousands of stamped & written postcards with Machin stamps or “Marianne” stamps on them. Since I collect the picture side, I am not terribly bothered by these ho-hum stamps. :stuck_out_tongue:


That’s interesting, I wasn’t aware these could still be used. I will check later if any of my received cards have the old mark era stamps. :blush:

Similar in UK where any stamps produced after the new decimal money was introduced in 1970, were still valid for use, up until now. I agree the machin stamps are not very interesting, I always try to use commerative where possible.

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The example that I know about is when the Netherlands switched from guilders to euros in 2002. For a while, Dutch stamps would show both the euro value and the guilder value, like this one:

Stamps with the value printed only in guilders could be used until 2013. That’s 11 years after the introduction of the euro – plenty of time to use up your old stamps :smile:. Any stamps displaying euro values are still valid today.


When Germany switched to Euros we first had stamps with both - old and new currency - on them (like the Dutch example above):



after a while the stamps only showing the old currency were no longer valid. We could just get them replaced at every post office (for normal household amounts) or send them in for larger replacements. All stamps that show an value in Euros are still valid.


Last year I received an order from an online store sent with stamps in an A4 envelope. There were stamps from 2003 on it, which, according to the information on the website of Poczta Polska, are invalid. Until now, it makes me wonder. Even at the post office, they did not know that the stamps were invalid and they accepted the shipment. If in doubt, I check the list of stamps withdrawn from circulation on the website of the Polish Post. Most of them are from the last century, but there are also some from 2003-2004.

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US Postage stamps issued since 1860 are valid at full face value, and if it weren’t for the Civil War the rules might have extended to the first stamps of 1847. When the war broke out, President Lincoln ordered his Postmaster-General to invalidate all postage stamps in circulation to prevent the Rebellion from using them to fund their military. Only post offices under United States control would get the new stamps, “series 1861”. The 1860 rule may either be a typo over the century or maybe to make it clear that it was series 1861 inclusive. The latest stamps in circulation at the time were series 1857. USPS no longer uses this dating system.
Why anyone would use such old stamps for postage is beyond me. The collector value would be worth many times the postage value (not true of most US stamps issued since the 1940’s hence so many still being used for Postcrossing and whatnot).

If you use invalid stamps, they simply won’t be acknowledged and your letter will be returned to sender or the deficiency collected from the recipient.


In Italy old stamps issued after 1967 are still valid, even if they have their value in lire (pre euro currency). You need a bit of math to get their equivalent euro value if you want to use them on your mail, but you can do that. Or even mix lire and euro stamps.

Stamps issued before 1967 can’t be used anymore, but their postal value is so low (mainly no more than 5 euro cents) that it’t not a problem. And if someone still have them can trying selling them to collectors


Thank you everyone for such detailed replies and the photos of the older stamps. It was fascinating to read.

I don’t collect stamps as such but I really enjoy receiving them on a postcard, especially if they reflect a historical event/place of that country.

I suspected some of the non valid stamps may be collectable and sometimes perhaps of great value if they are very rare. I don’t think our machin stamps will be ever be worth anything as there’s just too many in circulation😊

Interesting, so I have this Vatican City stamp from around 2000 so potentially I could still use it for valid postage?

Vatican City (like San Marino) has a separated postal system, with its own rules, even if they rely on the Italian postal service for delivery, and usually the postal rates are the same.
According to what is written here, Vatican City stamps with their value in lire could be used until 2008, when an order was issued to invalidate them.
Now can be used all stamps issued after 1st January 2001 that show their value both in lire and in euro, and of course all the ones in euro.
So I fear your , that is from 1999, is not valid anymore.

This is an example of a stamp with double facial value, still valid

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I understand, thanks for explaining that. I am happy just to keep the stamp unused as a souvenir of our holiday to Rome.:blush:

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I’ve heard France can still use those non EURO stamps in now days.

Yes, we can use our stamps with values in francs (pre euro currency). Except the one from Vichy France.

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Even back to French Second, Third Republic and Napoléon III’s Second French Empire? @yabiz

Yes but they would be nearly useless because of their low face value. You have to convert their face value to euro. Stamps printed before 1960 have their value in “old francs”. 100 old francs is 1 “pre eurp francs”.


Sounds interesting​:+1::+1::+1:

In Australia, we can use all stamps inscribed ‘Australia’ from 14 February 1966 onwards. This date was when Australia went decimal and adopted the Australian Dollar as its currency. Prior to that date, Australia used the Australian Pound. This was a pre-decimal currency that had pounds, shillings and pence (similar to the old Pound sterling that the UK used until the early 1970s).

We can also use some stamps from some of Australia’s external territories like the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, but the rules around what years are and aren’t valid for postage nowadays are more complex.


I am pretty sure in Canada, any Canadian stamp ever made is valid. But our situation is different. And maybe I’m wrong. But I’ve always assumed so.

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Anyway. I will go through my stampalbum for uncanceled/ mint stamps. And sent them to the UK for use.

Edit. This is about UK declares all, except barcode, stamps invalid since February 2023.