Can you still use stamps with the Queen on?

 New barcoded stamps with King Charles' III official portrait.
New barcoded stamps with King Charles' III official portrait.

It’s been over a year since Queen Elizabeth II’s death, so can you still use stamps with the Queen on? 

If you’ve sent a parcel or letter recently, you will have noticed one of two things: new stamps featuring King Charles III, with the addition of a barcode on each, are in now circulation, and the cost of a First Class stamp has increased by 15p.

Following a new scheme by Royal Mail, all stamps will now need a barcode in order to be valid.

Can you still use stamps with the Queen on?

No, the deadline for using stamps with the Queen’s image on them was 31 July, rendering non-barcoded stamps invalid.

Don’t worry though, because you can get them swapped for new ones, for free.

The initial deadline was 31 January but Royal Mail gave six months’ leeway to allow customers time to adjust to the new rules.

Why is Royal Mail using barcoded stamps?

Why the change? Royal Mail said: “The move is part of the company’s extensive and ongoing modernisation drive and will allow the unique barcodes to facilitate operational efficiencies, enable the introduction of added security features and pave the way for innovative services for customers.”

How to swap out old stamps

Luckily, you can keep hold of your old stamps and simply swap them out for the new version.

New everyday stamps will feature King Charles III and already have barcodes on them, so it’s only stamps with the late Her Majesty’s image on them that you need to swap.

Any old stamps can be swapped for the new barcoded stamps through Royal Mail's Stamp Swap Out scheme but this process can’t be done at post offices.

You will need to complete the Stamp Swap Out form if you have up to £200 worth of stamps to swap, or the Bulk Stamps Swap Out Form for more than £200 worth of stamps.

There are three ways you can get the Stamp Swap Out form:

  • Via the Royal Mail website

  • By phoning Royal Mail's customer services team on 03457 740740 and asking one to be posted to you for free

  • By visiting your local post office where you can pick up a form and envelope in person

If you've printed your own form, you will need to use your own envelope to send the form with your old stamps. If you are sending less than £200 worth, write on the envelope Freepost SWAP OUT. No other address details or postcodes are needed.

Royal Mail will then send your new stamps back to you, and says it aims to process each application within seven to 15 working days so you should receive your barcoded stamps in just over a week.

There is currently no end date as to when you need to swap out your non-barcoded stamps, so you can continue swapping them.

What happens if you use a non-barcoded stamp after 31 July, 2023?

Royal Mail’s website states that if you post a letter using a non-barcoded stamp after 31 July 2023, the item will be treated as if there is insufficient postage.

This means the person receiving the letter or parcel will have to pay £1.10 to receive it.

Is there no crown on the King Charles stamp?

Unlike the late Queen Elizabeth II, the new King is not wearing a crown in his official portrait (painted by artist Alastair Barford) which is said to align with his mission to modernise the monarchy.

“His preference for a simple image is more contemporary,” royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told TIME Magazine.

“The Queen wore a diadem and the image of her was internationally recognised. In a different age, the King has wisely chosen a more human image.”

Read here to find out why King Charles’ head faces the opposite way to the late Queen Elizabeth II’s on new coins. And, speaking of money, the new King will have to miss out on this royal honour his mother had for 30 years.