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  Green Stamps and IRC's 
Tips and Advice
Compiled From The DX Reflector


IRC/GreenStamps Table -- From N6DHZ
Postage Rates Worldwide  Via K4HB
Classic Currency Converter  Via K4HB
QSL Information page -- From W9OL

This page is getting a bit dated - please ignore any exact monetary amounts you may see. There's still some good advice to be found. Since postage rates are constantly changing, be sure to check exchange rates.


As a QSL manager, I receive a number of IRCS. However, many are incorrectly issued by the sender's postal system, or the sender bought them on the  'secondary market' from a QSL manager or another ham, and the IRC was incorrectly stamped. While these 'incorrectly marked' IRCs often are considered valid currency to hams, please remember that, somewhere, someone will likely attempt to cash these in at their local post office, and at that time, they may not be permitted.

While I have found that some post offices take just about any IRC (due, likely, to the lack of knowledge in general about IRCs, which also explains how they are incorrectly marked when sold in the first place!), I thought I would put this together to see if we could improve the number of 'good ircs' in the ham marketplace. Note that many QSL managers will not accept IRCS that are not correctly stamped, so you risk not having your card returned, or returned via the bureau. Check those

Take a look at your IRC. First, make sure you have a 'air mail IRC', which I believe are the only ones issued via the postal systems today. You can determine this by looking at the front of the the paragraph above the three boxes, the last three words should say "par voie aerienne". Airmail!

The IRC should be stamped by your post office ONLY in the left box (see next paragraph, however!). This box says "Empreinte de controle du pays d'origine (facultative).

The center box is intended to show the price paid for the IRC. Your post office may stamp the center box, but this should be only to indicate the price of the IRC, and should not be a 'postmark' stamp that would be used in the left box. In many countries, this amount is already printed, I suspect
that in some countries, this is left blank due to the IRC varying in cost over time. By the way, in many cases, this box is blank. I've not had a problem with this box not having any mark.

DO NOT ALLOW your post office to place any mark in the RIGHT box. This effectively cancels the IRC, as it indicates that it was exchanged for postage.

I see a LOT of IRCS. They fall into the following categories, ONLY the first is acceptable.

Correctly marked IRC, post mark in the left box, sometimes accompanied with a stamp in the center box indicating price.

IRC with NO post mark at all. This includes some countries, where the country of origin is pre-printed in the left box (for example, SUISSE, HELLAS, etc). Even with this pre-printed information, there should be a postmark over this writing.

IRC with a post mark in the *right* box. I think a lot of hams sell these as 'ham currency'. I personally don't do that, so if you send one to me, they effectively are thrown out, and I've not been able to get postage at my post office for these IRCS, so you'll get a card returned via the bureau.

This is difficult to explain without pictures; send me an email and I can send to you a file with pictures of 'good and bad'. Send the request to me at

73 es DX! Steve KU9C


I saw the write-up by Steve, KU7C about IRCs that you forwarded to OPDX. It was a much needed clarification of what is appropriate and correct for an valid IRC.

However, my own experience suggests that it did not go far enough.

Simply put, the "cancellation" appearing in the "Left Hand" box MUST not only show the date of issue, but it must be legible enough to be read. The USPS does not follow the exact rules set forth in the International Postal Union description of IRCs and there use, especially in the details pertaining to exchange rate.

There was an internal "memo", "guideline" whatever, circulated within the USPS. (I once had a copy) that sets out in detail the dates and the corresponding exchange values for IRCs. NOT ALL IRCs can be exchanged for "one unit of international airmail postage". Depending on the date shown on the IRC the "exchange rate" may be less that 60 cents... as low as 40-45.

Not all (or even many) postal clerks are familiar with IRCs. Some refuse to bother with them... some just give you an airmail stamp for each one no matter what it looks like, some examine every little detail and throw out any they can't read or are not appropriately marked.

Obviously I am not one who puts IRCs back in circulation after receiving them. I try to exchange all I can. Many IRC arrive with only printed characters in the middle block and to me are "worthless"... others are unreadable or out-of- date. Somehow the reality of IRCs needs to be better publicized, especially to foreigners who seem to figure that if it's an IRC it's automatically good.

I hope these comments can somehow be used to draw further attention to this issue. I am only the QSL manager for my own contest operations (ZF, VP5, VP2M, V3, PJ, KP2, GM, ..) but I get a steady stream of cards, many with IRCs and many of them worthless. I'd like to see the whole matter give better exposure for everyone's sake.

73, Joe, W5ASP

WHAT 'GOOD' is an IRC?

Thanks for the info, John, and I think this will be useful to the DX group. You brought forward some good points that may have gone overlooked by many. Many just figure an IRC is an IRC and don't look for the proper postal markings, etc.

This leads to another question, however, that has bothered me for years. On the old surface mail IRCs, and more recently on the replacement air mail IRCs, it states in six or seven different languages, "This coupon is exchangeable in any country of the Universal Postal Union for one or
more postage stamps representing the minimum postage for a priority item or an unregistered letter sent by air to a foreign country."

This seems pretty straightforward to me. One IRC will pay the postage to send me a letter. Why then, do QSL manager lists, the RAC and other authorities on QSLing state 2, 3 or even up to 5 IRCs are necessary from many countries? Are they non-members of the Universal Postal Union? If they are not, why do they honor IRCs at all? Is it simply a "tip" that should be sent to ensure the QSL manager is happy . . . sort of like adding an extra green stamp?

It never made any sense to me, but being the happy little QRPer I was, and wanting my QSLs, I made sure they got what they wanted. I did this by not using IRCs at all, but rather $US ones. Was a heck of a lot cheaper. The Canadian dollar is often low against the US greenback - check the exchange rates.

Which circles me around to the original question . . . what good are IRCs (except as suggested in the previous post, simply "Ham currency?") And since I've got them almost all worked and confirmed, I ain't gonna send any IRCs to anyone . . . however, the new comer should be aware that, as far as I can see, IRCs are not worth the paper they are printed on.

73/DX Paul VE1DX


The official German PTT instruction book (of HQ) said, also "surface" IRC are still valid, as long as they have the style xyz (forgot the code for them which is the same as the airmail, yellow/green'isch, not the old 2-fielded, with a blue part, think out of the 60s). The modern "SURFACE" ircs are same valid as the newer AIRMAIL issues.

Officially in German it is forbidden to stamp them on the left side when there is GERMANY printed in red in it. Sometime the clerk doesn't know and if you ask he will stamp them, but that's totally wrong (acc. to their instruction book). Stamp is ONLY needed when there is nothing printed in the left box.

But sometimes the knowledge, as you wrote, is very low under the ptt employees, specially smaller branches or .... hi Last time I had to say the clerk, that is was wrong (doesn't want to re-cash them with the right amount/etc.) and where he will find the correct way in which instruction book....hi
Tom, DL8AAM / 5Z4GD

From Jim McCook W6YA

Thanks to all who replied to my questions about the use of IRCs. Some of you remember the old printed Callbook list showing how many were needed for each country.  The CD doesn't show this, but it looks like it wasn't correct anyhow.  The 189 UPU countries are SUPPOSED to, by international agreement, redeem an IRC for an air letter sent to anywhere in the world.  It turns out not to be true.
The best explanation I got was from Chris, ZS6EZ, who has been a manager for many years, and currently for ZS8D.  The problem arises when CERTAIN countries have different air mail rates for various parts of the world. For mail to some other countries, this rate exceeds the amount for the MINIMUM air mail rate.  This is the case in RSA for Europe, USA,and Japan.  This is where the problem arose for him.  Chris said his personal QSLing approach is to use one IRC for Europe and a green stamp(s) for other areas.  In other words, it's a simple matter of variable rates from some counties, and the IRC is only worth the MINIMUM rate.

In countries with non stable currencies, the correct amount of green stamps can also be questionable.  Also, in cases such as Germany, where the DM rose so much against the dollar, it takes more than one green stamp to buy postage.  This is not the case with most of Europe.

Probably the real value of an IRC for the QSL manager is the price he can get by selling them to other hams.  As long as the going rate reaches or exceeds the current maximum postage cost in any country, the IRC is a viable approach. 

Of course if the manager wants to cover other costs, everything changes. That's another subject entirely.  This discussion was only for postage.

Thanks again to all those who responded.  It would be nice if someone could find a list of countries whose rates are similar in nature to RSA.

73, Jim W6YA

From United States Postal Service  Documents

READ 372 International Reply Coupons





Last Update: February 22, 2010