Today in Postal History

German International Reply Coupon

March 14, 1931

Today we have a change of pace with an International Reply Coupon (IRC) sold in Wuppertal, Germany.
Wuppertal is about 30 km east of Düsseldorf.

Reply coupons were adopted at the 1906 Congress of the Universal Postal Union in Rome.
Coupons were placed in use in some countries the next year.
There is one series issued by the UPU for use in member countries.
In addition, some countries issue their own.
The United States has issued over thirty varieties.
This particular one was issued by Germany but is based on the 1926-29 UPU design.

Such coupons may be purchased in the sender's country and
mailed to correspondents abroad who can exchange the coupon
at their post office for an interantional surface-rate stamp to reply to the sender.
It is considered a courtesy on the part of the sender to include return postage.
When airmail rates are different, they can be accommodated by purchasing multiple coupons.
The changes in sending all mail via air have eliminted this need, however.*

The price charged for the coupon is generally a premium
above the price of the international rate in the originating country.

The coupon is postmarked, much like a money order, with the date and the selling post office.
When the coupon is redeemed, the issuing post office cancels the coupon
and retains it as though it were a sight draft in payment for the stamp issued.
The two circles are the spots on which the postmarks are placed.

This design is typical of IRCs in most countries.
There is a multilingual explanation of their use on each.

*Thanks to David for this reminder.
He also notes the extensive use by amateur radio
operators - hams - for the exchange of QSL cards.
IRCs are available at a discount on the ham market.


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