There are more than one hundred (100 +) countries in the world that sells International Reply Coupon and a published listing of these countries is available on the Universal Postal Union (UPU) website.
To tell you the truth, I was surprised that my small town post office had some in stock! I bought mint copies of the IRC and also postmarked ones. See photos below.
The UPU International Bureau does not sell IRCs directly to customers; they must buy them from their local post office. Although Posts are not obliged to sell IRCs, it is mandatory for Posts of the UPU member countries to exchange the coupons. If a Post does not sell IRCs, it is possible to purchase them in a post office located in a neighbouring country.
Once they are expired, unused or used coupons are often traded and collected much like postal stamps.
When you write to someone and request a reply, it’s considered polite to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. But what do you do if the person to whom you’re writing lives in another country? You use an international reply coupon.
International reply coupon are exchangeable in any of the Universal Postal Union member countries for postage stamps, representing the minimum postage prepayable on an international unregistered airmail letter.
The new version of the coupon, called the Nairobi model, depicts a globe being cradled by a hand, and the perforated outline of a postage stamp.
The new coupon is exchangeable up to December 31, 2013.
Source: Canada Post
Coupon Réponse International (CRI)Lorsque vous écrivez à quelqu’un et que vous exigez une réponse, la politesse veut que l’on joigne une enveloppe de retour préaffranchie.Mais que faites-vous si la personne à laquelle vous écrivez habite dans un autre pays? Vous utilisez un coupon réponse international.Le coupon-réponse international (CRI) est échangeable dans tous les pays membres de l’Union Postale Universelle contre l’affranchissement minimal payé à l’avance d’une lettre-avion ordinaire expédiée à l’étranger.
Le nouveau CRI, dénommé modèle Nairobi, illustre un globe terrestre et deux doigts sur le point de se rejoindre, dans l’encadrement d’un timbre-poste. Le nouveau coupon est échangeable jusqu’au 31 décembre 2013.
Source: Postes Canada
These International Reply Coupons fits perfectly well inside a topical Holograms on Stamps collection. Even though the coupon per say, is not a stamp, it is definitely a philatelic piece of great interest. Notice the UPU emblem in the hologram.
To mark the IRC’s centenary, the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union has offered UPU member postal administrations a special centenary run of Beijing model 2 coupons.
These special centenary coupons are overprinted with the inscription “100 years”. Since February 2007, only 37 countries have ordered and sold this centenary coupon.
A total of just over 180,000 are available for all these countries, and it will not be reissued. Some countries have ordered only 500 or 1,000, which will reduce the number available to collectors.
This centenary IRC will undoubtedly be highly prized and sought after by collectors because of its small print run.
Source: Universal Postal Union
Got the Nairobi and Beijing version coupons in your collection? If not, it’s time to add them to your want list and start your stamp quest. 😉