World Stamps

Great Britain begins testing bar codes on postage stamps

Mar 18, 2021, 1 PM
Great Britain’s Royal Mail is introducing stamps with bar codes on March 23. The first bar-coded stamps are nondenominated second-class definitives sold in panes of 50.

By Denise McCarty

Great Britain’s Royal Mail is issuing its first stamps with bar codes March 23 as part of a test program in its modernization drive.

Royal Mail’s March 18 announcement said, “The unique barcodes are poised to pave the way for innovative customer services and benefits in future.”

The first stamps with bar codes are nondenominated second-class Queen Elizabeth II Machin definitives. The code is on the right side of the stamp in the same color of blue as the portrait of the queen. A line of simulated perforations separates the code and queen’s portrait.

Royal Mail said that initially 20 million second-class stamps with the bar code will be supplied to businesses in the United Kingdom through the retailer Viking Direct and through Royal Mail’s online sites.

The stamps are being sold in a pane of 50 (Royal Mail calls them business sheets) on the Royal Mail website. The current second-class rate is 66 pence.

In talking about the new bar-coded stamps, Nick Landon, chief commercial officer at Royal Mail, also mentioned the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black issued in May 1840.

“This initiative will see Royal Mail become one of the first postal authorities in the world to add unique barcodes to stamps. By doing this, we are looking to transform the humble stamp so that we can offer our customers even more convenient, new services in the future,” Landon said. “Royal Mail has a long and proud history for creating innovative and intuitive postal solutions. This goes all the way back to the Penny Black which established the principle of the one-price-goes-anywhere universal service — to the recent launch of Parcel Collect — where we pick up our customers’ parcels from the doorstep.”

Royal Mail has previously placed bar codes on other products, including its souvenir sheets, and has “used barcode technology printed directly on to envelopes and labels for some time.”

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