Can I still use my stock of French red first class stamps?

After sales of the familiar timbres rouges in France ended, we look at whether unused stamps can still be used for letters

The historic timbres rouge service has been moved online since the start of 2023
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Reader question: I still have unused red stamps at home. Will I be able to use them or are they worthless now?

On January 1, 2023, La Poste stopped the sale of timbres rouges – red stamps – 170 years after their first recorded use.

These stamps were used for next-day delivery of important letters and have been a staple of the French postal service.

With the ending of sales, there was concern over whether red stamps that had already been bought could still be used.

The good news is that those bought before January 1, 2023 can still be used to send letters and there is no cut-off date for that.

One key change, however, is the significance of a physical red stamp when used.

Attaching a red stamp no longer signifies priority delivery and letters using one will be treated the same as if they had a timbre vert (green stamp).

This means the letter will take up to three days to be delivered instead.

New hybrid system now in operation

Letters can still be sent via priority delivery, but via a new, hybrid system, called the e-lettre timbre rouge (e-letter red stamp).

Using La Poste’s website, you can write a letter or upload a photo or scanned document, which employees at La Poste will then print and send as a priority letter.

You can also go to a post office and use a machine to scan and send your documents with the red e-letter stamp, or get help from a La Poste employee.

The cost of the e-letter red stamp is slightly more expensive at €1.49, as opposed to the physical stamp, which had cost €1.43, however it includes printing and the envelope.

There has been some controversy regarding the online system, with concerns about the confidentiality of online letters.

Read more: France’s new digital timbre rouge: Will my letter be seen by staff?

2023 has also seen the introduction of a new turquoise stamp, or ‘Lettre Service-Plus’ which has a two-day delivery time, and is used to send physical letters for documents that cannot be scanned, such as cheques and official papers.

The cost of one turquoise stamp is at least €2.95, depending on weight, and also includes tracking of the letter as well as compensation if delivery of the letter is ‘excessively’ delayed.

In addition, it is possible to request tracking updates for you and the recipient by text or email, and you can place a request online for your postal worker to collect the letter from your own letter box and send it for you, if you wish.

You can also exchange your stamps

Old red stamps can be exchanged through La Poste’s stamp exchange, where you can send your old stamps to La Poste, in return for stamps still available to purchase.

They can only be exchanged in this way for physical green and turquoise stamps, however, and not for the new online e-letter red stamps.

Only 24 items can be exchanged at a time and it can take up to one month for your new stamps to be delivered.

So, if you have a stock of these red stamps at home, by all means you can use them or exchange them instead of throwing them away.

You just have to be careful when sending important letters or when on a tight timeframe, where one of the other services offered by La Poste may be more beneficial.

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