History of the international reply coupon


  • The postage stamp is invented
  • The first stamp ever issued, "The Penny Black", is created by Rowland HILL
  • From this point on, letter postage is paid by the sender


  • German economist Johann VON HERRFELDT references a "Universal Postal Union" in his articles


  • An international conference is held in Paris, France, bringing together 15 European and American countries to establish common operational models and standardized postage rates that are easier to calculate

15 September 1874

  • Heinrich VON STEPHAN, Director of the North German Confederation postal service, organizes the International Postal Conference, with the goal of creating an "International Postal Union"

9 October 1874

  • The conference takes place in Berne (SWITZERLAND)
  • The "General Postal Union" is founded by 22 countries


  • The first Congress takes place in Paris (FRANCE)
  • The General Postal Union officially becomes the "Universal Postal Union", and the issue of prepaid reply letters within international postal relations is raised
  • The universal postage stamp is the proposed solution, but varying exchange rates pose a problem
  • Thirteen postal administrations (AGENTINA, BELGIUM, FRANCE, GERMANY, ITALY, LUXEMBOURG, NETHERLANDS, NORWAY, PORTUGAL, ROMANIA, SPAIN, SWITZERLAND and TUNISIA) arrange to use prepaid reply postal cards

1 July 1879

  • This system is put in place and gradually spreads

26 May 1906

  • The IRC is created during the Rome Congress
  • Article 11.2 of the UPU Rome Convention states, "reply coupons can be exchanged between the countries of which the Administrations have agreed to participate in such an exchange"

1 October 1907

  • The service becomes officially available to customers - Since then, the appearance of the IRC has changed several times, with nine different models, 21 different iterations (changes to the basic model) and three special anniversary coupons (for the 100th and 110th anniversaries of the IRC and the 140th anniversary of the UPU)
  • The UPU International Bureau is responsible for IRC production and delivery to participating postal operators