Print your own stamps, the price is going up

From January 1 the price of stamps in France will go up by an average 7 per cent. Specifically the price of a first class stamp (lettre prioritaire, timbre rouge) will jump by 10 centimes from €0.66 to €0.76 and the second class stamp (timbre verte) from €0.61 to €0.68.

And that’s just for letters sent to a French address. The cost of stamps for other parts of Europe (timbre bleu) will also increase, as will the cost of parcel post, registered letters and so on. It’s the biggest hike ever according to the French press so now is the time to stock up.

Stamps bought at this year’s prices will be perfectly legal after January 1, provided the value isn't printed on the stamp which is the case with all run-of-the-mill stamps; what the French call “timbres à validité permamente”. The stamps I’m looking at just say “lettre prioritaire 20g” for example. So they will be valid next year.

And you can print your own stamps if you don’t want to traipse down to the post office. You just have to get yourself some self-adhesive labels or print directly onto an envelope.

Go to the official post office site, place the cursor on “tous les produits” and click on “impression de timbres” in the right-hand column. You will see below this another link to “personnalisation de timbres” but we’ll come to that later.

Clicking on “impression de timbres” will take you here. Click on “imprimez vos timbres”. On the page that follows, choose the image you want printed on your stamp. There’s a wide choice. Then move on to “caractéristiques” which is where you chose where you are sending your letter from and to (France Metropolitaine is the default in both cases), what kind of stamp you want (green, red or registered post) and the weight (“jusqu’a 20g” is the standard stamp). Note that if you chose Royaume Unie or anywhere else in the EU as the destination you will not have a choice as it defaults to the standard first class European (blue) stamp.

Click “valider” and, on the next page, choose whether you want to print a page of sticky labels or directly onto an envelope, then the number of stamps/envelopes you want (there doesn't seem to be a limit on the number you can print). It’s also possible to print a roll of stamps but I guess not many people will need that. If you choose envelope you can enter the address which will be printed on the envelope. You can enter more than one address and they will be printed in succession one envelope at a time.

You will also have to indicate the size of the labels or envelopes. The labels box gives the Avery code as well as the size of the labels. When you’re printing onto a page of labels you can also indicate where the printing is to start (row 3, column 2 for example) so you can use a page where some labels have already been removed.

At the bottom right-hand corner you will see a link to print a specimen copy (well worth it) and the price you’ll have to pay – the same as if you bought your stamp at the post office. Click “valider”, “ajouter au panier”, “payer maintenant” and go through the payment procedure before printing your stamps.

If you've followed me this far you may remember that earlier I said there was a link to “personalisation de timbres”, a service which allows you to print your own photo on your stamp. It is more expensive, of course – 10 stamps cost €9.80 -- but if you fancy sending your Christmas cards with a photo of the kids on the stamp, this is where you go. Click on the link, choose what you want to buy -- a carnet or a page of stamps -- click on the yellow label “créer ma planche (or carnet)", choose the format (portrait or landscape), the type of stamp, destination and weight as before and click on “valider”.

Assuming you want a page of stamps, (producing a carnet is more complicated) go to “ajouter une photo” and choose a photo from your computer or the other proposed sources. “Valider” will move you to a page where you can edit the photo. Once you’re happy with the result click “valider” give your stamps a name, add to your shopping basket (panier) click “valider” and you're into the payment procedure. If you buy more than one page of 30 stamps the price per page drops by 50 centimes.

Stamps without face value are fine for letters up to 20g. However, you're sending a heavier letter or a package overseas, you can't use stamps without a value printed on them, even if you put the complement value of stamps. I don't understand why, something to do with ease of checking that the full postage has been paid.

Stamps with values in Francs are still allowed, and apparently there's quite a trade in buying old collections and using those stamps. I put some old stamps in Francs on packages recently, and they got through.

The postal service is complaining that it's losing trade, and then it prices itself out of the market. I'd have thought they'd be trying to encourage the business, especially from ebay traders and online sellers.

I knew there had to be a reason he's so late getting to me :-)

A lot of postmen and women are like that. Sometimes they're the only person isolated old people in rural areas get to see all week and will collect and deliver anything from bread to medicines to people who have difficulty getting to the nearest shops. They play a vital role in rural areas.

Some villages here are quite proactive and when the Post Office wants to pull out, they provide premises and staff and run the service for the community. Only thing I have lost is the Post Box on my neighbour's wall so now have to go 2km to post a letter rather than 10m.

Agree, Steve. I think the attraction is mainly the appeal of having stamps you've designed yourself. That said, rural post offices are closing all over the place. There are villages not far from me which are a 50 km round trip from a post office. Other post offices work much reduced hours. It's just a useful thing to know about.

A clear and well written article but if you aren't miles away from a Post Office, is there any real advantage in doing this ? You swap paying for labels+ ink instead of some petrol.