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If I've decided to update my SE avatar (in any of the various ways well described in the answer to this question), am I able to return to either the original stock image or previous avatar images I have used?

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SE does not maintain an album of your prior avatars and they have declined a request to maintain them. So, if you have a custom avatar and then change it, you will need to upload the image again to switch back to a previous one.

Default identicons are based on your email address as explained in the answers to the question How is the default user avatar generated? Based on this information, it seems that, if you wish to return to the default identicon, it should be the same one you used previously... possibly with the caveat that changing your email address may change the identicon.

Clicking on "change picture" on your "Edit profile & Settings" gives the following drop down:

change picture

As you can see, I can choose between the default identicon or the uploaded picture.

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