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The Not-So-Simple Appeal of First Day Covers Part II

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If you haven't done so yet, please read Part I before proceeding.

If we go back about 25 years from astronaut John Glenn's flight we find exploration of a different kind on a stamp that commemorates Admiral Byrd's reaching the geographical South Pole in Antarctica. This stamp has a lot of philatelic history behind it. Not only was it the stamp to prompt the first cachet from the National Geographic Society for its first day cover, but the stamp itself was designed by the most renowned stamp collector of the time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Roosevelt himself has been honored with many stamps worldwide and his image has appeared in countless FDC cachets. In his day there were those - usually Republicans and political foes - who felt FDR had no right to have such an active roll in the stamp issuing policies of the time. It remains perhaps the most obvious instance ever of politics being in bed with stamp collecting.

First Day Covers and the World

Those that think FDC collecting is merely gathering pretty stamps on cacheted covers into a collection should rethink what some FDCs can teach about the world at large.

Many screamed foul when the USPOD decided that the finder of the Dag Hammarskjöld error sheet of 1962, with its inverted printing of the yellow color should not realize financial gain from his find. They went on to print hundreds of thousands of error stamps to negate the value of the originals. If the finder of the sheet doubted that a fortune was not to be his, the FDCs with the reprinted error stamps, clearly dated October 23 was the day his fortune went up in smoke, with thousands of errors released to the public.

World turmoil indeed affects the popularity and value of FDCs, if only temporarily. When the U.S. backed out of the Moscow hosted Summer Olympic Games of 1980 in protest of Russia's invasion of Afghanistan, the FDCs of the Olympic stamps the USPS had issued for the games saw their value shoot up, as for a time these covers where the only way that one could obtain the stamps: sales of the mint versions were put on hold by the USPS in protest. Eventually the US government approved their re-release, and the price of covers bearing these stamps came back down to earth.

Stamps Leave a Record of Global Strife

After the Falklands War in 1982, the sale of Falkland Islands stamps and philatelic material reached such heights that it became one of the largest earners for that country's Treasury. Other revenues have since grown and this is obviously no longer the case, although Falkland stamps continue to maintain their popularity. FDCs from the Falkland Islands, dated during 1981 were known to take months to reach the U.S., as they fell victim to the tensions that were brewing and which would ultimately explode into the Argentine invasion of the islands a year later.

An earlier, somewhat similar battle for national control occurred as a precursor to the U.S.'s ill-advised foray into Vietnam. Pursuant to the Geneva Accord, an International Control Commission (ICC) for Indo-China was set up in 1954. India was the Chairman of the Commission, which implemented the ceasefire agreement between Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and France. India provided one infantry battalion and supporting staff until the ICC was wound up in 1970. There exist stamps, and of course a FDC that foreshadows the war that would divide the US in the 1960's. It's cachet is credited to the Indian Army Postal service. Its stamps are overprinted "International Commission Cambodia," a variant identifier for the International Control Commission.

The serious FDC collector must deal with the unfortunate fact of war, perhaps an aspect of the hobby itself that one must pay attention to if the goal is putting together a truly meaningful collection of stamps and FDCs. In the beginning of the 21st century, the worldwide financial situation will be noted with stamps and covers - if the spread of inflation occurs, collectors may see stamp issues that echoes the German hyperinflation period of the 20s when mailing a letter required a stamp of millions of Marks.

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