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The Not-So-Simple Appeal of First Day Covers


It may seem that all the FDC collector has to think about is putting stamps on covers and sending them away to the official first day post office, city/town or show. Or even simpler: signing up for a subscription service and sitting back while the pristine unaddressed FDCs periodically arrive in the mailbox sent under another cover.

But it is not so for many, whose interests extend beyond these limits. For them there is much history available through literature and collateral material like programs and autographed items to be unearthed and added to their collection. As far as the literature of FDC collecting is concerned, there are well-known publications that are indispensable if the collector wants to collect more than current, new-issue FDCs.

The Planty Photo Encyclopedia of Cacheted First Day Covers is a multi-volume item that will set you back approximately $300. The other place to go is to the volumes published by Melone. These publications are not only good beginning points, but will serve as good references as your collecting progresses.

I've previously mentioned George Linn as the father of cacheted FDC collecting. He himself has since been commemorated on a cover issued by the FDC giant Fleetwood. Although not a FDC it has all the elements and then some and it certainly fits into a collection of FDC "collateral material," as it commemorates 50 years of FDC collection.

The Simplicity of First Day Cover Collecting

FDC collecting was very simple for many years, with collectors sending their covers into the first day post office or waiting for the covers from dealer servicers to find their way to their mailboxes.

This worked quite well for a while. What the casual collector likes about FDCs -- aside from the fact that it makes some feel they are documenting history of a country's postal emissions -- is that the FDC is a known quantity. Unlike postal history that can have any number of factors affecting it's price you know what you're getting, no hidden extras. They come with a guarantee that those who collect stamps often don't have; that the cover and stamp are perfect in every respect: there are no hidden flaws as might be found -- and found sometimes too late -- in a purchased stamp.

But with large corporations offering FDC's in great quantities, and even producing covers that can be somewhat confusing to the casual collector, like a 22kt Gold Replica of a great rarity of philately, the 24ct Inverted Jenny, well there is a lot to keep track of to be sure that you are not buying a souvenir and not a true FDC.

But is this anything new? Well, no, because although it might appear simple on the surface, there are many things that one must be aware of if one chooses to be the type of FDC collector interested in going beyond the limits of ordinary FDCs.

And adding another level of confusion is that there are FDCs for things other than stamps, like meter covers that could tempt the collector who wants to put together a collection of more interest than one that 10,000 other collectors may have. A first day cover for the Mailomat - an early automated postal station - installed in the GPO in NYC is an artifact of a technology that no longer exists. Only one Mailomat machine survives, in the Pitney Bowes offices in Stamford Connecticut.

But for those up to the challenge of putting together a collection beyond the basic FDC there are many byways of the area that can be very satisfying for the cover collector who is not satisfied with a collection of items like a basic FDC

Oh, I'm sorry, did I say that the FDC is simple? Well yes and no. The Project Mercury first day cover from 1962 is a basic for the collector of U.S. FDCs. But those that wish to complete the issue must accumulate over 300 varieties, as covers were canceled in over 300 U.S. post offices after John Glenn completed his successful manned orbit of the earth. Those who want the basic cover add the only official cancel to their collections, which was applied to covers in Cape Canaveral.

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

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