Collecting Stamps - Coney's Stamps

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FDCFirst Day Covers – A Tutorial

First Day Cover Collecting can be a hands-on hobby where the FDC collector actively participates. Collectors may make their own covers or collect covers in many dozens of different ways - the result is a personal involvement that is extremely gratifying.

First Day Cover (FDC) is an envelope or card bearing a stamp which is cancelled on the day the stamp is initially placed on sale by the postal authorities.

Cancelation MarkIn the United States the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) may designate one or more cities as "official" - the location where the new stamp is first released to the public. The location is usually appropriate to the subject of the stamp. The 1985 Christmas stamp on the illustrated FDC was released in Nazareth, MI - a city whose name is associated with the holiday.

The first day of issue is the day on which a postage stamp, postal card or stamped envelope is officially put on sale, usually in a particular city (usually within the country or territory of the stamp-issuing authority but sometimes from a temporary or permanent foreign or overseas office), though sometimes in several cities simultaneously, nationwide or in a particular region; later the item will usually become available in a wider area.

For recent issues, there will usually be a first day of issue postmark, some of which have a pictorial cancellation, indicating the city and date where the item was first issued, and "first day of issue" is often used to refer to this postmark. Unofficial first day of issue postmarks can also occur when a stamp collector purchases the stamps in question from a post office in the first day of issue city and then takes them (on that same day) to a post office in another city to have them cancelled.

Some covers, particularly older ones may jut have a normal post mark. The important part is really the date. ‘Correctly dated’ is what matters to most collectors. Some do collect first day covers from a particular artist or company and some like topical collectors only collect ones that pertain to a particular event or subject.

The Earliest Known Use (EKU) as seen in some catalogs may or may not be the same as the first day of issue. The search for EKU's of both old and new stamps is an active area of philately, and new discoveries are regularly announced. This can be caused by several things:

  • Stamps may be inadvertently sold or stolen, and cancelled on an envelope or package prior to the first day of issue. This is not likely now but has happened.
  • Minor changes, such as a different perforation, may not be noted by officials, and no one knows when they first went on sale. This is also true of some major stamp issues, particularly in countries experiencing civil unrest and records lost.;
  • Some earlier stamps, especially high values, may have had distribution problems or communication errors. EKU's for these may be some time after the official first day.
  • The ceremony or release was postponed but the official record was not changed making the EKU a later date than the official record indicates.

CashetThe cachet enhances the cover by complementing the stamp with a photo, graphic, drawing or other embellishments and can be attractive, educational, humorous, and other things. There are many different cachets for each new stamp. Many companies put them out, you can make your own, local artists may produce one and local stamp clubs often make them up too. The choice adds an exciting dimension to the hobby

To Obtain FDC's, collectors may buy envelopes and send them to the USPS for servicing (canceling). The instructions for doing this are in your local Post Office. Or the covers may be purchased ready made from stamp dealers.

See: How to Get FDC's.

You may also attend the ceremony releasing the stamp. Special First Day of Issue post marks are hand applied by postal clerks during these events. You can usually use a blank envelope, buy one from a vendor at the event or you may make your own custom cover and take it to the event for stamping.

Making your own can be both enjoyable and economical. You can prepare your covers in the stamp formats you choose, add additional stamps to make combination covers of your own design, and enjoy the satisfaction of having done it yourself. Simply draw or print a photo or graphic on the envelope yourself.

And another way is to get them from a service such as Art Craft (LINK) which offers a variety of services. In addition, you can benefit from purchasing cachets at quantity prices.

There are also other types of covers, which we’ll cover in another article.