This page includes The First Day Cover Collecting: Spotlighted or in Passing columns from the 2003 issue of Across the Fence Post.
January issue No column this issue
By Hank Schmidt, Mbr., Oshkosh Philatelic Society
Through the years, I
have explored with you, many aspects of first day cover collection, which I hope
some of you have found to be rather helpful. Now let us explore some more
extensive sources of help for our hobby. Let me introduce you to an organization
that is devoted to first day cover collecting. This is the American First Day
Cover Society, i.e. AFDCS. This organization was founded in 1955 and currently
has about 3,000 members. It is national as well as international in scope.
I have been a life member of this organization for slightly over twenty-five years, because among its many membership services, it publishes an excellent journal entitled First Days. This magazine appears eight times per year or about every six weeks. Compared to publications of some philatelic organizations, First Days is very easy to read. Its writing style is conventional, and it doesnít require any back tracking to understand its substance.
This journal contains a great deal of helpful information and philatelic news. Some of the features are: The Beginnerís Corner, The Question Box, Cachetmakersí Spotlight (reports on new cachetmakers), Cover Exchange (a free service to let members know what you want to acquire, and what you will trade), as well as chapter and society news, to list only a few items found in an issue. Of course, a subscription to First Days is well worth the membership fee, because it is the very best publication in philately.
The Society offers an insurance program that will let you insure your philatelic collections at nominal rates. You can insure your holdings against such hazards as fire, water damage, theft, storm damage, etc. The agent for this insurance has many years of experience with this type of coverage and has been able to anticipate the collectorís needs quite well.
The AFDCS maintains a sales department that offers a commendable stock of covers, custom labels, cachets, jewelry, handbooks, and an inventory of back issues of it journal, First Days. Having been a customer of this department, I can attest to the excellent service, accuracy in filling orders, and quick response. Their prices are usually lower than that of commercial suppliers of like merchandise.
This organization offers an assortment of handbooks of just about every aspect of first day covers, ranging from basics for beginners, Perhaps you may have heard of someone who had a deceased family member who was a collector, but who left the survivors with extensive philatelic holdings and no dispersal instructions. AFDCS can offer valuable advice, if the deceased had been an AFDCS member. Also, this organization offers help to its members with estate planning for the proper disposal of collections, as well as other advice as needed.
In short, AFDCS offers such additional assistance with an expertising service, a translation service for thirty languages, an archive for research, and two annual cover auctions that are listed in First Days. A third auction is held at the organizationís annual convention, AMERICOVER. This is a listing of only part of the membership services that AFDCS offers. If you have Internet access, the Society has an excellent web site at http://www.afdcs.org. However, you may also refer your questions to me at my e-mail address, or my snail mail address. Both of them are listed in the ďBy LineĒ of this column. Now donít hold back. Contact me at your convenience. Please understand that the only stupid question is the question that is not asked.through cachet making. Along with its manuals, the society also maintains a slide program library of about thrity-two popular FDC subjects.
March issue No column this issue
April issue No column this issue
By Hank Schmidt, Mbr., Oshkosh Philatelic Society
Iím sure that some
of you are topic collectors, when it comes to collecting stamps. It is also
quite possible to do topical collecting with first day covers. Though
FDC collection consists of about fifteen topics, I have chosen the U. S. Coast
Guard for the subject of this article. Specifically, this discussion will
spotlight Scott number 936. It was issued on November 10th, 1945, and honors the
contributions that the Coast Guard made during World War II. Later on, the
Postal Service also issued two postal cards commemorating the Coast Guard. They
are UX52 and UX76. Then there was sort of a left-handed honoring of the Coast
Guard during the 1990s, when the U. S. Postal Service issued two sets of stamps
picturing historical U. S. lighthouses.
I became interested in the 936 issue after I had served a three-year enlistment in the Coast Guard during the early 1950s. It was an experience that abruptly brought me out of boyhood, and into adulthood. With this branch, being the smallest of the armed forces branches, an enlisted man can be made to feel more like a member of an old and noble organization rather than just a number. The Coast Guard currently has about 35,000 or so members, and is an armed force which has the primary mission of serving the public with conductin search and rescue services, enforcing maritime law and safety regulations, and maintaining aids to mavigation, to name just a few of its tasks.
As you examine the illustration of 936, you will note that the stamp pictures a Higgins Boat, also known as an LCVP (landing craft vehicle/personnel). Having manned life boats stations on our shores and coasts for many years, the Coast Guardsmen have become small boat experts in navigating small rescue boats through the menacing surfs of our waterways. As a result, most of the coxswains (Higgins boat drivers) were either Coast Guardsmen or Navy personnel trained by the Coast Guard.
The Mellone Catalog entitled, Specialized Cachet Catalog of Firdst Day Covers of the 1940ísĒ Volume I, 2nd edition, illustrates 80 cachets for this issue. However, this volume was published in June of 1984. My collection consists of 120 or more cachet covers, some of which are or may be add-on cachets. Due to the fact that the Mellone Catalogs have a limited market, it is difficult for a publisher to make much of a profit from these publications. Thus, updates of these catalogs would not be very fast in coming, if at all. With the advent of computers and the proliferation of computer generated cachets, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between the add-ons, and cachets made at the time a stamp, like 936, was issued. There are many uncacheted 936 FDCs out there; thus the computer cachetmaker has a large supply of material with which to apply his computer generated art work.
In my opinion, if the cachet is not listed in the Mellone Catalog, there is a persuasive possibility that the cachet you may be examining is an add-on. Anyway, if you are looking at a 1940s cachet cover that does not have a Mellone number (the stampís Scott number plus an M with another number i.e., 936-M60) it is most likely an add-on, though it could also be a recent find that is not listed in the Mellone publication. If you suspect that the cover you are thinking about purchsing might be an add-on, because it is not labeled with a Mellone number, by all means ask the dealer. If you receive the answer, ďI donít know.Ē--consider it an add-on.
Practically all 936 FDCs are well-toned these days due to the use of sulfide envelopes in the 1940s. Therefore, a cachet that was produced for the Coast Guard stamp could also be losing some of its brilliance. If you happen to see a cover that is well toned, but the cachet colors are brillant and sharp, it is most likely an add-on cachet.
No, it is not a sin to collect FDCs with add-on cachets. As I have often said in the past, you set your own rules for your collecting activities. However, my suggestion is that you should know what you are buying, and what is the approximate market price for your intended purchase. Dealers that you see at area shows are quite honest and interested in yhour satisfaction as well as your repeat business, thus you can rely upon most of them to give you honest opinions on items in their stocks. Be more cautious of some vendors on the Internet, who offer their goods for auction. If they are not well known cover dealers, they could be people who know very little about the FDC market, many of whom think that just becuase a cover is over fifty years old, it must be worth a fortune. Iíve learned this lesson the hard way.
Now that I have said my piece, what do you have to say?
July/August issue No column this issue
September issue No column this issue
October issue No column this issue
By Hank Schmidt, Mbr., Eshkosh Philatelic Society
your FDCís means protecting them from mainly, light and moisture. The album
remains the best protection for any cover collection. However, they must have
acid free mounts, or pockets that embrace the cover from all sides. Albums must
be stored upright on the bottom edge to preserve the coverís original shape by
preventing creasing and bending. Numerous vendors can supply collectors with a
variety of suitable cover albums. I use the White Ace Allstyle Cover Albums.
They are of archival quality because they will not damage your covers in any
life time. There are about five or six cover album manufacturers, all of whom
market albums that are usually safe for your covers.
A word of caution, do not use any hingeless albums for any philatelic material. If your material is left in a hingeless album for a couple of years, it is often damaged when removed. The advertising claims for hingeless albums may not always be accurate.
If you prefer to store your covers in sleeves, make sure that you use sleeves that have been manufactured for covers and not something used for food, tools, or the like. Make sure as well that they are acid free and roomy enough so that there is minimally about one sixty-fourth of an inch of space around the coverís perimeter. If you intend to store your covers in an empty envelope box, sleeves are mandatory in that most envelope boxes contain sulfide cardboard, even if they previously housed 100% rag content envelopes. If you do not have enough covers to fill the box, use a stuffer (crumpled, clean, 100% rag, sheet stationery works very well) big enough to support your covers in an upright position. In this position, the covers can better resist bending and creasing.
Light, natural or manufactured, can seriously damage covers. Sunlight is the worse enemy of your covers. It tans them and fades any ink impressions on your covers such as cachets, addresses, ads, etc. Florescent light is also destructive to your covers, though not as dangerous as sunlight. Therefore, keep your covers out of the light as much as possible. Displaying your covers at a philatelic exposition should not damage them because most philatelic shows do not run much longer than a week. However, do receive a promise from the exhibit committee that your covers will not receive the direct rays of the sun. If you should receive a request to display your covers at a museum, library, etc., for any length of time, request that your material not be displayed longer than thirty days, and away from any direct light.
Moisture is also an antagonist to your paper collectibles, hence caution is advised. Check your storage environment for moisture, especially at the change of seasons. Never put your covers in a fire proof safe. The walls of such safes contain a muddy type of substance that will vaporize in the event of a fire, blow retaining plugs out, and spray your covers with moisture to protect them from burning, but creating a gloppy mess. Even under normal circumstances, the atmosphere inside of a fire proof safe is very damp, and your covers can wilt without the safe being exposed to a fire. Otherwise, dry basements are OK, if they have an operating dehumidifier during the summer, and are heated during the winter. The ideal place to store covers is on the first or second floor of your house in an area that is protected from dust and light, where the temperature ranges between fifty and eight-five degrees with a controlled humidity of 50% or less. The stability of temperature and humidity will help protect your collection and extend the life of the paper and ink.
Now, are any of your covers held in your sorted configuration with rubber bands? If so, donít walk, run to your collectionís residence and remove all of the rubber bands now. Rubber and paper do not mix. Your covers can become permanently stained as well as creased and/or bent. If you must band your covers in neat little stacks, please use strips of stationery about an inch and a half wide held together with Scotch brand 3/4 inch Magic Tape. Make sure that the Scotch tape does not contact any of your covers.
Now that I have had my say about preserving your cover collection from the ravages of light and moisture, what about you?
December issue No column this issue