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First Day Covers (FDC) — 2017 Ordering Calendar
What Are First Day Covers?
First Day Covers are envelopes that bear a stamp cancelled on the first day it was issued.
Over the years the form that these covers take has changed. Covers that come down to us from the 19th century would have been those that happened to be commercially used—that is not prepared by collectors—on the first day the stamp was issued.
In many instances, even into the 20th Century for some stamps, the precise date of issue is not known, so Earliest Known, or Documented, Usages become the next best thing to FDCs.
As they were not intended to be collectibles, those early FDCs do not bear the First Day Cancellation that we see today. Instead, we see whatever cancel happened to be used where the cover was processed.
Those covers also would have come from whatever city the stamp might have been available, as opposed to the “Official First Day of Issue” sites that have become customary for most issues.
(Even today, some collectors who prefer postally used FDCs seek commercially used covers instead of those with the USPS First Day Cancellation.)
Collecting First Day Covers
As FDCs became a popular collecting area, the Post Office Department began producing special First Day of Issue cancellations, and arranged for collectors to send in their covers to receive the FDOI cancel. Those early FDOI cancels did not bear an illustration; today, the cancellation incorporates a design that is related to the stamp subject.
At first, collectors were required to send in the covers before the stamp was actually issued. Those rules were later relaxed so that today for most stamps, collectors have 60 days after the date of issue in which to submit their requests. However, those covers must bear the stamp(s) to which the FDOI cancel is to be applied.
The U.S. Postal Service also now sells its own FDCs for a modest premium over the face value of the stamp(s); however, those covers are blanks, and do not have the cachets—that is the designs printed or painted on the left side of, or all over, the cover—that most collectors prefer. Such cacheted covers may be obtained from Stamp News First Day Cover advertisers.
Another wrinkle added by the USPS are digital color cancels. For an extra $1.50 collectors can have a specially designed color cancel instead of the standard, free, black cancel that most collectors still use.
How to Order the First-Day-of-Issue Digital Color or Traditional Postmarks
Customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmarks by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office™, by telephone at 800-STAMP-24, or at The Postal Store® website at www.usps.com/shop.
Digital Color Postmarks
The Postal Service reserves the right to not accept hand-painted and other cachet envelopes that are not compatible with their digital color postmark equipment. The Postal Service also reserves the right to substitute traditional black rubber postmarks if use of non-specified envelopes results in poor image quality or damage to equipment.
Tips for Collectors Seeking FDC Requests
If a cover is damaged, or if you do not receive all of your covers, submit a full description of your request to Stamp Fulfillment Services, Cancellation Services, P.O. BOX 499992, Kansas City, MO 64144-9992. The description should include the stamp issue, a description of the envelope, the number and placement of stamps, quantity of covers, and any other information that may assist in locating or replacing your covers. Requests for exchanges or claims must be received within six months of the issue date.
Covers sent for cancellation must bear sufficient postage to cover the First Class rate. This is important for stamps with a denomination less than that First Class rate.
In addition to the new issue for which the FD cancel is being sought, you can place other stamps adjacent to that stamp. Even used or foreign stamps are acceptable, as long as there is sufficient unused postage to cover the First Class rate, and those used or foreign stamps are affixed in such a way that they will not be cancelled by the FDOI cancellation.
Each cover must have inside a filler card of index or postal card thickness, with the envelope either sealed or with the flap tucked in—the latter being the preferred collecting format.
The addresses to which covers should be sent are supplied by the U.S. Postal Service. They are published in Mekeel’s & Stamps as they are received, and they are posted to our online: USPS New Issues Calendar.
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