Philatelic cover

From Academic Kids

A philatelic cover is a cover sent through the mails for the purpose of creating a collectible item. While some collectors specialize in philatelic covers, especially first day covers and cacheted covers, others regard them as artificial objects that are not reflective of real-world usage, and will pay a higher price for "commercial covers".

Stamp collectors began to send mail to each other and to themselves early on, and philatelic mail is known from the late 19th century.

Missing image
A philatelic cover from 1925, produced by adding common foreign stamps to a usage of a US 2-cent of the Norse-American Issue. The postal clerk should have rejected this cover, but instead the foreign stamps received US postmarks. From left to right, the stamps are from Austria, Germany, Côte d'Ivoire, French Guiana, United States, and French India.

The possible kinds of philatelic covers are only limited by the imagination of creative collectors, but there are a number of well-known categories:

  • first day covers, mailed on the first day of issue of a stamp. The issuing country often prepares special cancels for the event.
  • cacheted covers, sent on envelopes with additional artwork, usually relating to the theme of the stamp.
  • covers with special or commemorative cancellations used temporarily by a post office.
  • covers with cancellations from unusual places, such as town with funny names.
  • covers sent to collect particular postal markings.
  • "one of everything" cover, all stamps of a new or old issue affixed to the cover.
  • unnecessary mixed frankings.
  • covers sent in order to create legitimately used stamps, most often seen from countries that issue far more stamps than the inhabitants use, and where a used stamp may be more valuable than mint.

Most philatelic covers are obvious by their unusual appearance, but those sent to collect markings or used stamps are not so obvious. Some can be recognized because they have been sent or received by collectors known to engage in the practice, or because the amount of postage is far in excess of what was needed to send a letter. Determination of excess postage typically requires detailed knowledge of the relevant postal history; a letter might have needed extra postage if it was registered mail or insured at a very high value.


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