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East Sussex - Iron Country
(Collectors Corner)

First Day Covers
by Colin Boylett

Collectors have been collecting stamps for over 150 years, soon after the very first Postage Stamp "The Penny Black" was introduced on May 6th 1840, the fascination with these small adhesive labels started.

There are millions of stamp collectors, correctly called "Philatelists", throughout the world, some collect stamps and other postal items from anywhere, others collect on a theme, perhaps items from one country or on a particular subject such as Aircraft, Flowers, Royalty or maybe a theme connected with their occupation. There are probably as many different types of collector as there are stamps.

My own field of interest is British "First Day Covers" and British "PHQ Cards", I also collect covers signed by various personalities, more about that further on, first a brief history of stamps, covers and the postal system.

The first stamp; Prior to the introduction of the 'Penny Post', which enabled senders to pay for the transport of their letter, the fee for delivery was paid by the recipient, therefore if they could not afford the fee the letter was not delivered. With the introduction of the Penny Post, delivery was assured, the fee having already been paid by the sender. Very soon after the introduction of the Postage Stamp in Britain, the idea was taken up by many other countries, it was not many years before stamps had become standard in most the developed countries of the world.

The range of stamp designs throughout the world now runs into millions, giving plenty of scope for the multitude of collectors.

What is a First Day Cover? A First Day Cover is an envelope, nowadays usually specially designed and decorative, with a newly issued set of stamps affixed and bearing a postmark dated for the first day of issue of the stamps. All new stamps have a set issue date and cannot be sold at Post Offices before this date. There are several producers of these envelopes (usually called 'Cover blanks'), the Royal Mail also issue their own cover blanks, which collectors can buy at Post Office counters. Royal Mail also have specialist "Handstamp Centres" in every region, for collectors to send their covers for postmarking, these centres handle all the special covers for their area and the staff are trained to ensure that postmarks are applied with care to a standard acceptable to collectors.

First Day Covers should not be confused with Souvenir and commemorative covers, these are not necessarily issued on the first day of the stamps but are issued to mark a special event or anniversary.

First Day Covers started with the stamps to mark the British Empire Exhibition, issued April 23rd 1924, and not many were issued until the 1950's, when specially produced envelope started to appear and the hobby began to grow, till the present day when we have a wide choice of covers for all new issues.

What are PHQ Cards? These cards are issued by the Royal Mail and are available at most Post office counters, they are postcard reproductions of every new design of stamps. These are collected in various ways, either in unused condition or with the stamps attached and bearing the first day of issue postmark. The cards themselves do not have an issue date and are usually available about two weeks before the stamp issue date, if you wish you can of course just use them as a normal postcard.

When the cards were first issued, they were never intended as a collectable item, just a nice postcard, originally they were issued on an occasional basis, now (since July 1976) they are produced for every new set of stamps. The First issue was a single card of the 3 pence stamp, depicting W.G.Grace, in the Cricket set of 1973, collectors soon spotted a new collecting area and from the second issue on August 15th 1973, collectors started affixing the appropriate stamp to the card and obtaining the First Day of issue postmark, the stamp can go on either side of the card but the most collectable form is with the stamp and postmark on the face (picture side) of the card, this is the form that I collect.

Like all collectors, over the years I have built up quite a large stock of spare covers and cards, which I am prepared to sell or exchange for covers and cards that I need for my collection.

If you have gaps in your collection, send me a list of items you are looking for, boylett@bigfoot.com if you have covers or cards which you could swap for the items you require send me a list. I do not buy and sell covers but am always ready to swap covers or cards of similar value, or sell to you at a price which simply reflects my outlay in obtaining it.

If you are offering to swap covers or cards, please bear in mind that all the covers that I have spare are in immaculate condition, that is completely clean with no creases or marks with stamps carefully aligned, unaddressed or addressed with neat printed labels, PHQ Cards with stamps on face, I do not collect anything in any other condition

If you have any queries relating to collecting of various postal items I will do my best to answer if I can.

If you are a collector, of Stamps or anything, we would love to hear from you.
Tell us about your collection, especially if it is interesting, unusual or amusing.

VillageNet 1998

collectors@villagenet.co.uk
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