A Short Course on First Day Covers

What is a First Day Cover?

A 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. A FDC with the Snowy Egret stamp (A) is shown with a New York, NY, First Day of Issue cancel (B) and a cachet (C), pronounced ka-shay, which compliments or tells us something about the stamp.

Where Are Stamps First Sold?

Although most U.S. stamps are released nationwide on the first day, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will designate a single city as the "official" first day city. (Sometimes multiple cities are designated as “official.”) The location is usually appropriate to the subject of the stamp, and will be the only place where the “First Day of Issue” postmark is used. The 2003 Korean War Memorial stamp on the above FDC was released in Washington, DC -- the city where the Memorial is located.

When Are FDCs Prepared?

A specific day is selected for release of the new stamp, one which may be significant to the subject -- such as the Louisiana Purchase stamp issued on the 200th anniversary of the event.

How Are Stamps First Released?

Generally a First Day Of Issue (FDOI) ceremony is sponsored by the Postal Service or an organization associated with the new stamp. It is a colorful and entertaining ceremony which enables collectors to attend to prepare special souvenirs. Programs such as the Holiday Stamps folder shown above are usually distributed free of charge.

What is the Significance of the Cachet?

The cachet enhances the cover by complementing the stamp and can be attractive, educational, humorous, and other things. There are many different cachets for each new stamp -- such as two National World War II Memorial types shown. The choice adds an exciting dimension to the hobby.

How Do I Choose a Cachet?
As noted above, the designs come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They may be printed, engraved, thermographed or produced by a variety of other methods. Some collectors make their own. One collecting challenge is to see how many different cachets can be found for a particular stamp.

How Do I Obtain FDCs?
Collectors may buy envelopes, apply the stamps and send them to the USPS for servicing (canceling). The instructions for doing this are in the USPS’s Postal Bulletin (available online) or in collector publications or websites. Or the covers may be purchased ready made from cachetmakers or stamp dealers.

First Day Cover Collecting Is...

a hands-on hobby, unlike stamp collecting, 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.

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