COLLECTING BRITISH FIRST DAY COVERS
By Steven Scott of the Stamp Centre London
POSTMARK VARIATIONS. (July 2000)
For many FDC collectors it is the variety of postmarks that serve as a focus of their collecting. Even as far back as 1924 there was a choice of three different styles provided by the Post Office as SPECIAL POSTMARKS for the celebrated occasion of the 1924 Wembley Exhibition. When the term SPECIAL is used, this generally refers to an elaborately designed hand-stamp made available specifically by the Post Office to commemorate a significant occasion, as opposed to whatever other postmark might randomly appear. By contrast no such special postmarks were available for the three issues being the 1929 Postal Union Congress. 1935 Silver Jubilee or the 1937 Coronation issues. This is where collector/dealer ingenuity begins to surface to provide diversity and interest otherwise not present. Relevant local postmarks properly connected to the issue become sought after. So for example a WINDSOR C.D.S. (Counter date stamp) on the Royalty related cover commands a substantial premium as does a WEMBLEY C.D.S. on the 1948 Olympics issue - being the principal venue.
Most of the obvious postmarks are catalogued, but that is not to say that your own perception of what is obvious should be neglected. Catalogues are only as good as the information at the editor's disposal. Whilst most of the special hand-stamps are a matter of record this is not to so for C.D.S. postmarks (or even slogan and metermark cancellations. The existence of these is determined entirely by whether someone wittingly (and sometimes unwittingly) posted a cover from the right place on the right day (i.e First day of issue).
Nowadays it is not uncommon for twenty special postmarks to exist for each new set of stamps. Until 1968 there were often no more than twenty a year. The proliferation is mainly due to the "sponsoring" of such postmarks which - for a fee - is a service available to anyone to effect.
All special postmarks are now announced in a regular Bulletin produced by the Royal Mail, so that collectors are:
A) Aware of these
B) Able to acquire at source covers cancelled by the full range of designs available.
In practice most collectors prefer to buy their covers directly from the stamp dealers associated with postmarks. Several larger Companies will service standing orders for their products ensuring that the collector does not miss out on any of a series. for the enthusiast wishing to work backwards to acquire earlier covers there are various sources. Several dealers run postal auctions and bid sales offering covers from "yesteryear". this is a regular and reliable means of adding to your collection. We at the STAMP CENTRE LONDON offer in the region 1,000 covers per month in our BID/BUY cover sale and other dealers offer a similar service. Stamp shops and stamp fairs are your best bet thereafter.
The cost of covers with special postmarks is not prohibitive, although scarce covers can command hundreds of pounds. good examples of genuinely difficult cancellations appear on the 1968 and 1969 Anniversaries (NOTE: full sets of stamps only) and the GB 1971 Ulster paintings issue. Check the catalogues if in doubt. Equally don't be surprised to be offered highly attractive covers with special postmarks from £1 upwards. Overproduction in the late 70's and early 80's has ensured that collecting can be fun whatever the budget.
Another feature of cover production would surface as a response to the large quantities of covers processed. Those dealers sponsoring postmarks began to produce their own limited edition envelopes. A two tier system developed: The OFFICIAL cover - a Combination of sponsored postmark on the sponsors own design envelope, and the non official cover bearing the sane postmark. The former would generally be a fixed quantity, whereas no limit could be put on latter, as anyone is entitled to submit an envelope for the same special postmark, in any quantity.
The collecting of OFFICIAL covers as defined above is now one of the strongest areas within the First Day cover World. Enthusiasts recognise that a cover limited to 500 to 1,000 examples has far greater potential than one unlimited in production.
Copyright: Steven Scott 2000. First published in Stamp & Postcard Gazette May 2000
If you Would you like a copy of the Steven Scott FDC Bid Buy Catalogue email your name and address or visit the Stamp Centre London Web site
WEB SITES TO VISIT ABOUT COLLECTING GB FIRST DAY COVERS
|SIGNED COVERS AND POSTCARDS|
|MARK SARGENT FIRST DAY COVERS||ASSOCIATION OF GB FIRST DAY COVER COLLECTORS|