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What is a First Day Cover?

What is a First Day Cover?

A First Day Cover (FDC) is an envelope or card bearing a stamp that is cancelled on the day the stamp is initially placed on sale by postal authorities.


A FDC with the $9.35 Express Mail stamp (A) is shown with a Kennedy Space Center, FL First Day Of Issue cancel (B) and a cachet (C), -- pronounced ka-shay--, which tells us something about the stamp.  The maker of the cover is usually somewhere on the cover. (D)


$9.35 Priority Mail fdc

Where are stamps first sold?

In the United States the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) may designate one or more cities as the "official" release site -- the location where the new stamp is first released to the public. The location is usually appropriate to the subject of the stamp.


The 1993 "Elvis" fdc of the Legends of American Music Series illustrated, was released jointly in Cleveland, Ohio and Santa Monica, CA. Cities whose names are associated with Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues. This fdc cancel because of its guitar in the killer bar is also called a "pictorial" cancel.


Elvis Prestly fdc

When are FDC’s prepared?

A specific day is selected for release of the new stamp, one which is usually significant to the subject -- such as the George M. Cohen stamp issued on the 100th anniversary of his birth, July 3, 1878 in Providence, RI. On the day following the First Day, the stamp is available virtually everywhere in the country.


George M. Cohen fdc

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. Illustrated program folders 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 these two Colorano and Collins Duck Stamp fdc's used for comparison. The choice adds an exciting dimension to the hobby.


Migratory Birds/Colorano


Top fdc is a full color, "silk" cachet by Colorano

Bottom fdc is a hand painted cachet by Collins


Migratory Birds/Collins

How do I choose a cachet?

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 envelopes. One collecting challenge is to see how many different cachets can be found for a particular stamp.

How do I obtain FDC’s?

Collectors may buy envelopes and send them to the USPS for servicing (canceling). The instructions for doing this are in your local Post Office. Or the covers may be purchased ready made from stamp dealers like Knottywood-Treasures.

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.

This slightly modified "What's a First Day Cover" came from the American First Day Cover Society home page. See my "Favorite Sites" page for a link to their web site.


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What is a Setenant First Day Cover?

A First Day Cover (FDC) that contains two or more attached stamps with different designs when applied and cancelled on one cover is said to be a setenant cover. First Day Covers are generally made for the single stamps of the set, each on it's own cover and the setenant group of stamps on one cover. Illustrated is the Dogs issue of 1984 showing the 4 attached setenant Dog stamps.

1984 Dogs Setenant block on cover

Why are there so many different Scott numbers for the same stamp? All the fdc's look the same.

At first sight the stamps may seem the same but every Scott numbered stamp has identifiable differences. Different perforation sizes, adhesive or physical appearance are a few of the reasons. Also a sheet stamp, coil, or booklet stamp have different configurations of edges perforated or straight edged which again makes a different Scott number. The description usually explains the difference.

What is a PNC

In first day covers it actually has two meanings. The first use is for a Philatelic-Numismatic Combination. This is an fdc and coin combo. The illustrated 1610A, $1.00 lamp combo with $1.00 Susan B. Anthony $1.00 coin is an example of this. (Both the stamp and coin were issued the same day.)

Susan B. Anthony PNC

The second meaning for a PNC is a Plate Numbered Coil. This is a strip of coil stamps or the top of a booklet pane which shows the printing numbers. These are very small numbers underneath or on top of the stamp design and denote the printing plates used to make the stamp. There are also items called Line Pairs, these are older coil stamps that had a line marked between two stamps at intervals where the large mattes were joined together on the printing drum.

Both LP's and PNC's occur far less frequently the normal stamps and are therefore in shorter supply and in greater demand. I have illustrated a cross over fdc that shows both the LP and the PNC.

Surrey Regular Issue Line Pair with Number

What is a Maxi-Card?

Maxi Cards were made by Colorano between 1965 (Chrurchill) and 1971 (Gen.MacArthur). These were made in quantities of 1,200 to 2,400 for each commemorative stamp issued. They were fazed out when Colorano made their first FDC for American Wool in 1971. Shown below is C76, the first man on the moon with the moon landing hand cancel and the Washington, DC hand cancel. Maxi cards have a printed cachet.

First Man on the Moon Maxi-Card

What is a Souvenir Card?

Souvenir cards were introduced along with FDC's in 1971 for American Wool by Colorano. They were made to continue supplying his collectors with a card format like the Maxi Cards which Colorano was discontinuing. The s/card and the FDC has the same "silk" cachet, stamp(s) and cancel(s). The only difference is the format: The fdc is an envelope and the s/card is like a post card. Shown below is one of Colorano's early s/cards, Scott 1432, American Revolution Bicentennial.

US1423 American Revolution s/card

What is an Event Cover?

An Event Cover is made to mark an important event in history. Both Colorano and Collins make Event Covers. Typical event covers are made for: Aviation, Entertainment, Military, Philatelic, Political, Railroad, Royalty, Space, Sports, and Miscellaneous events like the 2000 Millennium! Pictured is "Nixon Resigns". Events usually have a descriptive write-up to explain the event.

Nixon Resigns Event Cover

Why is one cover $100.00 and another $2.50?

First Day Covers are a collectable, like stamps and coins. The cost of a cover depends on supply and demand.

If you would like to see other FDC words explained and/or illustrated, please send me an e-mail note or place your comment in the Guest Book on the home page.


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