By Michael Baadke
Everyone knows that stamp collectors collect postage stamps, but most of them don't stop there. Other collectibles, such as souvenir pages and first-day ceremony programs, are of interest to many.
Many of these collectibles are created specifically for stamp collectors by postal authorities. Over the years collectors have developed an enduring interest in a few of the ancillary items offered by postal authorities.It's a little unusual to find a stamp collector who saves postage stamps and nothing more. Most of us who find stamps appealing also are enticed by the wide selection of stamp hobby souvenirs that are created for collectors.
In some cases, collector interest groups have developed among individuals who find a particular kind of item appealing.
Collectors of United States stamps find some of these items listed in the ScottSpecialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers. Although it mainly lists U.S. stamps and postal stationery, the Scott U.S. specialized catalog also includes related collectibles such as souvenir pages, commemorative panels and souvenir cards.
Souvenir pages and commemorative panels were both introduced by the U.S. Postal Service as items for sale to collectors in 1972.
Souvenir pages are actually a little older, for they evolved from new-issue bulletins that were tacked up in post offices to inform customers of the latest stamps that were available for purchase.
An example of a souvenir page is shown at left in Figure 1. The page announces the issuance of the 25¢ Ernest Hemingway commemorative stamp of 1989, Scott 2418.
A slightly enlarged picture of the stamp is shown at the top of the page. Below it is printed technical information about the stamp, including the issue date and city, the artists involved in creating the design, printing details and more.
Text describing the stamp and telling a little bit about the subject, author Ernest Hemingway, also appears on the page. Finally, an actual Hemingway stamp is affixed to the page near the bottom, and is postmarked with the July 17, 1989, first-day-of-issue cancellation from Key West, Fla.
The Scott U.S. specialized catalog divides souvenir pages into two primary categories, "unofficial souvenir pages" and "official souvenir pages." The official pages are those specifically issued for and sold to collectors by subscription.
The Scott catalog provides catalog numbers, descriptions and values for more than 1,300 different souvenir pages. In the 2001 Scott U.S. specialized catalog, the Hemingway souvenir page is listed as Scott SP857 with a value of $1.60, one of the lowest values of all the pages. The page with the highest value is an early issue, the 1972 8¢ Family Planning page, which has a catalog value of $500.
Souvenir pages measure 8-inches by 10½-inches and are printed on office-type paper tinted in various colors.
USPS commemorative panels share some characteristics of the souvenir page. Text describes the stamp's subject matter, and actual stamps are part of the deal. However, the commemorative panel includes mint stamps housed in a transparent mount affixed to the page. The stamps are not postmarked.
The panel is slightly larger than the souvenir page and includes steel-engraved designs related to the theme of the stamps. Shown at right in Figure 1 is a 1989 commemorative panel for the two America issues from that year: the 25¢ and 45¢ pre-Columbian artifacts stamps. As the example shows, actual stamps are usually provided in blocks of four.
Because of the intaglio (engraved) printing, the commemorative panels are printed on much sturdier paper stock than the souvenir pages.
Souvenir pages and commemorative panels are created for most U.S. commemorative stamps issued today. Collectors can enroll in subscription programs for either item through USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services, Box 219424, Kansas City, MO 64121-9424. Details also are available by calling toll-free 800-782-6724.
If you've ever been to a first-day ceremony for a U.S. stamp, you've probably received a ceremony program created by the Postal Service and distributed free to all who attend.
Figure 2 shows a ceremony program for the 32¢ Folk Heroes commemoratives issued July 11, 1996. Inside the program is a block of the new stamps postmarked on the day of issue.
Ceremony programs for single-design stamp issues usually include only one stamp. The same is true for most issues made up of many stamps with different designs, such as a pane of 20 different stamps.
The programs are usually attractively designed with illustrations that highlight the subject of the stamp. Details inside the program list featured speakers and special guests, and may give background information about the stamps. Some collectors like to have the various speakers autograph the inside of the program.
Since collectors aren't able to attend every first-day ceremony sponsored by the Postal Service, a subscription service also is offered for those interested in collecting ceremony programs. Details are available from USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services at the address and telephone number provided previously.
Souvenir cards are a little more difficult to define than souvenir pages, commemorative panels and first-day ceremony programs. The Scott catalog describes them as souvenirs of the philatelic gatherings at which they were distributed by the USPS, its predecessor the United States Post Office Department, or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Most of the cards bear reproductions of U.S. stamps with the design enlarged, altered by removal of denomination and country name or defaced with diagonal bars.
The souvenir card shown in Figure 3 was issued in 1983 by the BEP at a stamp show in Boston. The design reproduces two engraved stamps from 1932 commemorating the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Collectors regularly see special show cards offered for sale at large stamp shows, but the Scott catalog specifically lists only those items created and sold by the USPS or BEP at these gatherings. Of course, the collector is free to add to his collection any show or souvenir card that he finds to be of interest.
The souvenir card programs of USPS and BEP have slowed considerably in recent years. The last listing in the Scott U.S. specialized catalog is for a single card issued in 1999 during the Philadelphia National Stamp Exhibition.
Because these souvenir cards include intaglio engraved images, USPS and BEP use special card stock sturdy enough to withstand the great pressure of intaglio printing.
Older items described in this article can be purchased through stamp dealers who specialize in these products. Collectors often trade or buy and sell items through contacts made in specialist societies. Information about these groups can be found below.
There are many other kinds of stamp hobby souvenirs that catch the interests of collectors, including first-day covers, stamp show covers, event covers with commemorative cancels, and the like.
It's apparent that once a person gets immersed in the stamp hobby, collecting these associated items has tremendous appeal.
Where to go for more information
Members of the following collector societies share interests in the items described in this article. Please enclose an addressed, stamped envelope when requesting membership information.