US Stamps

Lloyd de Vries

Tracing the history of FDCs from 1939 to 2015

February 13, 2017 07:00 PM

  • Now in its sixth edition, Martin Severe’s catalog of ArtCraft first-day covers lists and values more than 15,000 varieties of the beloved cachet line.

By Lloyd de Vries

For most of their 75-plus years of production, ArtCraft cacheted covers produced by Washington Stamp Exchange were victims of their own success.

Their high-quality production and professional artwork made the FDCs so popular that pretty soon ArtCraft FDCs were everywhere, and the resale prices for them plummeted.

Washington Stamp Exchange produced covers in varieties and sometimes even completely different designs for many stamp issues over the years. (WSE is still in operation, under the ownership of the founding family.)

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With thousands of issues since the first ArtCraft cover in 1939 (for the New York World’s Fair stamp, Scott 853), the cachet line is fertile ground for a specialized collection or exhibit.

For those so inclined, The Comprehensive Listing of ArtCraft Covers Their Varieties and Values 1939-2015, by Martin L. Severe (Rockville, Md.: PoppyGun, Inc.), is the bible. The catalog’s recently published sixth edition concludes with the final ArtCraft issue: Geometric Snowflakes, Scott 5031-5034, issued Oct. 23, 2015.

Severe has attempted to list every ArtCraft cachet, including varieties, and says he has documented considerably more than 15,000 different varieties.

This book might well be complete, and undoubtedly is more complete than any other major cachet catalog. However, the history of cachet catalogs is that new material often comes to light after publication.

Given the near-completeness of the ArtCraft catalog, the next step for future editions might be to include illustrations, so that readers can see the differences between cover variations. Color illustrations would be a bonus, because ArtCraft cachets sometimes were produced in an ink color other than black.

Given the advancements in publishing and printing since the first edition of this catalog in 1992, these enhancements might be feasible, and certainly would make the catalog an even more valuable reference.

The catalog is available for $34.95; email for more info.