By Lloyd de Vries
A surprise for collectors and servicers of United States first-day covers: We are pretty much done for the year.
Before the American Philatelic Society’s Stampshow 2015 last month, in Grand Rapids, there had been one commemorative and one definitive issue listed for the last four months of this year.
At Stampshow, Mary-Anne Penner, the new acting director of the U.S. Postal Service’s Stamp Services department, announced three additions to the 2015 program, and said there won’t be any more.
One of the new entries was a new version of the Neon Celebrate stamp (Sept. 9). The other two are holiday issues: A Charlie Brown Christmas (Oct. 1) and Geometric Snowflakes (Oct. 23).
No surprise issue in December. No special stamp available only with the $70 purchase of the USPS Stamp Yearbook. No additional Christmas stamps. No second Music Icon. No Johnny Carson, Steve Jobs, Latino Baseball or any of the other subjects on the secret list leaked to the Washington Post at the beginning of last year.
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Most people probably have a favorite on the preceding list of subjects that won’t be issued this year; however, most cachetmakers, certainly, are relieved to have a little time to catch up before the treadmill starts again.
Collectors seemed pleased with what they heard from Penner at Stampshow: more cooperation with philately, improvements in stamp distribution, single-stamp sales, more information sooner, and maybe even soakable stamps again.
However, one of the announced 2016 issues may be a problem for servicers and cachetmakers: Pets.
There are 20 different designs in this issue. The face value will be close to $10 ($9.80 at today’s first-class rate), putting a finished FDC beyond the budget of many casual collectors.
A set of 20 different covers will have the same collective face value, but presents another problem: Some customers will want an FDC only for a specific animal. The dog and cat stamps will be easy to sell, but a corn snake? There isn’t likely to be anywhere near as much demand for that.
A solution may be to service FDCs only of the most popular pets, charge a little more for them, and use or sell the rest of the stamps for postage.
FDC dealers have found that a set of 50 State Flag or Flower FDCs can be a tough sell at $50 (a per-piece cost of $1 a cover), but covers for individual states might sell for $3 each.
However, FDC collectors — and stamp collectors in general — have to remember that they are not the primary target of the U.S. stamp program. The general public is.
The Pets stamps will get a lot of attention and provide many opportunities for extra publicity.
Also, based on an unscientific sampling of early reaction online, next year’s Black Heritage stamp, for African Methodist Episcopal Church founder Richard Allen, might be very popular, and might even attract some noncollectors into the hobby.
Encouraging FDC exhibiting
At the urging of John M. Hotchner, past president of the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors, some of the top exhibitors of first-day covers have put together a flyer to encourage more FDC exhibiting. Plans for its production and distribution are being made now. You should be able to obtain copies shortly from either the AAPE or the American First Day Cover Society.
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