US Stamps

COVID-19 first-day experience with Fruits and Vegetables stamps

Jul 22, 2020, 3 PM

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

The first-day-of-issue experience has changed for the moment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arnold Palmer forever stamp event on March 4 was the last formal first-day ceremony that took place in person.

Every United States stamp issued since then has had a first-day postmark, but the cancellation devices weren’t sent to the first-day cities. Instead the cancels were processed at the United States Postal Service’s Stamp Fulfillment Services cancellation unit in Kansas City, Mo.

That changed starting with the Fruits and Vegetables stamps issued July 17 in Charleston, W.Va. Because states are starting to lift restrictions and collectors are starting to venture out, the postmark device was sent to the city.

I live approximately three and a half hours from Charleston, so I decided to make the drive. As an avid first-day event attendee, I needed to experience one again as the last event I had attended was in October 2019.

The in-person event itself at the Capital Market in Charleston was canceled, but a virtual ceremony featuring two speakers was posted live at 11 a.m. on July 17. I thought it would be fun to “attend” the virtual event from the actual venue, and that’s what I did. A friend, Chris Lazaroff, also made the drive from his state of South Carolina.

Respecting local regulations, we both wore masks and remained socially distant from people.

After the virtual event, I headed to the main post office in Charleston. Local postal officials had decided to do something a little extra for the occasion. They set up a cancellation table decorated with fruits and had cookies available for customers.

I postmarked a number of items and sent them by mail to family and friends.

After acquiring the stamps, I returned to the market and thought it would be fun to try to locate all 10 produce items shown on the stamps. I was successful. Only one item wasn’t fresh; the figs were dried and in packages.

My thanks to the excellent team at the Charleston post office. They were very kind and accommodating. It was greatly appreciated.

Who knows what the future holds, but it looks like virtual ceremonies will be all collectors will have for the remainder of 2020. I would guess that the first-day postmarks will continue to be sent to cities for future events, but if you are planning on going, I recommend calling in advance to make certain.

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