US Stamps

Deck cards can elevate a U.S. specialized collection

Jan 31, 2024, 10 AM
The deck card for the United States 2018 First Responders forever stamp (Scott 5316) pane of 20 was shrink-wrapped on top of a pad of 100 panes of stamps shipped to post offices.

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

Collectors of United States stamps sometimes want to go beyond just purchasing the pane of stamps at the post office when a new issue comes out.

I find myself in that camp and sometimes hunt for anything associated with that stamp issue.

Among these items are the deck cards that are placed at the top of a pad of stamps shipped to post offices. These pieces of card stock are created for all new issues and are viewed as waste or recycling by postal employees.

As such, they rarely make it out the door of a post office unless you have found a friendly postal employee to squirrel them away for you.

John Hotchner, in his U.S. Stamp Notes column in the April 29, 2019, issue of Linn’s, wrote about the labels and cards that have been used to identify bundles of stamps shipped to post offices.

He said, “From the mid-1940s into the 1950s, the BEP was specific with the labeling of stamps being shipped.” He added that the earliest report of this type of label was for the 1945 3¢ Navy stamp (Scott 935).

Hotchner also noted that in the 1950s, the BEP switched to a generic label in the color of the stamp, along with a handstamp of the issue date.

Sometime after that, the BEP moved to the process still used today. These cards typically include an image of the stamp, the item number, how many stamps are included in that pad (there can be variations of deck cards with different amounts), a barcode, and the pane position diagram from the press sheet.

You can go into the weeds on a collection of deck cards if you are lucky to get a number of them. While they are hard to come by, their value is minimal. But it’s the thrill of the chase for deck card collectors that seems to drive their interest.

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