Why Collect Covers?

When one collects covers one is collecting postal history; be it ancient or modern. A stamp is a stamp; a cover tells a story. Covers are collected to show the usage of stamps for a specific postal rate, to show postal markings, to depict originating or receiving postmarks, to show a unique routing, to illustrate special handling such as civil or military censorship, to document exotic destinations, to commemorate special events or to illustrate advertising. Envelops or postal stationery with special advertising are known as "corner cards." One can find advertising covers with illustrations on either the front or back side of the cover.

Covers are used in philatelic exhibits to document or illustrate usage, rates, thematic or topical subjects, or historical events. Collectors distinguish between made-to-order philatelic covers (like a First Day of Issue or over-franked item) and commercial usage. A First Day of Issue Cover or "FDC" is a very popular sub category of cover collecting. One usually finds a cachet on the left side of the envelope that illustrates the subject of the new stamp or postal stationery item. Major stamp catalogues like Scott in the United States give a separate valuation for FDC's along with a value for the individual item in a mint (nonpostally used) or used condition.

How should covers be collected?

Just like with stamps, covers can be damaged if one is not careful when opening or storing them. Generally, a collector will use a sharp knife or scissors to open a cover in order to read the contents. A torn cover is not very desirable to a collector. Once one has removed the contents, it is usually wise to put a stiff filler inside of it (cut as close to the actual size as possible) in order to prevent the envelope from being bent or folded. In addition, covers are usually protected from handling problems by storing them in some type of clear plastic, acid-free protector that permits the viewing of the front and back side of the item.

Collecting covers can be fun. Not only do you document a little bit of history, you learn about geography, famous people or places, and also what life was like at some point in the past. Maybe you should look a little closer at that mail you received today.

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