Audhali

INTRODUCTION TO U.S. SPACE THEME POSTMARKS

R. Howard Courtney 

Chicago, Illinois 

September 1, 2015

Close to forty years ago I had collected Space Covers and written several price and reference lists that had sold world wide. Over time I lost interest in the collection as people began to create more and more insignificant covers for each of the launches and the value of the covers began to fall as the Apollo program was coming to an end and people stopped collecting. Sadly, it is possible to buy most of the same Space Covers today at prices below, or similar to, what they were forty some years ago. Today the common launch covers are literally a glut on the market. After trading my collection for one of a totally different subject matter I swore I would never buy another Space Cover for as long as I lived. 

Recently my interest was sparked as I was surfing the internet auctions and killing time. I was attracted by the U.S. pictorial postmarks I was seeing and looked to see what was available with a space theme as I knew they existed and always thought they were interesting. I have many small "side" collections that I turn to when I get bored with my major collections and the pictorial postmarks drew my attention as I was looking for something new to collect.

As with all of my previous catalogs (The Arab World Philatelist (journal), Dubai, Bangladesh, Space Cover Price Guides and Reference Lists, and Bangladesh Revenues), this catalog grew out of my curiosity after seeing these postmarks on the internet, and my incessant list making. Within four weeks of seeing the postmarks the catalog was started and had close to 500 illustrations and descriptions listed, and a folder full of others that needed work on them before listing. I hope to show all postmarks without any stamp images.  Some of the images have taken over an hour to create and there will certainly come a time when I am stumped and cannot "clean up" the image and will have to list it with the postage stamp and possibly part of the cachet, if such exists.

Several things I have learned in this process are that the lines of many of the postmarks are not straight, squares are often not square, and I am stumped as to why some individuals wasted their effort and stamps making some of the covers they did.

For some reason I had been under the impression that a catalog had been written years ago listing the postmarks, but I have yet to see it, nor been able to buy a copy. The title Space Related Special Postmarks from 1958 - 91, by James G. Rachman came up on the internet one time and I wrote it down,  but no one seems to know anything about it. I was later told that the author's last name is spelled Reichman and he has only written about Russian postmarks. Contact with him verified such and that is the title of his work. I have never been able to pull up the original listing, nor the name Rachman after finding it the first time. Evidently there was no catalog for these postmarks and this is the first such effort.

It is important to realize that there is a very small market for these postmarks and generally the prices are very reasonable. This could be because they are considered marginable in the field of collecting or because people do not know about them. I was astounded at the number of them I was able to find on the internet. Like virtually all subjects, once a catalog is available people become interested in the subject as they then know what exists.

Make certain you shop around for the postmarks as many stamp dealers have no idea that many of these are common and that there is little interest in them by most collectors. It is not uncommon to see the same postmark priced for less then 50 cents to $8, with most around $1 - $2.

I would like to thank Efin Sandler for his help in adding new listings and images to this catalog.


WHAT IS NOT A U.S. POST OFFICE POSTMARK

    

    


BE CAREFUL



FORMAT

Since I am a cover collector (envelopes), I was surprised to find huge numbers of pictorial postmarks (of all topics) on postal cards, as well as envelopes. Please note that "post cards" are what you buy while on vacation and you have to add a stamp to mail them and they do not have stamp images printed on them. Postal cards are sold by the Post Office with a stamp image printed on them. While I generally am not interested in those on postal cards, obviously many people are, which means they are accepted/collected in the two formats. If one takes into consideration cachets, one has more options.

The postmarks can be collected with the following options:

1.) Collected on blank postal cards and envelopes.

    

2.) Collected with cachets created "officially" for the event - usually not available on postal cards as the organizations creating them generally used envelopes or card stock. 

    

    

    

    

3.) Collected with other cachets. While one would hope they would have a "space theme", at times they do not.

    

        


STAMPS

It soon becomes evident that the right choice of stamps for the covers is important. This applies to both envelopes and postal cards.

Some people are obsessed with using space theme stamps, either singularly, or in combination with other stamps which may, or may not, be associated with the subject. Even some space theme stamps are not good for some covers as the images may be too dark, the colors gaudy, or they are of the wrong denomination, which necessitates adding more stamps to the cover. This often leads to cluttered covers.

    

While I have never sent for such postmarks, it seems obvious to me that if one uses a U.S. flag image stamp, one would always be safe. Keep in mind that the Post Office always has a U.S. flag stamp available. Obviously everyone doesn't think as I do, as evidenced by the multitude of different stamps used. 

Do not use stamps with plate numbers, selvage of the stamp sheet, etc. on your covers. They add no extra value to the cover and are a distraction.

If one is at the show where the postmark is available, try to use a single stamp and get a good impression on the cover where most of the postmark will show. Since they are "philatelic covers", it is no crime to see that the postmark is applied in the correct position on the cover, not on an angle, upside down, or on the cachet or stamps so it is not visible. 

       

    


ENVELOPES

Use a good quality standard size envelope and if you use a sticker with your address on it, make certain it is the type that can be removed without leaving a mark on the cover. It is important to remove the sticker as soon as possible, before it becomes permanently stuck to the cover, or will leave a stain when removed. Make certain the stickers are down near the bottom of the envelope as you do not want the postmark partially on the sticker so it cannot be removed. Even if they were meant to be permanent, you do not want the name sticker to bear part of the postmark.

These are philatelic covers and are not really intended for sending mail, but for collecting the postmarks. While they are valid for cancelling U.S. stamps and the envelope can be sent through the mails, they often are not. As with American First Day Covers after the 1950s, they are more desirable if unaddressed. 

Years ago I remember attending stamp shows and people getting the "souvenir" covers being sold, which, of course included a fancy postmark. I distinctly remember people going to dealers and asking for "any stamp" to put on the envelope they were going to buy and have cancelled. At the show you applied your stamp after buying the envelope, and had it cancelled. It was handed back to you and you then had your cover. Unfortunately, such covers were not valued much as they did not fit into the person's collecting field. They often ended up that box that all collectors have where they put the items they don't know what to do with, but don't want to toss out, or give away.  I think this partially explains why there are so many unattractive covers today. They were not really valued by many of those obtaining them and were purchased just because they were being sold.


OTHER

    

      

An interesting thing that I had never thought of previously, recently happened while purchasing a group of covers on the internet. When they arrived about half of them were not on envelopes, nor postal cards, but were pieces of thin card stock cut from cracker boxes and cigarette cartons. The one side was perfectly clean and in the illustration on the internet one would assume they were envelopes, but no mention was made of this in the description. They were cut near the size of postal cards. They even had generic, non space,  cachets added to them.


MULTIPLE CANCELLATIONS

    

Multiple cancellations on a cover are the choice of the collector. While we are supposed to be collecting these items for enjoyment and the learning experience, as well as a sense of accomplishment when we track down that illusive item, one must consider that there will be a time when we no longer are interested in our collections, or are unable to continue. What becomes of our efforts at that point? Do the covers end up in a dealers cheap/junk cover box, as many of these covers are today, or will they be considered good philatelic items? Bearing that in mind, try to collect neat covers that are not cluttered with stamps and cancellations. A cover with multiple cancellations, either related, or not, may not be for most people and one should remember that if creating such. This catalog was created for the postmarks for what they are, not to show relationships between events.


CACHETS

    

    

While looking for covers, if your choice is to collect them with cachets, bear in mind that often the organization that is responsible for the postmark often printed envelopes with a cachet (See top of this page for numerous illustrations). It is generally the "shows" that offer the printed envelopes, not the major sites for the launches, nor the NASA facilities. These cachets often tell more about the event, such as duration, location, the theme, etc.. than the postmarks do.  At times the postmark may be the same for the duration of the show, as illustrated below.

                 

                      

                    ‚Äč    

Many of the larger shows had a different postmark created for each day of the show. Often when that was the case, the themes were different. This catalog only lists the postmark that is space related and ignores the others. 

 

   

Some collectors have used older First Day Cover envelopes that were not used at the time, and had them cancelled with the postmark. In most instances the envelopes/cachets had space themes.

                       

With today's technology, many cachets are computer-generated and are generally done by people with artistic talent. Often they may be somewhat generic in their message and usually have colored photos. With the technology available today they can be done by just about anyone with a computer and a printer. Individuals may get a handfull of envelopes cancelled and then later design and print the cachet. Because of this, often more than one cachet is created by different people for the same postmark. These computer generated cachets seldom include the information on the "official" envelopes, if such were created for the event.

    

In the instance where the same postmark is used over a period of time for similar events such as launchings, or landings of spacecraft, there are seldom official cachets/envelopes prepared and one sees many different cachets created by various people. Without their efforts, there would not be any cachets on the envelopes.


UNUSUAL ITEMS




Space Postmarks 1958 - 1979

Space Postmarks 1980 - 1989

Space Postmarks 1990 - 1999

Space Postmarks 2000 - 2009

Space Postmarks 2010 - Present

Slogan and Hand Cancellations

Meters