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How to Collect Space Covers

Space covers are broken into two categories:

  • Commemorative Event Covers
  • First Day Covers

Space Commemorative Event Covers:

Space commemorative event covers are envelopes postmarked on the day a space event occurs.  The preferred postmark is usually from the area where the event occurred.  Any first class stamp can be on this type of cover.

Typical examples of space commemorative event covers are:

  • Covers for the flight of a planetary spacecraft: The first event would be the launching. Other postmarked covers would be significant events that occur during the flight of that spacecraft, such as arrival at a particular planet; taking first pictures, closest approach to the planet, etc.
  • Covers for a manned space flight:  The first event would be for the launching.  Other postmarked covers could be for orbital insertion; a space walk; orbiting the Moon; landing on the Moon; first step on the Moon; coming back to Earth; splashdown of the space capsule; recovery of the capsule and the astronauts, etc.  Covers might also be issued for important pre-launch and post-landing events.
  • Additional space commemorative event covers could be from participating tracking stations, tracking ships, recovery ships, land recovery operation headquarters, etc.

There might be just one or two event covers for a particular space flight, such as a missile launch (and possibly its recovery).

Space commemorative event covers can also include covers with special cancels, such as for space trek conventions, cancels honoring previous astronauts or space anniversaries, etc.  Some commemorative covers have special postal cancellations, some do not.

Space First Day Covers:

Space first day covers are made when a postal administration issues a new space-related stamp.  One or more of these stamps are affixed to the envelope and it receives a special postal service cancellation reading "First Day of Issue." These covers can be collected with a single stamp affixed, pairs of stamps, blocks of four, plate blocks of four, etc.  Foreign FDCs may or may not have specific first day of issue cancellations. Also, additional unused stamps previously issued can be affixed to the U.S. envelope to receive the "First Day of Issue" cancel, too.  These are called combination (stamped) first day covers.

In the United States, one can affix unused foreign stamps to FDCs or commemorative event covers, along with proper U.S. postage, which can also receive the first day of issue or other postal cancellation.  Foreign stamps relating to a space event, used along with U.S. stamps on a cover, makes an unusual item.

Space Covers have a Cachet:

A Cachet is some sort of illustration and/or text explaining or relating to the event that occurred.  Cachets may be printed on the envelope, a label attached to the envelope, or an attractive one-color illustration using a rubber stamp.  Some cachets are quite elaborate, such as multicolored printing on silk and then affixed to the envelope.

Most cachets are placed on the left side of the envelope, however this is not a requirement.  A cachet could make up the whole front side of the envelope, know as an overall cachet.

Most space covers will have a cachet.  If it is a space commemorative event cover, it would need some sort of a cachet to tell the significance of the date. Otherwise, there would be no way to know the reason for the commemoration.

Space first day covers do not need a cachet, however, since a collector can look at the cancellation and see that it reads "First Day Of Issue." But most collectors prefer a cachet on their covers, and there are many collectors who try to collect as many different cachets for a particular space stamp.

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