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Space Covers... What are they?

Basically there are two types of space covers:

ballCommemorative Event Covers
ballFirst Day Covers

Space Commemorative Event Covers:

Space commemorative event covers are commemorative envelopes that are 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 kind of cover.

Some 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. So there are all types of event covers in existence. Some have special postal cancellations, some do not.

Space First Day Covers:

Space first day covers are made when the U.S. Postal Service issues a new space stamp. One or more of these stamps are affixed to the envelope and they receive 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 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 their FDCs or commemorative event covers which can also receive the first day of issue cancellation or other postal cancellation. This makes an unusual cover when foreign stamps are affixed that relate to the event being commemorated. I don't know if there is a name for this type of cover, I just call it a "special" kind of a cover!

Space Covers have a Cachet:

A Cachet is some sort of picture with text explaining the event that occurred. Cachets can be printed on the envelope, a label that is attached to the envelope, or an attractive one-color illustration using a rubber stamper. 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 set rule. A cachet could make up the whole front side of the envelope too, and this would be called 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 what the significance of the date is, otherwise one would not know what the cover is being issued for.

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


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