Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cachets and First Day Covers

My father was fond of saying, "Well, you learn something new everyday", and I would add that some days you meet people who do the most interesting things everyday. Today, I learned that the CACHET on a First Day of Issue Cover is the graphic that often graces the envelope which is affixed with a first day of issue stamp. I had a hobby of collecting stamps as a kid. And even today, I will tear off every commemorative stamp I receive on a piece of mail and throw into a box. One of these days I will put them in a stamp album. So, when the post office issued a First Day stamp honoring newspaper boys years ago- about 50 years ago actually- I just had to have it because I was in fact a newspaper boy. And as the cachet suggested I was "devoted to the task of preparing myself to be a useful, responsible citizen" - I guess by delivering newspapers ... responsibly. Ahhh, the good old days.

Incidentally, this First Day of Issue cover was mailed to me in Bethesda, MD by no less than the President of the Washington (now defunct) Evening Star- Mr. Samuel H. Kauffmann. Inside was a congratulatory/ inspirational message from the man himself. During the summer, I supplemented my teenage income as a responsible citizen and golf caddy at the Chevy Chase Country Club, of which Mr. Kauffman was a member. Never caddied for him though. Can I use "caddy" as a verb? (I just did).

Getting around to my story, I replied to a query on the message board of the Clearfield County (PA) Historical Society. After a few emails and figuring out our genealogical relationship, my correspondent, Grant, told me that his past time- besides genealogy- was being one of about 600 cachet makers in the country. He even sent me some images of his work. Here, let him speak for himself:

"On the first day the US Postal Service releases a new stamp, they often have a special first day ceremony. But regardless, they do offer a "FIRST DAY OF ISSUE" cancellation for the stamp being released. Cachetmakers- beginning about 1945 or so- began adding graphics or related artwork to an envelope on which they affixed the new stamp (s). This evolved to the point today where there are some very elaborate hand-painted cachets. There are probably about 600 or so active cachetmakers. I joined their ranks last year when a stamp called Polar Lights was issued on October 1, 2007. Actually two stamps to this issue- one Aurora Borealis and one Aurora Australis. I met Per-Andre Hoffmann over the Internet earlier in 2007. Per-Andre is a professional photographer whose photo was used to create the Aurora Australis stamp. I had become intrigued with First Day Covers during the past 2 years or so, and decided to take the plunge and try my hand at producing one. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and so I have continued."

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