How to Service Quantities of
Revised February 2009
First Day Covers
(Click Pictures for Full Size View and More Information)
Do-it-yourself first day cover collectors in this country have 60 days usually after the official date to submit their FDCs for cancellation.
However, dealers, servicers, and cachetmakers registered with Cancellation Services at the Stamp Fulfillment Services center in Kansas City get 120 days to submit their covers, although there are some other differences.
First, when a collector submits his FDCs to the first day city, he pays postage one-way, to that city. The postage on his covers can carry them back to him. Covers submitted to Kansas City must have their postage paid both ways, over and above whatever is on them.
Second, a collector can send in as few as one cover for servicing (although smart ones usually submit at least two, one as a back-up). Registered servicers must submit 50 or more.
And third, a collector doesn't have to fill out any paperwork, and registered servicers do when they send batches of 50 or more covers to Cancellation Service.
All collectors now pay five cents per cancellation in excess of 50 for certain types of cancellations, and that includes each "strike" on a cover that requires multiple cancels (such as a block of eight or a full sheet).
To become a registered dealer/cachetmaker, you should write a letter to the Supervisor, Cancellation Services, Stamp Fulfillment Services, Post Office Box 449992, Kansas City, MO 64144-9992, and tell about how many covers you expect to submit each time. There is no registration fee or secret oath, but you will be sent some invoice forms ("work orders") to use when submitting your covers.
After you submit the request to become a registered dealer/cachetmaker, you must submit two orders of 50 or more covers before you officially become one.
The minimum for Priority and Express Mail issues, however, is 10 covers, not 50 covers.
The minimum for Digital Color Postmarks is 10 issues. There is a charge of 50 cents per cancel, regardless of quantity.
Dealers and collectors can include self-addressed stamp envelopes for the return of their covers, but dealers may also pay for return postage, either by check or on account. If your package cost $4.95 Priority Mail to send TO Kansas City, it will cost $4.95 to send it FROM there.
You can combine different issues with the same date and city (such as Express Mail and Priority Mail stamps issued on the same day and place) in one shipment, and you can combine requests for different cities for the same issue (such as a stamp that has more than one first-day city; 2004's Lewis & Clark, e.g.), but otherwise, you are not supposed to combine issues in one shipment.
Once a dealer-servicer (cachetmaker) has submitted a request for 50 or postmarks for an issue to Cancellation Services for servicing, he or she can submit additional groups of less than 50 covers for that issue.
Keep in mind, however, that Express Mail is insured, while Priority Mail isn't. Postal insurance can be added at extra cost.
Cancellation Services gives first priority to shipments that come in and go out via Express Mail; second priority goes to Priority Mail; and third priority is everything else.
If registered with SFS, send your first day covers to the address above, Collectors, on the other hand, must submit their FDCs to the first-day city, which then forwards the requests to Kansas City. That adds to the turnaround time for collector orders another advantage for registered servicers.
I have found the cancellations applied in Kansas City are usually better-looking than those provided on-site at first day ceremonies. The staff at Cancellation Services cancels covers constantly, consistently and conscientiously, while the clerks at a first day may never have seen a first day cover. Even the ink may be better: Cancellation Services uses a fast-drying rubber-stamp ink for its cancellations.
When I prepare maximum cards (picture postcards with the stamps and cancellations on their face side) or other "esoterica" (unusual items), I always try to submit them to Kansas City. Not only is the service better, but there's time to allow the items to dry before packing them up. I have had my Dragon Cards swiped by passers-by while they were lying on the servicing table at a first day!
For some of the major shows, like the Mega-Events in New York, the American Philatelic Society's "StampShows," or a decennial international exposition held in the United States, Cancellation Services may dispatch some of its crew to service covers at the show. Sometimes the cancelers are both imports and locals: At Pacific 97, the left side of the booth had clerks from San Francisco, the right side, from Kansas City. During peak periods, the Cancellation Services people handled large orders, while the Californians did individual covers.
However, if a stamp is being issued at a stamp show, and you want that special cancellation on your first day covers, you'd better take or send your covers to that city. Generally, Cancellation Services can't provide show cancels, nor other pictorial postmarks. The exception is for pictorial first day cancels, such as that used for the 2009 Abraham Lincoln stamps.
The department gets backed up from time to time, usually right after popular stamps are issued, and also after the rate change issues come out in the spring.
Registered servicers pay for hand cancels, even though many of them are applied by machine ("rubber composition" is a more-accurate term, and they are called "rubber" on the SFS work orders). There is no charge for "machine cancels" (actually "steel die" cancels, called "metal" on the work orders). Other cancellations available in Kansas City include the small Circular Date Stamp ("CDS"), which consists of a single-rim circle with the city and date in it. Postmark rules whether in the Caves or elsewhere stipulate that a FDOI cancel can be used only once on an item. If additional cancels are needed, the CDS will be used. It is considered a hand cancel, and there is a charge for it.
I've also noticed that if I manage to get my covers submitted soon after the stamps are issued (a rare occurrence!), I get them back much more quickly than if I take longer. If applying the stamps to the covers is delaying you, you might want to submit a small batch first, just so you can have some samples for sale sooner.
by Lloyd A. de Vries
Revised February 2009 with help from Foster E. Miller III
Revised February 1999
© 1998, 1999, 2009 Lloyd A. de Vries
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