A commemorative stamp is a postage stamp issued to honor or commemorate a
place, event or person.
The first day of issue is the day on which a
postal card or
stamped envelope is put on sale, within the country or territory of the
stamp-issuing authority. Sometimes the issue is made from a temporary or
permanent foreign or overseas office. There will usually be a first day of issue
pictorial cancellation, indicating the city and date where the item was
first issued, and "first day of issue" is often used to refer to this postmark.
A first day cover (FDC) is an envelope where the postage stamps have
been cancelled on their first day of issue. Depending on the policy of the
nation issuing the stamp, official first day postmarks may sometimes be applied
to covers weeks or months after the date indicated.
Unofficial first day of issue postmarks can also occur when a stamp collector
purchases the stamps in question from a post office in the first day of issue
city and then takes them (on that same day) to a post office in another city to
have them cancelled, or when stamps are affixed to envelopes that are simply
dropped into the mail stream on the first day and receive that day's normal
(Computer vended postage stamps issued by Neopost had first-day-of-issue
ceremonies sponsored by the company, not by an official stamp-issuing entity.
Personalized postage stamps of different designs are sometimes also given
first-day-of-issue ceremonies and cancellations by the private designer. The
stamps issued by private local posts can also have first days of issue, as can
Postal authorities may hold a first day ceremony to generate publicity
for the new issue, with postal officials revealing the stamp, and with connected
persons in attendance, such as descendants of the person being honored by the
stamp. The ceremony may also be held in a location that has a special connection
with the stamp's subject, such as the birthplace of a social movement, or at a
Event covers, instead of marking the issuance of a stamp, commemorate events
both big (say, the launching of a space shuttle) and small (say, the opening of
a supermarket). A design on the left side of the envelope (a "cachet") explains
the event or anniversary being celebrated. Ideally the stamp or stamps affixed
relate to the event. Cancels are obtained either from the location (e.g., Cape
Canaveral, Anytown) or, in the case of the United States, from the Postal
Service's Cancellation Services unit in Kansas City.
The earliest known use (EKU) of a stamp may or may not be the same as
the first day of issue. This can happen in several ways:
- Stamps may be inadvertently sold or stolen, and cancelled on an envelope
or package by unaware postal officials prior to the first day of issue.
- Minor changes, such as a different perforation, may not be noted by
officials, and no one knows when they first went on sale. This is also true of
some major stamp issues, especially during periods of civil unrest or if
government records have been lost.
- Some earlier stamps, especially high values, may not have found any
customers using them on the day of issue, or those uses have been lost. EKUs
for these may be weeks or even months after the official first day.
The search for EKUs of both old and new stamps is an active area of
philately, and new discoveries are regularly announced.
First day digital color postmark
ArtCraft First Day Cover with Digital Color Postmark
In 2004 the
United States Postal Service announced plans to introduce first day digital
color postmarks to be used to cancel some first day covers for commemorative
stamps in 2005.
The postmarks are designed by the artist or art director who designed the stamp
The Digital Color Postmark is still used on select issues. For example, the
41 cent Year of the Rat stamp issued on January 9, 2008 was available in Digital