Saturday, February 2, 2013

A few captivating vintage stamps, including one for Project Mercury

Project Mercury

This Project Mercury stamp was postmarked at 11 p.m. on February 20, 1962, in Baltimore, Maryland. That's the date of John Glenn's historic Friendship 7 orbital space flight.

According to Joe Frasketi's Space Covers:
"305 post offices all over the country released the Project Mercury stamp for sale to the public at 3:30 p.m. upon the successful splashdown of astronaut John Glenn Jr. This stamp was designed and printed in secret and distributed to the 305 post offices. Even these post offices did not know what they had received until word was given to open the packages and put the stamps on sale. Since this was a surprise stamp issue, many post offices only had the stamps on sale for a couple of hours. Collectors did not have much time to prepare first day covers and they used whatever envelopes were handy."

Joe Frasketi's website contains much more information about this stamp, and I recommend that you check it out.

More great information about the stamp's history can be found within this article. Here are some fun tidbits:
  • "The Post Office Department wanted to keep the stamp a secret in case the mission failed. Keeping the production and distribution of more than one million postage stamps a surprise though, required some creative logistics."
  • "The stamp's designer, Charles Chickering, worked from home to create the blue and yellow depiction of Friendship 7 circling the Earth while all along claiming to be on vacation. The picture engraver also gave the impression he was on leave, but came in at night. Another engraver who did the lettering worked on weekends."
  • "Without a way to coordinate nationwide, collectors couldn't know however if such 'first day covers' existed for all 305 stations. To this day, 50 years later, as many as 20 cities are still missing examples. ... [I]n Warren, Pa., the mailbags were not opened until after the office's customer windows had closed.1 ... Covers have [also] yet to be found for Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee, Fla., Atlantic City, NJ and Durham, NC, for example."
The 4¢ Project Mercury stamp itself is considered a common, according to several websites I consulted. It can usually be purchased for 20¢ or less. Among collectors, it trades for face value or less. The price of the first-day covers varies according to the city's rarity. (Also, Glenn says he has autographed "thousands" of the covers over the years.)

TANGENTAL NOTE: Check out my wife's homeschooling learning guide for space exploration and the solar system. (It is not, however, updated to included the Iranian space monkey.)

Chinese stamps

These are two of the four stamps that appear on an envelope that was mailed from China to Edith and Julia Jones of Catonsville, Md. The date is unknown (to me) because the postmarks are in Chinese.

The pre-printed return address is for E. Pearce Hayes of "Foochow, Fukien, China."

Foochow is a no-longer-in-use romanized spelling for Fuzhou, a city of 7.2 million in eastern China.

Fukien is a no-longer-in-use romanized spelling for Fujian, the province that includes Fuzhou.

Does anyone know what the Chinese structure is that's shown on these stamps?

California Pacific International Exposition

Finally, this 3¢ stamp appears on an envelope that was postmarked on October 5, 1935, in Elkins, West Virginia. It commemorates the California Pacific International Exposition, which was held in 1935 and 1936 in San Diego, California.2 The stamp shows the exposition grounds and, according to Wikipedia, more than 100 million were printed, making it a very common issue. There was also a commemorative silver half dollar featuring Minerva, the head of Medusa, and a California grizzly bear.3

The California Pacific International Exposition stamp, by the way, appears on an envelope that commemorates another event all away across the country — the sixth annual Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkin. That festival is still going strong!

1. Yes, indeed, there are two previous Papergreat posts involving Warren, Pennsylvania:
2. One of the odder exhibits at the exposition was the Zoro Garden Nudist Colony (link contains nudity!), which was essentially a peep show. The site has since been turned into a butterfly garden.
3. Sarah is now studying Greek and Roman mythology and, to complement that, we recently watched 1981's "Clash of the Titans."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for including the subject of stamps in your ephemera website. The World of Stamp Collecting is one of the most intriguing and educational hobbies anyone could have. I learned more about world geography and the cultures of other countries by collecting stamps than all my high school and college classes combined.

    I still remember coming home from Noel Elementary School one afternoon when I was in second grade in 1954. I was walking down the 300 block of East Poplar Streetbwhere I lived and I happened to see an orange and black tiger striped envelope in a garbage can which advertised the stamps from around the world that were included inside. Gleefully I snatched that packet from the garbage can and clutched it in my hands all the way home. That day so very long launched a lifelong joyful learning experience for me.

    Unfortunately, not many young people are collecting stamps anymore. At one time stamp collecting was the world's most popular hobby. The U. S. Post Office has not helped matters very much. They switched to self stick stamps which immediately did not allow for plate block collecting anymore because the self stick stamps are all separate stamps and cannot be collected with plate block number unless you leave them on the sheet. Also, the way most of us got stamps was by soaking them off envelopes in lukewarm water, blotting them between sheets of newspapers and allowing them to dry with a weight on top. Today, self-stick stamps are almost impossible to soak off envelopes. Instead of being able to purchase one mint stamp from a sheet of stamps, today's stamp collector must purchase the whole sheet because it is impossible to mount just one mint self stick stamp in your album. Most kids cannot afford to buy a whole sheet of these self stick stamps so they don'rt bother collecting them. Thanks, Post Office, for destroying this hobby which actually required no money on the part of the collector -- just a few discarded pieces of mail and a pan or bathtub full of water. Often I filled my bathtub with lukewarm water and dumped hundreds of clipped corners from envelopes bearing the stamp. In a few minutes the stamps would separate from the envelope paper and float to the top or sink to the bottom of the tub. I would them take them out and blot the excess water from them using newspaper. Then I would lay them face down between two pieces of paper and put a weight on them such as a brick or an antique flat iron to keep the stamps flat and prevent them from curling. I would let them dry an hour or so or sometimes overnight. The sorting of the stamps and mounting them in my album came next. The use of those yellow or green tinted translucent stamp hinges were sometime a problem. They often didn't stick and you would have to re-apply them 2 or three times. And the duplicates that each collector had were used for trading stamps with other collectors at school or in your neighborhood. A tear comes to my eye when I remember how much joy my stamp collection brought to me and that now, very few kids are pursuing the hobby of stamp collecting these days --How sad!