Creating a Cover Collection of Space History

How would you like to make space history?

Or at least make interesting commemorations of it?

This is a participation activity here; it is low in cost to start, and limited only by your imagination.

To start with, let me tell you some of my history.

I started collecting covers in the late 1960s. At the time, I had very limited money, and this pursuit was ideally suitable as little money was required. Let’s start from the beginning. What is a cover?

A cover is an envelope usually. It includes postage stamps (or infrequently meters) as well as a cancellation. Optionally it can have an address and cachet. Perhaps the most important feature is the cancellation. This imprint identifies date and location of the cancellation, both of which are important to the collector.

In space history perhaps no event is more noted than a launch. But there are many others really. We will discuss this later.

General: Advice from the Masters

How can we make the best space history covers? My advice is learn from the masters. Folks have been doing this for other collecting specialties and have literally lifetimes of experience to share. Here is a quote from a publication of the American Air Mail Society, How To Collect Air Mail Covers by Dr. Perham C. Nahl:

Use a fine grade, rag envelope – preferably 100% rag content – so that it won’t turn yellow, fade or deteriorate the way sulfite envelopes do (look at almost any collection of covers over 25 years old for proof.) Use only standard 6-3/4 size envelopes. I feel like saying: “Repeat after me: ‘I will use only use standard 6-3/4 rag envelopes.'” Collectors do not want odd sizes (except for the extreme rarities that exist in no other form); if you expect to do any exchanging, or want other collectors to pay attention to your collection, at least give your covers a good start.

Space the stamps and the address properly so the postmark will be legible and there is plenty of space for any special cachet on the left side of the cover. Don’t use too many stamps, and use some imagination in your choice of stamps. … Good stamps add interest and value to a cover. Address the cover neatly. If you must add instructions do this in pencil, lightly. Keep the back and front of the cover free of unnecessary instructions.

He has some strong opinions, doesn’t he? I should mention; I violated all his suggestions at one time or another. There is one suggestion I wish I had not violated. I used a “sulfite” envelopes instead of “rag” envelopes. To me this is most important as the items I made are already yellowing. Today we have 100% cotton fiber envelopes available at all business stationary suppliers USE 100% COTTON ENVELOPES! To me the size matters less, #10 business size is quite attractive for certain purposes.

Next supply is stamps. You have many to choose from. There are many with space themes. In fact you could (for example) commemorate all space shuttle events with the current Priority and Express Mail stamps available at any US post office. See my page on the space stamps topic.

Commemorating the Occasion

There are two parts to this: date and location. The postal cancellation on the cover provides for both of these.

The maker of a cover chooses both of these. Let’s discuss occasions first. Here are a list of suggested historical occasions:

  • Launch
  • Landing
  • Project Milestones
  • Political Events
  • Major Announcements
  • Anniversaries