Building up a Stamp Collection
How to get Space Covers yourself
(Autograph Service Offer – see below)
Many space stamps are issued to illustrate the fascinating experience of manned and unmanned spaceflights. But you will almost certainly make the experience that it is not all spaceflight that have the honour to find their place on a stamp, even not in the Soviet Union where a stamp issue commemorates all manned and most important unmanned missions. What can we do about that when we absolutely want to have a space mission to figure on our album pages?
The solution astrophilatelists found already at the very beginning of spaceflight are covers. A cover is an envelope that was cancelled at the very launch, landing or mission date of a spacecraft at the location which is next to the location the event takes place. Usually this is the launch site, for a launch, or the landing site, for the return of the spacecraft. Not always has it been possible to get the postmark of the launch site, as in the early years Cosmodrome Baikonur cancels were almost impossible to obtain.
Sometimes you can prove knowledge of spaceflight when you have to choose a site — how to get a postmarker for an Apollo Moon Landing or a major experiment performed on board the Spacelab that orbits around the planet sixteen times a day? In this case usually the mission control center is the appropriate location. Covers can as well help you to show how a whole space mission is performing, since almost all tracking centres provide cachet and mailing service. Can’t it be fascinating to show to other collectors how communication between ground and space capsule takes place by showing covers from the mission control, the involved tracking site, the computer interface system etc.?
How to get space covers?
Well, of course there are many stamp dealers who sell them. But it makes a lot more fun to get them yourself. You may write to the launch center, mission control centres, landing sites asking to cancel them with their station cachet and the postmarker at the desired mission date. Almost usually you’ll get what you want. Nevertheless some advises might be helpful.
What to ask and how to ask?
Always indicate clearly what you want. Which date, of which space mission, of which postmarker. You may always write in English — 99% of space business people understand it. Be polite and be patient. Most of these people providing service for collectors are collectors themselves. They do this service in their free time and are not paid for that. Joining some stamps of your country may give them pleasure too. Be modest: don’t send dozens of covers, limit yourself to a maximum of five. When you send two covers, your chance to get a fine cancel is doubled, or you have a cover for trading. When a service fee is required, enclose it with the covers using bank notes or mint stamps of the country.
Which covers to send?
The standard size for space covers is the American size, 165mm x 95mm. But you may use any size you like. Print your address in the right bottom corner of the cover. Don’t use self-adhesive covers or covers with brown, blue or green paper. They loose their colour, they produce ugly stains on the cover with the years. Fill the cover with a cardboard filler to protect against bending during mailing process.
Which stamps to use?
You must send your covers stamped. You cannot expect the servicer to do this for you. Use the stamps of the country to which you are sending your covers, don’t use the stamps of your own country. They are not valid abroad. If you only need a few stamps, you can get them in a stamp shop. If you want to prepare a lot many covers or if you plan to get covers on a regular basis, it might be cheaper to order stamps from the Philatelic Service of the country you wish to get stamps from.
All western countries sell stamps directly to the collector for a very modest fee. A list of the Philatelic services in some major countries is attached to this article. Write for the conditions of sale before. For the equivalent postage rate, please refer to the short list we publish here.
How to get knowledge about forthcoming space launches?
In editions of ORBIT, we inform you about the Space Shuttle launches. Of course these dates are subject to change. To know about these changes, read your daily newspaper or get yourself specialized space magazines. Another good place to go to is the internet – just checkout the Links page for the web sites.
Autograph Service Offer
Jurgen P. Esders is now offering an improved service to all his astronaut/cosmonaut and space memorabilia contacts by email via a dedicated newsgroup. Jurgen had previously produced an updated list once a year but people often come to him asking for updates and now he is setting out to regularise this service.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can set about obtaining such autographs etc and meeting (on line) others who do this sort of thing then please visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Astroaddies to learn how to do it. You will have to register and apply for membership, but it’s free.