I have to admit to having a fondness for special event and commemorative covers.
Admittedly, that is a pretty broad field, since it covers everything from home grown commemoratives all the way to the official commemorative envelopes coming out of Canada Post. In fact the latter, while often ignored, deserve more attention than they get.
At first, these sorts of issues weren’t all that common, but in recent years we have seen these covers come out with much more frequency.
Canada Post started using them for very special events; the earliest ones include the Montreal Olympic Games, the formation of Canada Post as a Crown corporation and a Papal visit. More recently they have been used for lesser events, and even corporate anniversaries.
I think part of that is because Canada Post has been trying to keep the number of commemorative stamps under control. I’ve always been convinced that the 2007 issue for the anniversary of Purdy’s Chocolates was a fall back after the hated prestige booklets were discontinued.
Today, these envelopes are a great way to mark an event that deserves some attention, but just doesn’t have a broad enough appeal to carry several million individual stamps. Canada Post was faced with collector push-back because of the growing number of issues, and the challenges of selling hundreds of thousands of stamps with a limited appeal. At the same time, the number of requests for commemoration continues to grow, even as stamp sales are dropping. In 2010 the series of stamps being issued to mark university anniversaries was ended, and future anniversaries are being marked with commemorative envelopes.
The good news is that these envelopes themselves are often quite attractive and well executed. Envelopes issued today are often as attractive as the official first-day covers issued for regular issues. They have the same components of cachet, stamp, and pictorial cancel.
I think they appeal to me for the same reason that I like great rarities and postal history: the fact that they tell a story.
I’m a story teller by nature and frankly have a hard time getting excited by the idea of simply aiming for completeness. Anyone who has seen my stamp collection knows I would rather have a hodge-podge of interesting stories than a traditionally structured collection.
A commemorative envelope may mark anything from a broad-reaching organization to a relatively small group, but in every case the final product surely does tell a story. My only true regret is that they are sold with a printed-on cancel instead of a rubber stamp, and that they can’t be bought without a cancel and actually used to send mail.
The really cool thing for many of these covers is they have their own personalized postage stamps. I don’t think that most collectors even give those stamps much thought. I know it took me a bit of time before I started thinking of them as stamps, rather than simply part of the envelope design.
As personalized postage they do not rate their own catalogue numbers, but that doesn’t mean that they should be ignored.
They have an unusual status, being personalized postage designed by a postal authority, and are sold to the general public, but because they are cancelled and cannot be used for postage they don’t really meet the accepted definition of stamp.
If you haven’t looked at these commemorative envelopes before, I think you should.
The total number of these covers is now well over 100 items; in most cases they have a catalogue value of less than $10, making them affordable. While it is possible to put together a collection of one of each, I think it would be a lot more fun to collect them by topic, either on their own or to complement an existing collecting avenue.
As for me, I’ve identified a few that have a specific connection of stamp collecting. I think they would look nice along with some regular stamps and postcards marking stamp collecting, and Canada Post’s small run of philatelic exhibition cards.
It may never be a valuable collection, but it will certainly be able to tell a story.
After all, that’s all I expect from my rag-tag collection. I collect for fun and I hope you do as well.