An Introduction to Stamp Collecting.

A Letter from Home. In 1937, Mildred Pelzer won the federal commission (WPA) to complete the post office mural for Waverly, Iowa, as part of the Section of Painting and Sculpture′s projects. The mural depicts a scene of a couple on their farm, where the wife had brought a letter from their previous home to the field. As her husband paused his plowing, the wife read the letter to him, as their child grasped at her mother’s skirts. Click here to read more about the artwork of Mildred Pelzer.

Each United States postage stamp is assigned a collecting number (i.e. U.S. #838) and we have given each item in our collection a number as well (i.e. S-0041). Throughout the webpages on Our Iowa Heritage, you’ll find pictures of U. S. postage stamps, postal covers, etc. with links to other informational pages. We highly suggest you use these links so you can learn more about what the stamp/cover is all about, the date it was released and/or postmarked, and the city involved. Here’s an example…

(S-0041) U.S. #838   3¢ Iowa Territory Centennial Stamp –  First Day of Issue: August 24, 1938  City: Des Moines, Iowa.

Philatelists (stamp collectors) collect stamps in various formats:

(S-0049) A single stamp called a commemorative that celebrates a special person, place, or event and has a limited time of being sold. Here is U.S. #3088 Iowa Sesquicentennial commemorative stamp sold in 1996.
(S-0038) A single stamp called a regular issue that generally sticks to a common theme like presidents, statesmen, US flags, etc. Regular issues come in a set of standard denominations and are sold over a longer period of time. Here is U.S. #1030 1/2-cent Benjamin Franklin sold in the 1950’s.
(S-0006) A plate bock is a corner set of four stamps that also includes the salvage (the outer portion of the printed sheet) which displays the plate printing number.
(S-0063) A complete sheet – usually 50 stamps.
(C-0121) A First Day Cover (FDC) – a decorative envelope featuring the new stamp postmarked and dated in the city in which the stamp was first released by the postal service.
213-1888Cover
Collectors also look for interesting postmarks on older letters (see pic) and these are called Postal Covers.
You’ll also find in our collection a lot of Picture Postcards. While not as popular today, between the late 1800’s and into the mid-1960’s, picture postcards were the cheapest and easiest ways for people to “take pictures” of places they wanted to remember. Today, we simply use our smart phones to take a picture or to send a text, but in past generations, folks would buy a picture postcard, write a brief message, stick on a 1-cent stamp, and send it off to a friend or family member. Collecting “penny-postcards” is a great way to “see” the past, through the eyes of earlier generations. Enjoy!

Here’s a very brief history of U.S. Postage Stamps.

(C-0258) U.S. #1  5¢ Benjamin Franklin
U.S. #2  10¢ George Washington
America’s first postage stamps – first issued in New York City on July 1, 1847. 

As a nation, America was taking shape at that time, and these stamps played an important part in its growth. The 5¢ issue of 1847 (U.S. #1) features a portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is credited with organizing America’s postal service back in the late 1700’s. On July 26, 1775, he was appointed by the Continental Congress as the first Postmaster General of the Confederation – which was of great importance to communications during the Revolutionary War. The 10¢ issue of 1847 (U.S. #2) pictures George Washington, Revolutionary War hero and the first U.S. President. Over the years, Washington and Franklin have appeared on more US stamps than any other, with of course, Honest Abe Lincoln coming in at #3.

As the postal service grew, so did the dependency on the US Mail in being a key factor to the expansive growth of America. Over the first 100 years (1847-1947) of postage stamp history, nearly 1,000 different stamps were issued, with the great majority of them being what are called “regular issue” stamps, featuring U.S. Presidents, statesmen, etc. The exception to that rule began in 1893 with the release of the first commemorative stamps, meaning the theme of the stamp celebrated a special person, place, or thing. Here’s a colorful example of “regular issue” stamps – Six coil stamps from the 1939 Presidential “Regular Issue” Series.
The first US commemorative stamps honored Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America and were released in conjunction with the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. These stamps were so popular with the public, the post office began to issue other commemoratives on a regular basis after that. And it’s these commemorative stamps that tell wonderful stories about the countless people and events that have shaped America.
(S-0003) U.S. #947  1947 3¢ U.S. Stamp Centenary  Issue Date: May 17, 1947  City: New York, NY- Celebrating 100 years of US postage stamps!  In 1947, two different issues commemorated the 100th anniversary of America’s first postage stamps. The single stamp (above) pictures George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, a Pony Express rider, a steam locomotive, a 1940’s locomotive, a modern steamship, and a four-motored plane – all modes of transportation used over the century (1847-1947) by the postal service to deliver the mail to the American public.
US947cover
(C-0005) U.S. #947    947 3¢ U.S. Stamp Centenary First Day Cover   Issue Date: May 17, 1947  City: New York, NY – Celebrating 100 years of US postage stamps! 
(S-0004) U.S. #948   1947 5¢ and 10¢ CIPEX Souvenir Sheet  First Day of Issue: May 19, 1947  City: New York, NY. The souvenir sheet (above) was sold at the Centenary International Philatelic Exhibition in Grand Central Palace in New York City from May 17 to 25, 1947.
US948cover
(C-0006)  U.S. #948    1947 5¢ and 10¢ CIPEX Souvenir Sheet  First Day of Issue: May 19, 1947  City: New York, NY.
(S-0040) U.S. #1474   1972 8¢ Stamp Collecting  First Day of Issue: November 17, 1972  City: New York, NY. Over the years, the hobby of Stamp Collecting has been celebrated with commemorative stamps, such as this one in 1972.
(C-0216) 1945-46 Franklin Roosevelt Memorial Set. After guiding America out of the Depression and through most of World War II, Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, just 11 weeks into his fourth term and less than a month before Germany’s surrender.  To honor Roosevelt, an avid stamp collector, the Post Office issued four stamps in the months following Roosevelt’s death to honor his service to America.
USA-2198-2201
(S-0005) U.S. #2198-#2201  22¢ Stamp Collecting   First Day of Issue: January 23, 1986  City: State College, PA  This booklet pane of four was issued to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American Philatelic Society. This was the first time that U.S. commemoratives were ever issued in booklet form.

Our Iowa Heritage: An Introduction.
An Introduction to Stamp-less Covers
An Introduction to Embossed Envelopes & Postcard

Click here for a complete INDEX of Our Iowa Heritage stories…

Click here for a complete INDEX of PEOPLE-PLACES-THINGS…

Click here for a complete INDEX of stories listed CHRONOLOGICALLY…

Click here for a numerical INDEX to all of the U.S. postage stamps, postal cards, and coins in our collection…

Click here to see the complete Index of stamp themes…

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For more info on any of these stories found in Our Iowa Heritage, please drop me an email.