DC at Night

DC at Night

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Studying Stamps from A to Z

If you want to learn everything about stamps from A to Z, you should head to the National Postal Museum next to Union Station. In fact, you might start your study at the exhibition Alphabetilately A-Z, which takes visitors on an alphabetical history of stamps and stamp collecting.

For example, under A, the display details features of advertising covers which decorated 19th Century envelopes and postal cards with colorful images to promote company products and services.

Z, meanwhile, is for zeppelin posts. In 1908, airships, including the ill-fated Hindenburg, began carrying mail. During those years, special stamps were issued to commemorate that method of delivery.

The complete stamp alphabet display is as follows:

  • A - advertising covers
  • B - bisect
  • C- Cinderella stamps
  • D - duck stamps
  • E - EFOs (errors, freaks, and oddities)
  • F - firsts
  • G - G stamps
  • H - handstamps
  • I - inverts
  • J - joint issues
  • K - Kansas City roulette
  • L - local post
  • M - Mulready
  • N - numerals
  • O - overprint
  • P - Persian Rug
  • Q - quality
  • R - Railway Post Office
  • S - Setenant (French for joined together)
  • T - topicals
  • U - Universal Postal Union
  • V - Vmail
  • W - war issues
  • X - x (for cancel)
  • Y - Yvert and Tellier (a French company that publishes catalogs of stamps for collectors)
  • Z - zeppelin mail
Elvis mail: Return to Sender

As you might expect, the exhibit also features details about the invert that is the most famous stamp printing error ever made. That stamp is known as "The Inverted Jenny." The "Jenny" is actually the stamp of a blue airplane that was printed flying upside down. Inverts are supposed to be caught at printing and destroyed. However, 1 sheet of 100 Jenney upside-down-flying stamps escaped detection and they were sold in 1918 at a DC post office. The Postal Museum has 2 of the 100 stamps in its collection.

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