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Total Eclipse 2017 Interactive Postmark Map

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How to Ship a Maximum Card Safely

When I ship maximum cards, sometimes they are irregular sizes for which I don't have a form-fitting plastic sleeve. Other times, the cancel is sticky enough, or the card slick enough, that I am afraid of smudging the postmark. In those cases, I make glassine sleeves like this. They're a bit labor-intensive, but it's a great method.

  1. 1.
    Take your maximum card and two #6 glassine envelopes

  2. 2.
    Cut off the left side of one envelope and the right side of the other with scissors

  3. 3.
    Cut off the triangular flaps from each envelope with scissors

  4. 4.
    Slide the maximum card inside one envelope so that its upper-left is in a sealed corner

  5. 5.
    Flip the other envelope — horizontally and vertically — and slide it over the card and first envelope so that its lower-right is in a sealed corner

  6. 6.
    Center the card inside the envelopes and fold the triangular flaps in half

  7. 7.
    Use the folded flaps to cover the exposed gaps between the envelopes and tape over the tips of each flap to seal and protect the card. At no point should the adhesive tape touch your card or be near an exposed gap.

  8. 8.
    Tape your packaged maximum card, top and bottom, to your invoice (or a blank sheet of paper)

  9. 9.
    Fold the paper over the card and slide into a photo mailer

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Useful links for collectors of non-U.S. pictorial postmarks

Thanks to Facebook follower Bruno Quaresma from Portugal for this useful list of references for pictorial postmarks from countries around the world!

You can see Bruno's original post here.

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USPS First Class Price Changes: January 22, 2017

The USPS has finalized price changes for 2017.  They go into effect on Sunday, January 22nd.

Summary:

  • The rate for a domestic one-ounce letter increases from 47¢ to 49¢, and the additional ounce price remains unchanged at 21¢. Thus, all letters cost 2¢ more to mail.
  • The rate for a domestic one-ounce flat increases from 94¢ to 98¢, and the additional ounce price remains unchanged at 21¢. Thus, all flats cost 4¢ more to mail.
  • The rate for domestic First Class parcels is now the same ($2.67) for all weights under 4 oz, which represents a 3¢ – 5¢ increase. However, the additional ounce price for a parcel decreases from 19¢ to 18¢. Thus, parcels under 6 oz cost more to mail; prices for the 6 – 7 oz range remain unchanged; and prices drop for the 7 – 13 oz range.
  • The postcard rate remains unchanged at 34¢, and international one-ounce rate remains unchanged at $1.15.
  • The postage value of "Forever" stamps will increase to match the new rates.
  • There are changes in other rate categories. See the full list at the USPS Postal Explorer site.

The following table shows the product, existing price, and new price. Price increases are marked in red; decreases are marked in green; unchanged rates in black.

Be sure to visit the Postage Optimizer on this site to help you adjust you stamp combinations for the rate change.

First Class Letters
1 $0.47 $0.49
2 $0.68 $0.70
3 $0.89 $0.91
3.5 $1.10 $1.12
Postcard $0.34 $0.34
First Class Flats
1 $0.94 $0.98
2 $1.15 $1.19
3 $1.36 $1.40
4 $1.57 $1.61
5 $1.78 $1.82
6 $1.99 $2.03
7 $2.20 $2.24
8 $2.41 $2.45
9 $2.62 $2.66
10 $2.83 $2.87
11 $3.04 $3.08
12 $3.25 $3.29
13 $3.46 $3.50
First Class Parcels
1 $2.62 $2.67
2 $2.62 $2.67
3 $2.62 $2.67
4 $2.64 $2.67
5 $2.83 $2.85
6 $3.02 $3.03
7 $3.21 $3.21
8 $3.40 $3.39
9 $3.59 $3.57
10 $3.78 $3.75
11 $3.97 $3.93
12 $4.16 $4.11
13 $4.35 $4.29

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Holiday Gifts

Looking for unique gifts for friends and family this holiday season? @McGeekiest Cachets, the line of covers designed and produced by the owner of this site, offers original art pieces for sale on eBay.

Click here for all @McGeekiest Cachets covers available for purchase, or click on any of the selected covers below.

Shirley Temple First Day Cover
$3.98
STAR TREK stamps ~ 8 First Day Covers
$70.00
Grand Canyon National Park First Day Cover
$5.98
'Exploring Our Moon' First Day Cover
$5.49
'Celebrating Indiana Artists' First Day Cover
$9.98
Year of the Monkey First Day Cover
$4.98

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Brother HL-3170CDW laser printer for cachetmakers

The Brother HL-3170CDW laser printer is a powerhouse printer for cachetmakers and other artists who want to print images onto envelopes, and is by far the best option in its price range, but you would never know it from the default driver settings.

So, you open your new printer, you lay out a large rectangular cachet, you set the page dimensions, you configure it to print on envelope stock, and you feed in your cover. This is what you get:

default-settings

What is wrong with this? Let me count the ways.

default-settings-annotated

All of these problems can be fixed, and the steps to do so I learned the hard (and expensive) way.

  1. Crumpled corner
    Your printer does pass-through printing: it doesn't have to take your cover in a loop around the rollers. Not only does this prevent the crumpled corner, it results in much less curling to your covers. To enable pass-through printing, just open the back cover.
  2. Horizontal crease
    This is completely unintuitive, but you do not want to set the printer to the "envelope" setting. You want to set it to "thin paper". The reason is that with the "envelope" setting, much more force is applied to the cover as it passes through, and it picks up the crease from the back of the envelope. With "thin paper", it uses a feather-light touch, and your covers are unmarred.
  3. Vertical streaks
    This is a driver bug. If you have a cachet that covers the entire printable area, you will get vertical, one-pixel streaks. Sometimes they are subtle (as in this case); sometimes they are very apparent. You need to pad your images with a thin border of white so that (after scaling) there is at least one pixel of white at the boundaries.
  4. Terrible vibrancy and contrast
    After tons of fiddling, this is a function of "Color Mode" (set to "None"), "Print Quality" (set to "Fine"), "Color Matching" (set to "Brother Color"), and turn on the feature "Enhance Black Printing". Avoid the "Vivid" color mode, as it will throw off your colors and mess up solid black areas of your print.
  5. Off-center
    By default, the rectangle of the printout is shifted up and to the right. To accommodate this, you need to pad your image on the right and the top. I use a canvas of 3696x1968 pixels, but only cover 3626x1948 of that canvas, in the lower-left. This leaves 70 pixels of padding at the right and 20 pixels at the top, amounting to 1.9% horizontally and 1% vertically.
  6. Crooked
    This is where using your printer becomes more like playing a musical instrument and less like using an automatic device: there is no stop, in the manual feed, at 3.625″. If you use the next-largest setting, your cover will feed in skewed. You need to manually hold the feed so that it cradles the envelope between stops, and hold it against the left stop. Then it will print perfectly squarely.

Your printer settings need to look like this:

color-settings

print-settings

color-matching

OK, done all that? This is what you end up with.

optimal-settings

Is the effort, practice, and configuration worth it? I say "definitely". This printer is a third of the price of comparable models and prints beautifully. You just need some patience to learn to use the Brother HL-3170CDW to print your covers.

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USPS First-Class Parcel Rate Increase: August 28, 2016

Effective August 28, 2016, retail prices for First Class Parcels weighing up to three ounces will rise from $2.45 to $2.62.

Here are the changed rates, which can be found in full in a new new Notice 123:

Service Old Price New Price
First-Class Parcel (1 oz) $2.45 $2.62
First-Class Parcel (2 oz) $2.45 $2.62
First-Class Parcel (3 oz) $2.45 $2.62

To generate a full First-Class rate table — and how to reach the values with the stamp denominations you already have — visit our Postage Optimizer and Rate Table Generator.

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USPS First-Class Rate Drop: April 10, 2016

Effective April 10th, 2016, the exigent price increases for First-Class service introduced in 2014 were rolled back, resulting in an average 4.3% price drop across all First-Class services.

All stamps in the "Forever" category (including the multiple-ounce, nonmachinable, and additional ounce stamps) are subject to an equivalent devaluation. The nonmachinable surcharge has dropped to $0.21.

Here are some highlights of new rates, which can be found in full in a new new Notice 123:

Service Old Price New Price
First-Class Letter (1 oz) $0.49 $0.47
First-Class Letter (2 oz) $0.71 $0.68
First-Class Letter (3 oz) $0.93 $0.89
First-Class Letter (3.5 oz) $1.15 $1.10
First-Class Flat (1 oz) $0.98 $0.94
First-Class Flat (2 oz) $1.20 $1.15
First-Class Flat (3 oz) $1.42 $1.36
First-Class Flat (4 oz) $1.64 $1.57
First-Class Parcel (1 oz) $2.54 $2.45
First-Class Parcel (2 oz) $2.54 $2.45
First-Class Parcel (3 oz) $2.54 $2.45
First-Class Parcel (4 oz) $2.74 $2.64
Postcard $0.35 $0.34

To generate a full First-Class rate table — and how to reach the values with the stamp denominations you already have — visit our Postage Optimizer and Rate Table Generator.

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Source of the images used on USPS “Botanical Art” stamps

On January 29, 2016, the United States Postal Service issued "Botanical Art" stamps, depicting highly-idealized paintings of flowers taken from nursery catalogs of over a hundred years ago. These are not only beautiful but fascinating, in that they indicate the aesthetics of the day — what the ideal of perfection was thought to be.

booklet-image

I had an idea for a series of first day covers, but the information from the USPS was woefully incomplete:

Depicted on the stamps, top row from left: corn lilies, tulips, stocks, roses and petunias.
Pictured bottom row from left: tulips, dahlias, japanese Iris, tulips and daffodils and jonquils.

Those vernacular names do not even map directly to species, let alone provide the source of the images. I read through the art credits for the stamps, however, and saw that they were taken from nursery catalogs held by the Mertz Library at the New York Botanical Garden, which boasts one of the largest collection of such catalogs in the country.

So, I sent the library an email, asking if they could help me identify the plants. But the Public Services Librarian did far more than that. She sent me a spreadsheet with the following columns:

  1. The nursery that issued the catalog
  2. The title of the publication
  3. The year (and season, if applicable) of the catalog from which the stamp images were taken
  4. The name given for the flower in the catalog
  5. And, for each, either one or two links: a digitized copy of the catalog in the archives of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, or a digitized copy in the archives of the Mertz Library!

Oh, and just to go entirely above-and-beyond, the spreadsheet rows were arranged in the order the stamps appear in the booklet. Each pair of images below shows a stamp opposite its catalog illustration, and the links will take you to a digitized copy of the catalog from which the stamp image was taken.

botanical-art-stamp-pair-1_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: John Lewis Childs
Title: Catalogue of Bulbs and Plants
Issue: Fall 1891
Flowers pictured: ixias
http://mertzdigital.nybg.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15121coll8/id/3226

botanical-art-stamp-pair-2_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: John Lewis Childs
Title: Childs' Fall Catalogue of Bulbs, Plants & Seeds
Issue: 1897
Flowers pictured: tulips
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/44290234
http://mertzdigital.nybg.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15121coll8/id/3290

botanical-art-stamp-pair-3_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: Dreer
Title: Dreer's Garden Book : Seventy-Fourth Annual Edition 1912
Issue: 1912
Flowers pictured: gilliflowers
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/42695545
http://mertzdigital.nybg.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15121coll8/id/13108

botanical-art-stamp-pair-4_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: Dreer
Title: Dreer's 72nd Annual Edition Garden Book : 1910.
Issue: 1910
Flowers pictured: roses
http://mertzdigital.nybg.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15121coll8/id/15407

botanical-art-stamp-pair-5_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: Dreer
Title: Dreer's Garden Calendar : 1898
Issue: 1898
Flowers pictured: fringed petunias
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/43827887

botanical-art-stamp-pair-6_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: Dreer
Title: Dreer's Autumn Catalogue 1907
Issue: 1907
Flowers pictured: tulips
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/42720886

botanical-art-stamp-pair-7_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: Farquhar, R. & J. Company
Title: Farquhar's 1910 Garden Annual
Issue: Spring 1910
Flowers pictured: dahlias
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/42231623
http://mertzdigital.nybg.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15121coll8/id/26972

botanical-art-stamp-pair-8_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: Dreer
Title: Dreer's Garden Book : Seventy-Fourth Annual Edition 1912
Issue: 1912
Flowers pictured: Japanese irises
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/42695717
http://mertzdigital.nybg.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15121coll8/id/13279

botanical-art-stamp-pair-9_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: Dreer
Title: Dreer's Autumn 1901 Catalogue
Issue: 1901
Flowers pictured: tulips
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/42696550

botanical-art-stamp-pair-10_collectpostmarks_com

Nursery: Dreer
Title: Dreer's Autumn Catalogue : 1899 Bulbs, Plants, Seeds, etc.
Issue: 1899
Flowers pictured: narcissus
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/42696608

With this information, I was able to design my cachets:

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