Postal Stationery
and Stamps

UX1 Postal Card

Steve Levine
P.O. Box 951
Linden Hill Station

Flushing, NY 11354
Phone: 718-939-5788


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     Collecting envelopes can be simple or challenging; it's up to you.  At the most basic level, a collector wants ONE envelope of each Scott number.  From my experience, that's usually the small size...except where no small size exists.  At the first intermediate level, the collector includes several sizes.  At the high intermediate level, the collector adds WINDOW ENVELOPES.  That's as far as this list can take you.  If you are an advanced, specialized envelope collector, then you need to be looking at my "ENVELOPES BY UPSS NUMBER" list.


     ENVELOPE QUALITY: THE BUCK STOPS HERE  You should expect top quality while recognizing that Envelopes are not "stamps".  Envelopes are a commercial product, and have only recently been printed with the needs of collectors in mind.  I buy carefully and weed out any obvious problems I see.  Thankfully, envelopes are spared the trauma of being packed & shrink-wrapped like some Postal Cards.  Still, they are cut, folded, and boxed mechanically, which can create "defects of manufacture".  As always, I try my best to weed these out.


     There's one problem with envelopes which you don't find with Postal Cards or Cut Squares, and there's nothing I can do about it: GUM BLEED.  Envelopes are gummed at the seams, AND Window Envelopes are also gummed where the glassine or plastic meets the paper.  IN TIME, the gum will discolor the paper...usually just a trifle, and not on every envelope.  This is usually not a problem; I just want to make you aware that every now and then you'll see an envelope which will be 90% up to snuff, not 100%.  I'm sorry; I didn't manufacture the envelopes.  If I did, I would have used a better gum....


     THOSE issues aside, Envelopes of the past 60 years will look as if they came out of the Post Office yesterday -- clean, fresh, and with sharp strong corners.  Older envelopes, however, will usually show some signs of age and storage, as well as characteristics of the era in which they were collected.  Like Postal Cards, Envelopes were sometimes I.D.'d....LIGHTLY, in pencil, on the back.  Such I.D. marks include envelope size, watermark, and a catalog number...sometimes the old, THORP Catalog, or the newer, UPSS Catalog.  Anything beyond that, I weed out.


     ENVELOPE SIZES  The numbers are listed above.  The reasons are herein recounted.  By 1926 UPSS size #13 was the standard mailing size.  Size #10 was a REPLY size, designed to fit inside a #13.  You mailed the envelope plus correspondence; the addressee mailed back the inside envelope.  Size #23 was the standard "legal" size, and size #21 was, similarly, a "legal reply".  Size #25 was a huge size for larger documents; size #20 was a Window Envelope used for mailing checks.


     By the 1950s the practice of using reply envelopes was dying out and the P.O.D. began to experiment with the Size #12, midway between the #10 and #13.  By 1958 the Size #12 was the new standard.  For the record, what is known as the UPSS Size #12 was also called a Size 6 in the world of commercial stationery.  The Size #23 was also called a Size #10 by non-collectors.


     Before the UPSS (United Postal Stationery Society) began printing their Envelope Catalogs in the 1980s, the major reference work was the THORP Catalog, last updated in 1968.  UPSS #10 was Thorp #5; UPSS #12 was Thorp # 6; UPSS #13 was Thorp #13; UPSS #20 was Thorp #6; UPSS #21 was Thorp #7, and UPSS #23 was Thorp #8, later re-numbered #10.


     During the 1990s the U.S.P.S. (The United States Post Office Department was now the United States Postal Service) issued 3 new sizes.  Size #22A was used on Scott #U613, which was a special envelope used mainly for mailing Christmas Cards.  Size #18A was an Official Mail Envelope used for mailing Savings Bonds.  Size #22B was an Official Mail Envelope used for mailing Passports.  There are no corresponding Thorp numbers.


     RETURN ADDRESSES  The old-time collectors referred to them as "Corner Cards", and modern "stamp" collectors sometimes have difficulty adjusting to them. However, they're a necessary evil on many older envelopes.


     Let me beat a dead horse again and mention that Postal Stationery was a commercial product until recently, when the U.S.P.S. discovered the collector market.  Many of the older sizes (especially windows) were produced for business use only.  Collectors could NOT order them directly from Washington; in fact, collectors were often unaware of their existence.  They were only available to businesses, which ordered them in "box quantities" of 250 or 500, with Return Addresses in the upper left.


     There was a network of specialized envelope collectors which kept a sharp eye open for new varieties.  Through their various contacts they would discover a new variety, contact the business, and purchase some copies.  Occasionally, relationships were developed whereby business would provide collectors with the new envelopes as they were released.  A few Envelope Dealers (Bartels in his time, Thorp in his) did enough volume to simply order box lots themselves.


     The sad fact is; there are some issues which simply do not exist without Return Addresses.


     SURCHARGES  Beginning in the 1940s, Postal Rate Changes began to occur with ever-increasing frequency.  At each change, the P.O.D./U.S.P.S. surcharged stocks of existing envelopes.  FOR THE MOST PART, these events were carefully controlled, unlike the postal rate changes of the 1920s.  Genuine errors (mostly double impressions) are scarce, but do exist on some of them.  However, minor freaks and oddities are more common, and a collector could spend a lifetime putting together a collection...without spending a fortune.  Many of these freaks/oddities are inexpensive, and visually more striking that legitimate errors.  AS with Postal Cards, there are multiple surcharges, twisted surcharges, ghosts, and surcharges on the back.

     It's also important to note what a "normal" surcharge looks like.  They aren't all the same distance from the embossed area; some are shifted left and some are shifted right.  Some are shifted up and some are shifted down.  Some are twisted.  These varieties are NOT sufficiently different to be considered freaks...and they don't command premium prices.  But they DO look a bit different from the idealized pictures in the catalogs, and are considered within the normal range of tolerance for the issue.


     PAPER COLOR  All our envelopes of the "Modern" era are printed on white paper, with a few exceptions.  They are U530-31, (which are amber/blue), U571-75 (which are printed on a brown paper similar to the old-style fawn) and U621 & U637, which were printed on light blue papers.
     SOME of these "whites" are a bit off-shade, running brownish or grayish, as need required.  Airmail Envelopes printed during WW2 often contained wood pulp.

     More recently the USPS has used several contractors, and paper color has varied from bright whites to dingy grayish white with pulp (mostly on Official Envelopes).


     PAPER QUALITY  Beginning roughly in 1919 (first, on an experimental basis, later more broadly distributed) the P.O.D. printed some envelopes in both STANDARD quality and EXTRA quality.  Extra quality envelopes were made of thicker and whiter paper.  This practice continued through roughly 1953 when it was discontinued.  Extra quality envelopes could withstand the rigors of the U.S. Mails better than standard quality, but were heavier.

     Some issues (such as U522 and U523-28) only exist on Extra Quality paper.  Some, such as UC1 thru UC7 and most other Airmails only exist on Standard Quality paper.  Some issues (various U532 thru U540) exist both ways. 
     This pricelist doesn't consider paper quality; it's an advanced area of specialization.


      IN SUMMATION  Collecting Envelopes can be easy, or it can be complex and most other areas of Postal Stationery.  If you're one of my regular customers and you have a question, please feel free to e-mail or just pick up the phone & give me a call.    


           Steve Levine                                           Phone:  718-939-5788
                P.O. Box 951                                      e-mail:
           Linden Hill Station                               
2010 Empire State Philatelics, Inc. 
          Flushing, NY 11354