49 Years Ago Today

Issued September 9, 1969, after the master printing die was taken to the moon.

Yeah, you saw everyone posting about the 49th anniversary of the first moon walk. Here’s something different. It was the first USPS “jumbo” commemorative airmail stamp, and you can’t get much faster than a rocket in space.

A nice example of the “first-day cover” — the stamp on a commemorative envelope, canceled with the date of issue. Click to see larger.

The master printing die was taken to the moon on Apollo 11, and the crew canceled one test stamp on the way back home. (Now there’s a stamp a collector would want!) The First Day Cover was the most popular ever, and issued in several different styles; the one shown here seems to be the most common, and they seem to be worth $25-50 to a collector. Unless, of course, the collector was lucky enough to get one of the astronauts to sign it, which pushed up the value considerably.

An “error” stamp since there’s no US flag on Armstrong’s sleeve. These are worth a lot more: around $100 in mint condition. (Click to see even larger)

Which brings up “just the stamp” collector values. More than 152 million of these stamps were printed, which was a lot for an airmail stamp of the era — and of course they were eagerly snapped up. Thus, they’re not particularly valuable today to collectors (less than a buck, even in mint condition). Except for some that had an error that wasn’t caught before release: they didn’t get the “rose red” print pass, which just put the flag stripes on Neil Armstrong’s sleeve (shown here).


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Randy Cassingham is best known as the creator of This is True, the oldest entertainment feature on the Internet: it has been running weekly by email subscription since early 1994. It is social commentary using weird news as its vehicle so it’s fun to read. Click here for a subscribe form — basic subscriptions are free.

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