Second Showing - Pacific 97 - June 2, 1997

The second showing of our Alphabetilately slide show was at Pacific 97, which had been the inspiration for the whole project, so seemed an appropriate venue. The audience was mostly our friends, since the people attending the Expo were too busy waiting in line to buy stamps and get FD cancels applied at the USPS booths, where it took up to several hours to reach a clerk. It was like Disneyland without the scenery or the rides. But the two postcards below were released that day, so I created my own souvenirs of the occasion, by waiting in those endless lines myself.

Philpost (the Philippine Postal Corporation) had these cacheted envelopes, one of which I obtained for this cover combining the two sesquicentennial reissues with our AIGA stamp.

I was new to the concept of souvenir covers at Pacific 97, and didn't really anticipate that our project would evolve as it has, so I created the three items above almost by accident - I certainly wasn't thinking of a series of events and souvenirs such as I have documented in these pages. But I did create a lot of First Day Covers and related souvenir items for the stamps released at the show, and for the show itself. Below are a few of my favorites.

Since this was my first experience creating postal souvenirs at a US show, I was unaware of the rules. I had attended Capex 96 in Toronto the year before, and found that Canada Post was quite casual about where and how its cancellations were used, so I had assumed that at Pacific 97 I would be able to get any cancels I wanted on almost anything I wanted. To me it seemed a cancel is just ink - no big deal.

I found out, of course, that the USPS does not allow non-postal personnel to touch a cancellation device; and will apply a cancel only if the postage on an item adds up to at least the first class rate; and that the First Day cancel may be applied only to the item for which it was intended. Datestamps may be applied to cancel USPS stamps only, i.e. one cannot slap them indiscriminately on Cinderellas or cachets for decorative effect. And stamps that have been "altered" in any way are not supposed to be cancelled at all.

Pacific 97 was in one sense a paradise for anyone wanting to create souvenir and First Day covers. There were seven postal issues at the show, four by the US, with First Day ceremonies and First Day cancels available. In addition, there were eleven official US souvenir cancels, one per day. The down side of all that was the long lines to buy stamps and get cancels. The covers directly above are among the simpler ones I created, with nothing but the stamps and cancels. They illustrate one of the major bonuses of the US issues - all that decoration on the two sheets provided great material for dressing up the covers.

Fortunately I found out my first time in line that all the cancels I could obtain at the show would be available by mail for a month after, so after that I confined my trips to the USPS area to just the essentials - things I thought would be too tricky to accomplish second-hand, such as my Ultimate Bisect Cover.

Since there were two new stamps, plus the two triangles issued in advance of the show, I felt compelled to create pairs of covers like the ones below.

Fortunately, I had a good supply of the souvenir sheet issued at the 1947 Postage Centenary Philatelic Exhibition, which made the perfect complement to the new stamps issued at Pacific 97. My personal preference is that everything not actually printed on a cover must be tied by a cancel, so it is clear that nothing was added later. The cover above illustrates the cost of that principle, since many of the items I wanted to use had very low face values, and could not be cancelled separately, so I had to add copies of the new stamps to meet the minimum required - 32c. If overfranking were a crime, I'd be in jail for the rest of my life for all the postage I used.

In addition to the official show cachets shown on most of the above covers, there were other show cachet envelopes available from the various booths at the show. My favorite was the one below from Stamp Collector, since it paid tribute so attractively to the SF Bay Area.

Philatelic Passport

One tradition at these international philatelic exhibitions is the Philatelic Passport, a passport-sized booklet, in which one is supposed to put stamps and souvenir cancels from all the postal administrations at the show. I had first encountered this concept at Capex 96, which I attended to practice for Pacific 97, but the passport there was a disappointment - cheaply made, so that it fell apart quickly under the wear-and-tear of several cancels per page, and lacking any text, since there was a controversy about the representation at the show of both Nationalist China (Taiwan) and Communist China (PRC).

The Pacific 97 passport was of higher quality construction, and contained appropriate text about the countries, but contained many pages of advertising, which annnoyed me at first, but turned out to be the perfect place to put photographs (thanks to Sheryn for that idea). And it had the names of all (well, most) of the countries with booths at the show. Below are several pages from mine, which I spent about two days filling, and treasure now as a souvenir of the experience.

(Photo of the escalators leading down from street level to the main hall of Moscone Convention Center.)

(Sheryn on the rooftop of Moscone Center, with the Marriott Hotel in the background.)

I was especially pleased that I noticed the package labels for the Pacific 97 souvenir sheets, and managed to acquire a few. Usually these don't even have the name of the stamp inside, let alone a picture of the design, so these were a real find, and made great souvenirs, especially with FD cancels.


There were several souvenir cards issued at Pacific 97, and the themes and stamps released there also tied in nicely with souvenir cards from shows of the past.

The Ones That Got Away

Finally, the items below are my favorites, in a way. I mentioned above that I got the cancels on most of the items shown here by mailing them in, saving myself the long wait in the lines at the show. There was a risk of course, that I would not get what I wanted that way, but the two items below were the only ones that were returned uncancelled, and the clerk who processed them enclosed the following note of explanation:

Dear Sir: Sorry, I cannot do it on these. In order for me to cancel FDC on June 2, it has to be on the postcard. I tried my best to cancel the way you have asked. I did them even though I was not supposed to for some of them. Sincerely, ...

Apparently I stretched the rules too far on these, since I was requesting the FDC cancels for the postcards, but had cut and pasted only the indicia from the cards onto the envelopes. Would he have cancelled them if I had requested the First Day cancel for the Washington and Franklin stamps? I'll never know. But they also serve to illustrate how I communicated my desires for the cancels, with overlays of glassine, and I was delighted how well that worked. Every one of the hundred or so other items I sent was processed exactly as I had intended.


All Letter images Copyright © 1997, 2000, SF chapter of AIGA
All text Copyright © 2000, William M. Senkus

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Revised -- 03/19/2000