Question: I have four volumes containing first-day covers honoring the Lufthansa inaugural flights. Are these of any value?--M.W.
Answer: Not especially. These are modern commercial airline first-flight covers, made in quantities sufficient to satisfy current airmail-collector demand. Older first-flights (from the 1930s or earlier) are often of premium value, say from $5 or $10 per cover and up, for the more desirable items. But few flight covers made since World War II are worth more than about 25 cents or 50 cents each.
Q: I have 20 "First Day of Issue" envelopes with stamps and postmarks dating from 1965 to 1967. They commemorate such things as Lady Bird Johnson's Beautification of America program. Are they of value?--J.B.P.
A: About 25 cents each. Modern first-day covers are interesting to study and collect but usually have no great value unless they are of a rare cachet (envelope design) or have high-denomination stamps on them ($1 or $5 face-value issues).
Q: I have a French stamp showing Victor Hugo. It is mint, nice condition. Can you tell me its worth?--E.L.
A: Scott catalogue value is $5.25 mint, 70 cents canceled for this issue of 1933, the 1-franc Victor Hugo commemorative. (If you sell to a dealer you might get considerably less.)
Q: Are telegram envelopes collected by stamp collectors? How do you evaluate them?--F.H.
A: It seems that people collect just about everything. There are collectors of barbed wire, antique typewriters and old packages of chewing tobacco. The collecting instinct apparently exists as strongly in many people as it does in squirrels and pack rats.
I haven't heard of telegram envelopes having much premium value, unless they have the obsolete (no longer in use) telegraph stamps on them that some countries required in the past. The big problem with any collectible is selling, not buying it. It is easy to buy something, but try selling it if you want to find out its true value.
Q: My German stamp pictures a bicyclist and the numbers "10 + 5." Can you tell me when it was issued and the meaning of these numbers?--T.S.
A: You have a semi-postal stamp, a special postal issue sold for the purpose of raising funds for charity. The stamp was issued on May 15, 1949, by the government of West Germany to help support the 1949 Bicycle Tour in that nation.
The "10 + 5" refers to the denomination. It sold for a total of 15 pfennigs per stamp, of which 10 pfennigs went to pay the postage and 5 pfennings went for the charity. Catalogue value is $2.25 mint, $3.50 canceled. The companion stamp of this one made up a set of two; it is denominated "20 + 10" and is listed at $5.50 mint, $16 used. Some stamps that are genuinely canceled are more valuable than they are in mint.
Q: My son uses extremely hot water when soaking his stamps to remove them from envelopes. I feel this might be damaging the stamp paper. Please advise.--J.G.
A: It is best to soak stamps in cold tap water. Hot water may bleed the ink off a stamp printed with what is called "fugitive ink," a type of ink that is water soluble. Also an envelope that is colored like the kind used for Christmas or birthday cards may soak its ink into the stamp and discolor it permanently if hot water is used (and even sometimes with cold water).
Here is how to soak stamps: Cut the envelope with a small margin around the canceled stamp so that you have a square of paper from the upper right corner of the envelope, with the stamp affixed in the center of this square. Then separate colored from white envelopes, and soak the colored ones by themselves to reduce the chance of a colored envelope staining your whole batch of stamps.
Soak the stamps off the envelope corners in cold tap water for 10 or 15 minutes, longer if the stamp's glue (gum) is persistently stuck on the envelope paper. Carefully with your fingers or with a stamp tongs, lift the stamps that have floated free out of the water and place them face down on a paper towel. Let them dry for a day, then press them for a week or two between books in order to flatten the stamps and remove curls.
The Official 1988 Blackbook Price Guide of United States Postage Stamps has just been released in its 10th edition. Showing colored pictures of all U.S. stamps from 1847 to date, this catalogue also lists them by date of issue and Scott catalogue number. Prices are given for mint or used copies, and room is provided to use the book as a checklist for indicating stamps in your collection.
The 252-page book measures 5 1/2 by 5 inches in paperback format with stiff covers, and it is convenient to carry to stamp shops or shows. Price: $3.95 plus $1 for shipping from the publisher, if your local dealer doesn't stock it: the House of Collectibles, 201 East 50th Street, New York, N.Y.10022.
Today--Signing of the Constitution 22-cent commemorative will be issued at Philadelphia, Pa. 19104.
Tuesday--Fourteen-cent postal card with the theme "Take Pride in America" will have its first day of sale at Jackson, Wyo. 83001.