A special kind of philately takes place on the high seas.
At their most basic, naval covers are letters or postcards from sailors, with postmarks from U.S. Navy ships. Some of these postmarks have designs called cachets, unique designs that each have their own particular aesthetic.
“Naval philately” is its own special kind of collecting, less for the stamps and more for the postmarks and cachets.
The first naval cover collectors were members of the International Postal Marking Society, who sent stamped and addressed envelopes to U.S. Navy ships to receive strikes. Collectors still send envelopes for their collections today.
For the most part, Navy ships have their own postal stations. This is so that sailors have their own means of sending mail while sailing around the world.
Naval cover terminology is pretty basic:
- There’s the dater circle, called a “dial”.
- Slots are at the center for the date slugs.
- These include either the name of a ship or a generic U.S. Navy marking in the dater.
- The right of the dial has some kind of geometric pattern to prevent the stamp’s reuse (as anyone who has received a letter is familiar with), called the “killer”.
The online Naval Cover Museum at navalcovermuseum.org has a phenomenal collection that users can browse through and add to.
Here are just a few samples from their collection:
Just seeing the beautiful designs of the cachets confirms why naval cover collectors want to own these small pieces of art.
Take a look through the virtual naval cover museum. Do you see any covers you particularly like? Let us know in the comments!
And if you develop an interest in creating your own collection, the U.S. Navy has a list of Navy ship addresses.