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Tips for Identifying Cachetmakers
by Marjory J. Sente
One of the most frequently asked questions regarding first-day covers is a basic one: who made the cachet?
If a cachetmaker produces cachets for several new issues, you likely will find some commonality among the designs. Among the other chief clues for identifying cachets are trademarks, names or initials, addresses, borders, continuity of style, stuffers and advertisements.
Common traits are a blessing for figuring out who produced certain cachets. However, it is important that you not get tunnel vision. Just about the time you think you have a cachetmaker figured out, you may find he produced an oddball design that didn’t fit his normal pattern, or skipped his usual trademark or name.
Trademarks are probably the easiest way to identify a cachet. The motifs that can be used are virtually unlimited. The best known is the palette and brushes logo that is used to mark the ArtCraft cachets. Sometimes animals are used to identify a line of cachets, such as the friendly skunk that denotes Pugh cachets.
Names or Initials
Whenever you hear someone say that a cachet is “signed,” it usually means that a name or initials are part of the design. Some are signed, others are not, and frequently names change to initials.
Cachets produced by Henry Grimsland fit into all these categories. Grimsland`s earliest cachets were not signed, and his later ones have the word “Grimsland” printed or written in letters so small that they are barely detectible. He sometimes also marked his cachets with the initials “AB” or “HG.”
Frequently, as in the case of many of Grimsland’s designs, it is not easy to spot a name or initials on a cachet. Sometimes the name is carefully incorporated into the design of the cachet, such as F.R. Rice’s cachets,
where his name is carefully included in the folds of the scroll or ribbon of the cachet.
When trying to identify early FDCs, addresses also can be helpful in pinpointing the cachetmaker or servicer.
A.C. Roessler addressed covers to himself, to “A.C. Roe” and to “Roberta Roe.”
Roessler also addressed many FDCs to his long-time customer, G. Nelson Lyons. Many of Roessler’s addresses were rubberstamped without much attention to neatness, as in “Roberta Roe.”
Borders have always been a popular cachet motif, and these, too, may help you identify a particular cachetmaker.
One elusive line of cachets that used large checkered borders was Brookhaven. Produced during the late 1930s, these Brookhaven FDCs were edged with a one-color border that was the same color as the cachet. The Brookhaven borders should not be confused with the red and blue checked borders used by A.C. Roessler on many of his FDCs.
For a short time in the late 1960s, borders appeared on Bordercraft cachets, such as on the first Bordercraft cachet, prepared for the 1966 Savings Bond commemorative, using an ornate stock certificate border. For the 1967 5¢ National Grange commemorative, the border was farm animals.
Continuity of Style
Most cachetmakers repeat certain elements in each design they produce. It could be a border, or the basic design of the cachet, or distinctive typography.
Sometimes a cachetmaker will repeat the same typeface in every cachet, or a dominant characteristic will be used in most or all designs, such as a prominent display of historic dates.
By carefully studying several cachets produced by one person, you should be able to identify a trait or traits that appears in the majority of a given cachetmakers designs.
Two lines of cachets that are well known for their continuity of style are F.R. Rice’s lifesaver-style border, found on about 75% of his designs, and C. Stephen Anderson’s cachets, consisting of an illustration with an historical narrative printed below it.
Stuffers are the fillers or stiffeners that are placed inside first-day covers to keep the covers from bending or creasing as they travel through the mail. They can be pieces of stiff paper or cardboard.
While many are blank, occasionally they are printed with an advertisement, or information pertaining to the stamp or the cachet, provided by the cachetmaker or sponsor of the cover.
Stuffers frequently aid in the positive identification of the origin of the cover.
Without a stuffer, for example, no one would know that a cacheted FDC prepared for the 1972 8¢ Tom Sawyer commemorative and signed “RCH” was cosponsored by the Columbia Philatelic Society and the Kingdom Philatelic Association. But the printed insert for this FDC explains those initials, and relates that the cachet was designed by R.C. Holmes of Jefferson City, Mo., who also designed the Missouri Statehood commemorative.
One of the best sources for information on stuffers is Wayne Gasper’s longtime column, “Stuffer Stuff” in First Days, the journal of the American First Day Cover Society. Since 1979, Wayne has reported on stuffers found in FDCs.
Ads in the philatelic press also can be an excellent way to identify a the maker of a cachet.
Harry Ioor’s cachets and first-day cover business were well advertised. Placing large ads in the philatelic periodicals, including Linn’s, Mekeels, Stamps and Stamps & Cover Collecting, he listed his FDCs and detailed the cachets.
Similarly, George Linn used his weekly newspaper, Linn’s Stamp News, to promote his FDCs. In the paper, he often devoted large space ads to feature pictures of the cachets.
By carefully combing through old philatelic publications, you can unearth a mountain of information about the older United States FDCs. And it is a useful exercise for gathering information about currently released first-day covers as well.
Reference Works on FDCs
I can’t overemphasize the importance of the first-day cover catalogs and handbooks for the identification of cachets.
Prior to the 1970s, information about the identity of cachets was sketchy and widely dispersed. At about that time, Dr. Earl Planty began to codify FDCs from the classic period.
In 1974, he published his U.S. First Day Cover Catalogue of Classic Cachets, 1923-1933.
Planty’s catalog was the first basic reference for classic cachets. When published, it was the written record, an inventory of all the known designs on the FDCs from this era. And the Planty catalog provided an excellent beginning for the enlightened collecting of classic FDCs.
In 1977 the FDC Publishing Co., under leadership of Michael Mellone, began publishing the catalog serially under the title, Planty’s Photo Encyclopedia of Cacheted First Day Covers. Added to each description is a photo of, and price for, each design or FDC that is recorded from the period.
Mike also extended the period covered by the catalog through 1939. Although the prices are now outdated, you can get a feel for the relative value of these collectors items. In recent years, Mellone has worked to republish the series and has expanded listings and updated the prices.
Beginning in 1974 — the same year that Dr. Planty produced his first catalog — Mellone initiated his series of First Day Cover publications featuring the photo cachet catalogs.
Mike proved that a photo is worth a thousand words by providing a picture for each cachet and keeping the description to a minimum, thus producing clear and concise listings.
He also developed a usable numbering system, so cachets can be described using a few letters and numbers.
An invaluable handbook for the cachet collector is The Cachet Identifier of U.S. Cacheted First Day Covers by Michael Mellone and Barry Newton. Initially published in 1976, a second edition appeared the following year.
The handbook lists 60 cachetmakers from the 1920s through the 1940s, and details the distinguishing characteristics of their designs. If you were limited to using one reference to identify cacheted FDCs, this is the handbook to have in your library.
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