General Stamp Collecting

The Z Grill – U.S. #85A

The 1868 1¢ Z Grill

Did you know the 1868 1¢ Z Grill (Scott 85A) is America’s rarest stamp?  One of the legends of philately, this Z Grill was purchased by Mystic in October 1998 for $935,000 – setting a record price for a U.S. stamp.

Currently valued at $3 million, the stamp is the finest One-Cent Z Grill known and the only one available to collectors.  (Only one other exists and it’s permanently locked into the New York Public Library’s Miller Collection.)

The Z grill is one of several embossed grill patterns used to break the fibers of certain early U.S. stamps.  Ink was absorbed into the grill when the stamp was cancelled, making removal of the cancel and reuse of the stamp impossible.

The Z grill pattern is approximately 11 millimeters by 14 millimeters (13 to 14 x 18 grill points.)  This pattern is unique due to the horizontal orientation of the tiny grid projections.

Charles F. Steele introduced the practice of grilling stamps, which was used for only a few years during the late 1860s. The classification system for grills was developed in the early 1900s by William L. Stevenson and is still in use today.

For several years, Mystic featured the Z Grill in our advertising and as a sort of ambassador at stamp shows, displaying it for the benefit of collectors.  In 2005, Mystic traded its Z Grill for the unique 1918 Jenny Invert Plate-Number Block, which is America’s Greatest Stamp Rarity.  The one-for-one trade of two legendary U.S. stamp treasures with a combined value of $6 million generated international headlines and interest in our hobby.

Posted in General Stamp Collecting, Neat Stamp Stories | 14 Comments

Let Mystic Help Your Collection Grow

Did you know Mystic offers a wide range of services that makes it fun and easy to enjoy your hobby time, whether you’re a new collector or a seasoned pro?  It’s true!  Just look at a few of the ways we can help you

• FREE Mystic U.S. Stamp Catalog… a complete, fact-filled guide to help you make the most of your collection.  Printed in color to show off our beautiful U.S. stamps, it contains prices, fun and interesting facts about different stamps, and a list of all the latest equipment and supplies you need.  Request your free catalog when placing an order, with your approval selection, or contact our Customer Service Department.

• FREE At-Home Examination Service… Mystic offers a “see-before-you-buy” service for collectors who wish to receive stamps “on approval.”  Selections are mailed to your door; you may purchase all, part, or none of the selection, returning the items not purchased.  And you have up to 21 days after receipt of the stamps to make your decision!

• Fast, Convenient Service… by using Mystic’s convenient shop-by-mail service, you get fast, personal service right to your mailbox – without the hassles of driving, parking, or lack of time.  You always make up your own mind, and shop the hours YOU choose!

• Guaranteed Satisfaction… all purchases from Mystic are backed by a money-back guarantee of satisfaction.  If you aren’t completely satisfied with any stamp or collecting supply ordered from Mystic, simply return it to us within 90 days.  We will gladly issue you a credit voucher or refund your money, whichever you prefer.

• Customer Service… if you ever have a question, problem, or need, you can write, call, FAX , or e-mail Mystic’s Customer Service Department at:

Mystic Stamp Company
9700 Mill Street
Camden, NY 13316
1 (315) 245-2690
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM Eastern Time Monday-Friday
Toll-free Order Phone 1 (866) 660-7147
Toll-free FAX (anytime) 1 (800) 385-4919
E-Mail: info@mysticstamp

Mystic’s team of 150 stamp professionals are eager to provide you with prompt, friendly service.  So if there’s anything we can do to help you, please let us know.  Thank you for choosing Mystic to help your hobby grow!

Posted in Beginner's Section, General Stamp Collecting | 3 Comments

Different Kinds of First Day Covers

Browse an issue of Mystic’s Stamp Showcase or and you may notice offers for First Day Covers described as made by Fleetwood, Mystic, “Silk” or “Common.”  Those terms all refer to the cachet maker that produced the cover. Here’s the differences:

Fleetwood began producing First Day Covers in 1941 with the Vermont Statehood issue.  Mystic acquired Fleetwood in 2007 and is proud to continue its tradition of excellence today.  Many Fleetwood cachets (designs) are full-color works of original art.  Most Fleetwood First Day Covers feature interesting information about the stamp subject.  Fleetwood First Day Covers are produced for both commemorative and regular issue U.S. stamps of all denominations.  Fleetwood covers may be addressed or unaddressed.

Mystic began producing First Day Covers in 1992 with the Pledge of Allegiance issue and ended in 2007 with the Henry W. Longfellow issue.  With few exceptions, Mystic First Day Covers have full-color cachets, neat information about the stamp subject, and feature commemorative U.S. stamp issues at the first class rate.

“Silk” First Day Covers produced by Colorano were introduced in 1971 with the America’s Wool issue  and finished in 2016 with the Snowflakes issue after Mystic purchased Colorano’s stock in February 2016.  Each color illustration is printed on  satin-finish fabric, fastened to the cover and surrounded by a luxurious gold embossed border.  “Silk” First Day Covers feature regular issue and commemorative stamps.  They have no additional information about the stamp subject.

Mystic and Silk First Day Covers are unaddressed.

Classic First Day Covers are from various sources and can date from the 1920s to the present. Classic covers are interesting because of the diversity of their cachets.  Classic First Day Covers  may be addressed or unaddressed, illustrated or unillustrated with printed or rubber design in one or more than one color.  They may feature regular issue or commemorative stamps. (Important note – because of their nature, Classic cover cachets will likely vary from those pictured.)

Posted in General Stamp Collecting | 21 Comments Makes Collecting More Fun!

All the great stamps and supplies you’d expect are here, but we’ve added a lot of stamp information – stories, facts and much more. It’s a great resource – a reference library right at your fingertips.

And our website is available on your mobile device – so you can get the stamp facts you need anytime and anywhere. It’s like having our Stamp Experts at your beck and call 24/7.

Here’s just a few examples of what you’ll find on the site:

• Mount sizes for U.S. stamps

Mount information is included for most U.S. stamps.

Mount information is included for most U.S. stamps.

• Issue date, quantity and First Day of Issue city

Each U.S. stamp on Mystic's website includes important facts and interesting stories about the stamp.

Each U.S. stamp on Mystic’s website includes important facts and interesting stories about the stamp.

• Information on additional formats like pairs and blocks

Complete access to Mystic’s Discovery Center

Browse stamps by country

Videos from the annual Maynard Sundman Lecture

Our Reward Points program

The online Mystic U.S. Stamp Catalog

Learn how to sell your stamps

• Shop for Limited-Edition Fleetwood First Day Covers

Foreign stamp identifier guide

Philatelic glossary

Our popular daily This Day in History

And there’s lots more.  Be sure to bookmark our site – you’ll be glad you did!

Posted in General Stamp Collecting | 2 Comments

Famous Collectors

Who’s Delivering Your Mail?

What do legendary football coach Knute Rockne, President Harry Truman and the serial 2376killer known as the Son of Sam have in common? If you guessed they were all postal workers at one time, you’re right! Actually, a lot of famous people helped move the mail before becoming household names. Let’s take a look at a few…

Before he became one of the most famous college football coaches of all time, Knute Rockne worked as a postal clerk in Chicago. The USPS honored Rockne with a commemorative stamp on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Harry S. Truman, Abraham Lincoln, and abolitionist John Brown, who led the raid on Harpers Ferry, were once postmasters. (Truman accepted the position, but gave the responsibilities and salary to a widowed neighbor.)

Noah Webster of dictionary fame worked as a special agent for the postal agency. Truman, Lincoln, and Webster have been pictured on U.S. stamps.

Novelist Charles Bukowski worked as a postal worker in Los Angeles for three years. In 1969, he wrote to a friend to say he was making a career change. “I have one of two choices – stay in the post office and go crazy… or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”

Sherman Hemsley, who portrayed George on the television series The Jeffersons, and Bing 1355Cosby were mail clerks. Walt Disney and Rock Hudson worked as letter carriers. Disney was pictured on a 1968 U.S. stamp.

Novelist William Faulkner worked as a postmaster in Mississippi before he realized he wasn’t suited to working with the public. Faulkner reportedly told his boss he was resigning because “…I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.”

Comedian Steve Carell, star of The Office, quit his job as a mail carrier because his boss told him he wasn’t very good and needed to be faster. Bill Nye – aka “The Science Guy” – was the postmaster of Laramie, Wyoming. William S. Hart, honored in the 2010 Cowboys of the Silver Screen set, was once a mail clerk in New York City.

Imagine what a bright future might be in store for your mailman!

Posted in Beginner's Section, General Stamp Collecting | 4 Comments

Special Event Covers

Chances are you’re familiar with First Day Covers, which feature a newly-issued stamp, an official cancellation marking the issue date and often artwork that complements the stamp design. But Special Event Covers are also fun to collect. Often overlooked, these are important souvenirs of special moments in history that complement your stamp collection nicely.

M892Special Event Covers are limited editions, created and cancelled to mark occasions ranging from stamp shows to Space Shuttle flights, like the one pictured here. The cover to the right was carried aboard the Challenger’s STS-8 mission. It bears the 1983 $9.35 Express Main stamp and a color cachet picturing the mission’s official patch. The cover was postmarked on August 14, 1983, at Kennedy Space Center to commemorate the shuttle’s official launch.

Take-off was delayed, however, until the 30th of that month. A second cancellation was added on that date, along with a third postmark on September 5th to mark the return to Earth. Additional markings commemorate NASA’s 25th anniversary. This cover is also a direct connection to three historic landmarks – STS-8 was NASA’s first night launch, its first night landing, and the first space flight by an African American astronaut, Guion Bluford.


This set of two Special Event covers marked the end of one millenium and the dawn of the next, showing another neat way to combine stamp collecting and history. One cover was postmarked December 31, 1999, at New Year’s Eve Station. The second cover was cancelled January 1, 2000, at Celebrate 2000 Station. Notice how the cachets complement the stamp design and the cancellation’s type fits the topic.

Even sporting events like the World Series and the Iditarod make great topics for Special Event covers. The 2010 Iditarod Race cover pictured below was personally autographed by DeeDee Jonrowe, the world’s most celebrated female musher.

FD1112The cover bears the Alaska Statehood, Pony Express and Transpacific Airmail stamps plus a map of the route and cancellations marking the beginning and end of the 2010 race. Only 100 Iditarod covers were autographed and carried by Jonrow as she braved the grueling 1,049-mile race across Alaska, fighting bitter cold and the elements.

Like stamp collecting in general, prices for Special Event covers range greatly. But supply and demand has less of an impact on the cost of these covers – even though they’re created in small numbers and can never be reproduced, many of these scarce covers can be purchased for just a few dollars.

Posted in General Stamp Collecting | 2 Comments