America's great Souvenir Sheets

America's great Souvenir Sheets
By Percy Doane

When the Second International Philatelic Exhibition opened in New York City’s Grand Central Palace on October 16, 1926, not only was America’s largest ever stamp exhibition being unveiled, but also a major philatelic tradition: the souvenir sheet. That 1926 “White Plains” souvenir sheet, containing 25 copies of the Battle of White Plains Sesquicentennial Issue, is our country’s most famous of such sheets—and the one that ushered in a philatelic craze that continues today.

Today, of course, souvenir sheets come out in droves each year from practically every stamp-issuing entity in the world. Lots of collectors pursue them, but to me, the most interesting are the ones issued in the early days of such emissions. Like the Admiral Bird sheet from the  1934 National Philatelic Exhibition, or the special souvenir sheet issued by the U.S. Post Offi ce Department’s traveling philatelic truck in 1939. Souvenir sheets have been produced for all sorts of events (mostly stamp shows in the early days), and some of them are so striking they are excellent show-stoppers for attracting the attention of non-collectors.

Many souvenir sheets cause what might be called a philatelic pheeding phrenzy! Take, for instance, the United Nations 10th Anniversary souvenir sheet from 1955. At first, only 200,000 of them were printed, but the demand became so high, the U.N. Postal Administration printed 50,000 more. They rose in value from 15 cents to over $10.00 in a matter of weeks—and even higher into the comingyears. And collectors pursued both the first and second printings because there were tiny differences between the two.

Souvenir sheets remain popularbecause, with rare exceptions, they are still fairly cheap. Go out and get a White Plains SS and get started off on the right foot!