The United States Flag was officially adopted by The Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. It was selected as the Nation's Flag in 1877. New York State started in 1897 to celebrate the Flag annually on June 14. Finally in 1949, Congress officially recognized June 14 as "Flag Day". We have been celebrating our "Stars and Stripes" annually since then.
The US Flag first appeared on postage stamps in 1869 with the "Eagle and Shield" Stamp, (Figure 1, below left). Scott #121 & 131. Many Flag stamps have appeared over the years. A very attractive 4 cent 48 star Flag stamp (Figure 1a, below right), Scott #1094 was issued in 1956. This was followed by a 49 star stamp, Scott #1132 in 1959, and then a 50 star stamp, Scott #1153 was issued in 1960.
From 1960 thru 1995, the USPS issued several "Flag over . . . ." Stamps in both commemorative and definitive formats. In 1995, after the "G" Flags, USPS issued the newly designed "Flag Over Porch" (FOP) series. It is interesting to note that these were the first stamps to have the year date printed on the bottom of the stamp. Also these stamps were the first regular issue stamps to be offered in both the water activated and self adhesive formats concurrently.
April 18, 1995 brought the first of many formats of the FOP (see major varieties here). The first stamp issued was Self Adhesive (S/A) in the form of a Convertible Booklet (CB) of twenty (Figure 2, left), Scott #2920c. It had a peel off strip which allowed folding into a convenient size, and would easily fit into a wallet or purse (Figure 2b). Scott's 2920c has only one plate number, V11111, and quickly became the most sought after CB, with a catalog value as high as $150.00. This was quickly replaced by a larger date version, now Scott #2920a (Figure 3, right). This format became the workhorse of the convertible booklets, with many different plate numbers. The first S/A coil version were produced in rolls of 10,000, and were issued at the same time, Scott #2915 (Figure 4). It also had only one plate number being V11111. There's a slight premium on the Plate Number Strip of 5, cataloging at around $18.00.
On May 19, 1995, the USPS issued four water activated (W/A) versions of the FOP's. This brought out the first FOP sheet stamps, which were issued in panes of 100, Scott #2897. USPS assigned two plate numbers to these sheets; they are S11111 and S22222, (Figure 6). There are two distinct gum types for the water activated. First is a low gloss gum, and second is a shiny gum. The S11111 is the low gloss gum version, and the S22222 is the shiny gum version. To meet an early public demand, MDI manufactured a makeshift booklet (Figure 7) which contained 15 of these stamps. The official version of a booklet stamp was produced by the USPS, Scott #2916, (Figure 7a). Two 2916 booklets were produced, one book of ten, and another book of 20. Next came the W/A version of the coil, Scott #2913 issued in rolls of 100, 500, and 3000. This was the first mass produced W/A coil with several plate numbers. This stamp also had the two gum versions, low gloss and shiny. With a greater demand from mega mass mailers, USPS was forced to produce a roll of 10,000. This was to become Scott #2914. Back numbers were added to these rolls on every tenth stamp. These numbers told the purchaser how many stamps were left on the roll. See figure eight. A new collectable variety came into being with a back number on the back of the stamp with the plate number. Commonly called the "# on #", and command a slight premium. Additional S/A booklets were issued on January 20, 1996, followed by Scott #2921. This was reprinted on January 24, 1997 with a 1997 year date as Scott #2921b.
May 21, 1996 brought out another S/A booklet, Scott #2920D and the main coil issue of the FOP, Scott #2915A (Figure 5). This issue became the workhorse of the USPS for the next two years, with several billion printed. This coil excited many coil collectors because of the numerous varieties, which included a variety of die cuts, plate numbers, errors, etc. With the large quantities of the 2915A being printed, printing plates wore out rapidly. After the plate series 99999 wore out, the letter A was added, which produced another complete series of plate numbers. These later became known as the "A" plate numbers. Plate number 77777A with the reverse die cut (Valley Peak), is an example of a premium number from the A series, having a current value of $65.00 for the used single and a value of $125.00 for the plate number strip of five, (Figure 8, bottom strip). There are several high dollar varieties within the FOP series 2915A, most coming from within the 88888 (8XXXX) series of multiple plate numbers.
Additional coil varieties were subsequently issued. The 2915B was issued on June 15, 1996, 2915C on May 21, 1996, and 2915D on Jan 24, 1997. As an additional note, both the 2915B and 2915D were issued with back numbers. On March 14, 1997 an experimental linerless coil was issued in rolls of 100, Scott #3133. This was the last of the FOP series to be issued. The 2920a CB was reprinted in 1998, but kept the 1995 year date on the stamp.
The Flag Over Porch series became an immediate hit with coil collectors, with several articles appearing in Linns and PNC3's Coil Line. The coils, along with the booklets, continue to grow in popularity among specialist collectors. Excellent information can be found on several FOP websites, Type in the keyword "flagoverporch" on any search engine for several choices. The first, and best, of these websites can be found at Roland Klinger's Flag Over Porch web site. The address is http://www.ro-klinger.de/flagoverporch/. Roland does an excellent job of updating and maintaining his site regularly, making it the most accurate site today.
Ebay and other Internet auction sites have played a major role in creating a bonafide specialty collecting field. There are several hundred offerings on the internet daily. Sales have been brisk, with many dealers now realizing the potential impact that this stamp is making in the philatelic market. The year 2005 has brought several value increases, which reflect the growing popularity of this hot specialty area.
The reason that the United States Flag Over Porch stamp is unique is because of the numerous varieties of this single stamp. There are more than 250 different collectable varieties (A list can be obtained by writing the author). There are multiple printing houses, a variety of formats (sheet, coils, convertible booklets, and booklet panes), various plate numbers, different perforations, and die cuts, etc. make this particular stamp a rapidly growing specialty in the philatelic community.
In February 2005, two FOP specialists had a meeting to discuss the feasibility of writing a reference book about the Flag Over Porch Stamp. While meeting with a local publisher the subject of an album came up. Was now the right time to develop and publish a Flag Over Porch Specialty Album? A first draft was put together and shared with several dealers, philatelists and individual stamp collectors. By popular opinion, it was decided that a three part series should be developed and published. The Flag Over Porch Albums were born.
Part I is for singles, Part II is for coil strips of five, and Part III is for booklets and booklet panes. These albums are available in a three part album, or as three separate albums. Part I was released in May 2005. It was very well received by both dealers and individual collectors. After successfully test marketing Part I on ebay, it was decided to proceed with Part II, which was ultimately released in July 2005 at the CHARPEX stamp show in Charlotte, NC. Several copies were sold to dealers, which were in turn sold to individuals at dealer tables. Part III was released November 24, 2005. The "Flag Over Porch" reference book is now in the works, and will be published late in 2006.
The Flag over Porch series is currently becoming the hottest new specialty area for serious minded collectors. Many varieties are readily available and can be easily found in inexpensive mixtures. Scarce varieties are still being found in mission mixes, which are still available for the asking. Linns classified ads now contain many offerings specifically listed as Flag Over Porch or FOP. Sellers are now separating out the FOP stamps from the regularly offered mixtures, and are offering them separately. Ebay is another good source for many varieties, with both affordable, and high dollar items being offered. Type in "Flag Over Porch" in the search box at the ebay site. You would be surprised at what is currently being offered. Good hunting, and enjoy the pleasures of this new found area.
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