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First Quilt Stamps Inspired Collins

by Marjory Sente

On August 9, 2001, the USPS issued a set of four commemoratives featuring Amish quilts. The first day ceremonies took take place at Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana.

Amish quilts are a uniquely American folk art form. They are made of brightly colored fabric designed into bold geometric patterns such as Diamond in the Square, Lone Star, Sunshine and Shadow and Double Ninepatch, which are featured on the new stamps. The quilts portrayed on these stamps were made in Lancaster County, PA, during the early Twentieth Century. Issued in panes of 20, the Amish quilt commemoratives are the first in the new American Treasures series.

The Postal Service authorized a special pictorial FDOI cancellation for the new quilt issue. Jeff Stillson, creative director for Amish Acres and owner of Stillson Studio, designed the pictorial, which features the landmark round barn. Stillson also designed a set of four cachets for the new Amish quilt commemoratives. Limited to production runs of 1000 for each cachet, each design highlights one of the quilts. The Diamond in the Square quilt is shown drying on the clothesline in the side yard of the Amish Acres Main House. An Amish woman is depicted quilting the Lone Star quilt. The Sunshine and Shadow quilt is displayed in a two-seated Indiana Amish buggy. The fourth cachet shows a woman's hand quilting a Double Ninepatch quilt.

This is the second time in U.S. history that quilts have been honored with a set of stamps. On March 8,1978, the USPS released a block of four at Charleston, West Virginia. Second in the American Folk Art Series, the design of the stamps was taken from a rare American quilt made in New York City in 1875.

The first quilt stamps inspired cachetmaker, Fred Collins, to introduce his popular line of Collins Cachets. Fred comments in Collins Hand Painted First Day Covers: The First 20 Years 1978 1997, 'As it turned out, Quiltmaking proved to be the perfect first subject for Collins cachets. From the First Day of Issue in West Virginia, I would continuously be weaving a patchwork quilt of my own from the fabric of our nation. Instead of cloth, I would be using envelopes.'

The early Collins cachets have three trademarks. They are hand colored, franked with plate number singles and usually have two cancellationsthe official FDOI cancel and an unofficial that is closely related to the new issue.

For the quiltmaking issue, Fred traveled to Charleston, WV, to obtain the official FDOI, which he used on 280 FDCs. Upon discovering the availability of the Mountain State Philatelic Center cancellation, he had 48 covers canceled.

Fred observed, 'I discovered that a special pictorial cancel was being offered there. I was amazed to discover that that it was an outline of West Virginia with the state capital building prominently displayed. The blue ink being used was beautiful. I had the 'Mountain State Philatelic Center' postmark applied to the batch of covers I was holding and, quite by chance, the first Collins cancel variety (A102) was created.'

Fred then took all the FDCs to New York City, where they received a second cancellation. His selection for this unofficial was very appropriate. The quilt used for the design of the stamps was made in NYC in 1875 and in 1978 a New York City antique firm owned it.

'The very first Collins FDC, Quiltmaking, did indeed give me my start in literally creating a philatelic quilt of my own,' observed Fred.

Collins FDCs are still being made. In 1999 James T. McCusker published a catalogue that covers the first two decades of Collins cachets. Collins Hand Painted First Day Covers: The First 20 Years 1978 1997 provides a photo of every Collins cover variety as well as giving an abundance of Fred's recollections about producing and servicing his FDCs.

From quilts to FDCs, both are assembling a tapestry about the life and times of America.