First Day of Issue: St. Augustine’s Quadricentennial Stamp

St. Augustine celebrated its Quadricentennial, or 400th anniversary, in 1965. To commemorate the occasion, the United States Postal Service released the Florida Settlement Stamp and a series of collectible first day covers.

An United States postal stamp with an illustration of a conquistador, two sailing vessels, and a large Spanish flag against a solid red background.

The Florida Settlement Stamp, designed by New York artist Brook Temple, is printed in red, black, and yellow. It depicts a conquistador with a 16th century royal banner of Spain. This design drew inspiration from Juan Ponce de León and Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, two Spaniards who are credited with the European colonization of Florida. When first issued on August 28, 1965, the stamp only cost five cents. That same day, Spain released an identical stamp as part of the commemoration.

So what exactly is a “first day cover?” First day covers have long been sought by philatelists, or stamp collectors. A first day cover is the envelope with a commemorative stamp. These covers go on sale to the public on the “First Day of Issue” of any commemorative stamp. Post offices stamp these covers with a postmark that shows the date and location of issue. Starting simple, the covers became more elaborate over the years, and often include a “cachet.” The cachet is an illustration that relates to the stamp’s theme and is printed on the left side of the envelope. Collectors could also mail their own envelopes, with 5-cents for the commemorative stamp, to the post office with hopes of receiving them back with first-day cancellations.

An envelope with an illustration of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument's interior on the left side and a cancelled Florida Settlement Stamp on the right side.

In St. Augustine, nearly thirty unique cachets were released. For the first time since 1965, the first day covers will return to their post office of origin, now Governor’s House Cultural Center and Museum. The collectible envelopes will be on display in the exhibition First Day of Issue: St. Augustine’s Quadricentennial Stamp opening on May 12, 2022. This exhibition is curated by Governor’s House Library and made possible by the donation of Martin Severe, a philatelist from Rockville, Maryland. 

Governor’s House Cultural Center and Museum – located at 48 King Street, St. Augustine, Florida 32084 – is free and open to the public Wednesday-Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM. 

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