How to get a 'limited edition' version of a US postage stamp

Some stamp collectors specialize in "first-day covers." Here's what they are and how to get one for the new Daffy Duck stamp

On the first day a stamp is issued, the United States Postal Service (USPS) selects a city to do the honors. The new stamp is sold only in that city for one day. It's a way to celebrate that city's connection to a stamp. The new Daffy stamp, for example, will be sold first in Los Angeles, since that's where the Warner Bros. studios are. Warner Bros. created the Daffy Duck character.

If you buy a Daffy Duck stamp in Los Angeles that day, you can take it to the Hollywood post office (or the "event site" on Hollywood Boulevard) and have it specially canceled.

A stamp is canceled when a postmark is applied. A postmark shows the date the letter was accepted at a post office, along with the city and zip code. "Canceling" a stamp ensures that it won't be reused.

Postmarks are usually nothing fancy - maybe a circle and some wavy lines. But for the first day of issue, the postmark is bigger and fancier. It often has customized artwork and is applied by hand. The stamp and envelope is known to collectors as a "first-day cover."

First-day covers, then, are a limited edition. And the good news is that you don't have to be in the first-day city to get a first-day cover.

Here are three other ways to get a Daffy Duck first-day cover.

1. Buy the Daffy stamp when it's available on April 17. Put one on an envelope, and address the envelope to yourself. Put that envelope inside another envelope, and address it to:

Daffy Duck Stamp Postmaster 7001 South Central Ave. Room 051 Los Angeles, CA 90052-9991.

You will receive a fancy first-day cancelation on your self-addressed envelope as long as your envelope arrives within 30 days of April 16. (For information on other new stamps, ask at your local post office or consult a stamp-collecting publication like Linn's Stamp News.)

If you want to protect the first-day postmark, enclose a second self-addressed, stamped envelope in which to return the first-day cover. (By the way, you can "customize" the envelope you send in, if you like.) 2. You can also get a specially designed, first-day cover for $1.54. Send a check (no cash!) to:

Information Fulfillment Center US Postal Service Dept. 6270 PO Box 419014 Kansas City, MO 64141-6014

Include a note saying you want the Daffy Duck first-day cover, along with your name and address.

3. For the Daffy stamp, the USPS has made a special one-day arrangement. On Saturday, April 17, Daffy Duck stamps will be sold at Wal-Mart stores nationwide. A cancelation designed for this promotion will be available. (Bring an envelope.)

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