What are Commercial Mail Covers?

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As a 'stamps on commercial mail cover collector'...

Well, that question is a contentious one, often with as many varied answers as there are cover combinations.
To me, as a 'stamps on commercial mail cover collector', commercial covers are usually envelopes, parcels, boxes, tins, crates, tubes or wrappers etc., that are used to enclose or identify a mail article, that has attached to it authorised postage stamps, to pay for its safe delivery. The mail article is then couriered, sailed, flown, zeppelined, ballooned, shipped, canoed, cameled, etc., through an authorised postal system to safely arrive at its final destination (hopefully, however wreck mail is also a thing).
Now, as to the collectability or otherwise of a commercial mail cover as to when the mail articles were sent through this authorised postal system, there arises the contentious issue of "correct in-period usage" of the postage stamps attached.
What does this refer to? It simply means that the stamps being used on the article being mailed are the correct ones for the date that the mail article is being sent.
Over the years I have developed 8 rules I follow as best I can when collecting covers. These "rules" allow me to determine when to apply a usage period cut-off to my covers:
1. As determined by the authority, and in Australia's case that's Australia Post (AusPost) i.e. FDI withdrawal date, or postmarking period for commemorative issues such as occasional events like the Olympic issues, or a conference issue and the likes;
2. Period usage date deadlines i.e. Christmas Issues;
3. When a series issue is replaced by the next in the series i.e. when Series 1 is replaced by series 2 and so on;
4. When a series (as above) is replaced by a completely new series of issues, the start date that the new series is released;
5. For definitives, when replaced;
6. Postage rate changes;
7. With regards to scarce and elusive stamps on cover - Dated no more that 6 months from release, and where postage rates allow, as the only or predominate stamp type on the article, and;
8. Where possible, no make-up postage covers.
Rule No. 8 cannot be a hard and fast rule when non standard mail rates, or long running high value issues are concerned as there may no other way to get what you are searching for otherwise. This can, and does, directly affect rule No. 7.
Make up postage covers can also be seen as a type of "space filler" for your cover collection until that right cover comes along, but sometimes they're all you can find, or even afford for that matter.
You could also find a cover with a rare stamp or stamps attached, a sort-after postmark, or a cover  that is addressed to a well known person, or has other significance such as an historical event.
This last type of commercial cover takes us into the realm of Postal History, which in the wider sense a commercial mail cover is also defined.
So, why collect commercial mail covers? A cover has all the information that cannot be garnered from a postage stamp alone, such as the date it was sent, who it was sent to and possibly who sent it. It can also contain the original contents giving us an insight into past events in our lives.
Commercial mail cover collecting is a fascinating field, and at times, a very frustrating one to follow.  Ultimately, as with all collections, it's an individual thing. But one thing is for sure, there's never a dull moment...
Happy collecting,
Stephen Neilsen
commercialmailcovers dot com (coming soon)
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