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.
As a 'stamps on commercial mail cover collector', these are the rules I follow as best I can when buying or selling covers (but as with all collections, it is an individual thing - try finding an International Post 2001 $20 Uluru on cover, used in period. They are out there I'm sure, I just haven't found one yet;-).
To me, commercial mail covers are simply items that are couriered, sailed, canoed, ballooned etc., whether they be an envelope, parcel, box, tin, tube or wrapper, that covers the contents for privacy and safekeeping, that is then sent through an authorised postal system.
Furthermore, with regards to usage, as long as the item being mailed uses postage stamps from within the correct usage period.
This is how I determine when to apply a usage period cut-off to my covers:
  1. As determined by the authority, in Australia's case, Australia Post i.e. FDI withdrawal date, or postmarking period for commemorative issues such as occasional events like the Olympic issues, or APEC Conference 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, such as the current release in Australia of the "Century Of Service" series (2014 - ongoing),
  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. Stamp rate change,
  7. Where possible, no make up postage covers
Rule No.7 cannot be a hard and fast rule when non standard mail rates, or long running high value issues are concerned (see my comment re $20 Uluru above). 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 are 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 that is addressed to a well known person, or has other significance such as a historical event.
This then takes us into the realm of Postal History, which in the wider sense, a commercial mail cover can also be defined. 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.
It is a fascinating field, and at times, a very frustrating one to follow. But one thing is for sure, there will never be a dull moment! Ultimately, as with all collections, it is an individual thing.
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