golf stamp collecting

The following article on golf philately by Patricia Loehr was published in the Winter 2020 edition of The Golf, the quarterly journal of the Golf Heritage Society. Coins and stamps are often the gateway categories into collecting for young people who branch out from there as their interests begin to crystalize around preferred themes and topics. Baseball cards, for example, are among the most popular of collectibles. Loehr presents a solid overview of sports philately focused on golf-themed stamps which can be found in an amazing variety from countries around the world.

Click here for an additional article by Loehr in the Journal of Sports Philately published by Sports Philatelists International.

Click here for a 2019 article on golf-themed stamps by Michael Schaefer, published in The Golf.

Both Loehr and Schaefer are members of the Golf Heritage Society.

By Patricial Loehr 

All golfers are collectors. They are collectors of golf experiences. Or so I thought many years ago when thinking about why I enjoy golfing. It offers a lot of variety and that variety kept me interested in participating. For example, there are a variety of golf courses – 18-hole, 9-hole, executive, par three, and miniature. Other golfers of any age, personality, and golfing abilities along with variable weather conditions can make for interesting and/or memorable experiences. You might play in a league, recreational with friends, at a group outing or as a single. Volunteering at a tournament or attending one as a spectator are also possibilities. Even just watching a televised broadcast of a tournament, although somewhat passive, could be considered another golf experience.

While working in the club office at a country club I happened to consider the stamp design on some of the incoming mail. Are there any for golf? At the time philately, or stamp collecting, was unknown to me. Philately? I never heard of it. Eventually, one day after work, I paged through the telephone book yellow pages (as I write this I have a yellow-book logoed golf ball next to me) and found a few stamp shops listed. I decided to go to one and ask about golf stamps. The proprietor was very helpful and encouraging. That got me started. This could be the beginning of yet another enjoyable golf experience.

First U.S. golf issue was an envelope.

From discussions with other collectors I understood it would take time and patience to learn about golf philately and to form an accumulation collection. To begin, I found out that the first United States golf issue was actually not a postage stamp, but a stamped envelope (above). Stamped envelopes and postal cards are referred to as postal stationery. The  First Day of Issue cover (FDC) has a generic cancel with the day and location of the stamp’s or, in this case, envelope’s first day of availability to the public.

A 1977 recreation of the cachet at top.

Produced by Sports Philatelists International, the cachet (an added design or text relating to the design of the stamp itself) design recreates the earlier cachet that commemorated the opening of the Augusta National Golf Course in 1933 (above). In the indicium design the golf ball is embossed to raise its surface from the envelope. The FDC shown here is ordinary or personal sized. A larger business/legal size was also produced. Both sizes were made with a security window panel to display the address on the enclosure instead of the outside of the envelope.

First USPS golf stamps, 1981.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) issued its first golf stamps in 1981. The pair features legendary golfers Bobby Jones and Babe Zaharias on an “Official First Day Cover” from the World Golf Hall of Fame, then at Pinehurst, N.C. (above). Information on the reverse states that this cover is number 1451 of 4000 produced by Andrews Cachet. Just as I had missed noticing the golf envelope, so, too, I was unaware that golf stamps were available in 1981.

Stamp honoring Ouimet’s 1913 U.S.Open victory.

The visit I described making to a local stamp shop happened soon after the single Francis Ouimet stamp was issued in 1988 (above). To find out more about collecting golf stamps I joined the International Philatelic Golf Society (IPGS) and Sports Philatelists International (SPI). The IPGS, which has now disbanded after some 30 years of existence, once specialized in the worldwide study of all golf philately, while SPI studies all sports and multi-sport events such as the Olympic Games.

The Francis Ouimet stamp honors the 75th anniversary of his historic victory at the 1913 United States Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. The IPGS produced its first FDC for this stamp. The logo design of the Society is prominently featured in the cachet.

One of five sports-themed stamps, this one for golf.

In 1995 a golf stamp appeared as one of a five-stamp set for “recreational sports.” The other sports are tennis, bowling, volleyball, and baseball/softball. The FDC shown here (above) with the golf stamp has an artistic, colored cachet. It is numbered 43 of 60 produced and the maker’s identity mark is at the lower left corner.

One of a set of stamps issued in 1998 that marked each decade of the 1900s leading up to the millennium.

To celebrate the 20th century as the millennium approached, the USPS issued stamps for each decade. A golf stamp was one of 15 in a commemorative sheet for the 1930s. The stamp of Bobby Jones (above) has vertical text at the stamp’s left edge that reads “Bobby Jones Wins Grand Slam 1930.” On the reverse there is printing that reads “In 1930, amateur Bobby Jones became the first-and-only person to win the Grand Slam of golf. The same year at the age of 28, he retired from competition.” The cachet on the FDC was designed and given to me by another collector I knew at the time. He moved on to other life activities, but I was grateful to receive this and a few other covers prepared by him for golf. I mailed it in to receive the First Day cancel.

In 2017, the USPS issued its first golf “Forever” stamp. The golf ball was one of an eight-stamp set of several sports balls.

At the United States Open Golf Championship in 2017, the USPS issued its first golf “Forever” stamp (above). “Forever” means the stamp may be used to pay the First Class one-ounce letter rate regardless of any future rate increases. Titled “Have a Ball!” it is one of an eight-stamp set. Along with the golf ball stamp are balls for American football, volleyball, soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis, and kickball. A special coating applied during the printing process gave the golf stamps a surface texture to feel like dimples on a golf ball. The FDC cachet was made by me for my collection.

The most recent golf stamp honors champion and legendary professional golfer Arnold Palmer. It, too, is a “Forever” stamp. Although quite faint, the word “Forever” is at the lower left corner. The USPS produced two “First Day of Issue” postmarks for this stamp. One is a digital laser-applied color pictorial of a golf course scene. Arnold grew up next to the Latrobe Country Club where his father was both green keeper and golf professional. The Arnold Palmer Design Company specializes in golf course design since 1972 several years before United States golf postage issues began.  

Arnold Palmer was honored by the USPS with Forever stamps issued in 2020. Above are two examples.

The golf course is where Arnold Palmer excelled year after year while competing on the PGA Tour and golf tournaments around the world.

The other USPS postmark is a black ink hand-stamp of Arnold’s very legible and recognizable signature and his chosen logo design of an open, tilted golf umbrella. In April that design appeared on a commemorative hand-cancel from Latrobe, Pa. 

Other countries have also issued postage stamps. The now-defunct IPGS once issued regular checklists of worldwide golf stamps in its quarterly journal. SPI also lists new issue sports stamps in its journal; however, golf is mixed in with many other sports. As I began to seek out and purchase golf stamps from the philatelic marketplaces, auctions, and other collectors, I learned that stamp collecting can be so much more than postage stamps. I was given a checklist of “philatelic elements” that included items such as booklets, souvenir sheets, maximum cards, and so on. (A maximum card, also known as a maxi-card, is a postcard with a postage stamp placed on the picture side of the card where the cancel, stamp, and card design match or are very similar.) Knowing about all these other elements only piqued my interest in golf philately.

After attending many stamp shows with philatelic exhibits I decided to create an exhibit from my accumulation of golf elements and began to study golf history and, as you know, golf has more than a little history. My first exhibit made its debut in 1994. Since then that thematic exhibit has been reworked and revised to appear in numerous shows. It, like me, is currently in retirement.

There are several categories of philatelic exhibits. As my thematic exhibit matured I created a display-class exhibit that could have a limited amount of non-philatelic elements such as picture postcards, poster stamp labels, etc. Another category is picture postcards so I made a few exhibits of golf picture postcards. There is even a category for First Day Covers as seen here. They are considered illustrated mail.

Much has happened since I first began to think about golf postage stamps so many years ago. And I found another way to enjoy golf because golf philately combines “The king of Hobbies and the Hobby of Kings” with the “Royal and Ancient” game of golf.

Patricia Loehr is a golf collecting enthusiast whose stamp displays have been seen at many philatelic and sports exhibitions. 

Philatelic Definitions
As with most serious hobbies, philately has its own language and terminolgy. To be considered a “philatelic” piece, an item must be authorized, handled, or transported by a postal authority. Postage stamps and stamped envelopes are the most common examples. The imprint on a stamped envelope is known as an indicium.

Commercial Covers (envelopes), while often sent with no collectible intent, quite often are for their postage rate, destination, or other auxilary markings received during the item’s journey. 

First Day of Issue covers (FDCs) are produced to be collected and often have an added design that usually in some way relates to the stamp or stamps. The added design is known as a cachet and is non-philatelic. FDCs are one example of illustrated mail that has an added design. Another example is an advertisng cover with an added design to promote products or services.

American Philatelic Society – National organization providing services to member collectors. It provides a listing of dozens of affiliated groups such as Sports Philatelic International (SPI). The APS sanctions World Series of Philately shows in various cities with exhibits and dealers.

American Topical Association – The organization is many topics such as ships, dogs, maps, etc. It has affiliates as does the APS. SPI is an affiliate of both. Golf is topical collecting among many others within the ATA.

Sports Philatelists International – Collecting stamps by sports themes.