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Philatelic Society
Affiliate #215

Origins of the CCCC

1957 article from an Iowa paper
(click to enlarge)
The CCCC is the world's largest philatelic exchange organization currently with more than 2,000 active members in over 50 countries. Founded March 5, 1947, shortly after World War II, its purpose was to assist stamp and cover collectors find contacts and promote international friendships. These goals continue into today.

The organization had humble beginnings. Stamp collectors around the globe were looking to re-connect with one another after the ravages of World War II. King Beal of Waterloo, Iowa had the idea in 1947 of forming a worldwide organization that would help people do just that through the use of a circuit form. It would pass among several members and then return back to the person who originated it. Along the way everyone was encouraged to list their specialties and exchange offers.

The first "C" in the club's name stands for "Cover" for good reason, as everyone was encouraged to make the envelope (known as a "cover" to collectors) in which they mailed the circuit to the next member special in some way. It could have been a first day cover, perhaps a special cancellation was obtained, maybe a printed cached envelope was used, or even a handdrawing applied to it.

It proved to be popular concept with collectors and the club grew to thousands in a matter of just a few years. Several sub-groups sprung from the main CCCC membership, especially in the United States. Established local stamp clubs formed CCCC chapter. Some CCCC members interested in handdrawn cachets formed the "IMPs"- Impressionists Handdrawn Cover Makers.

Interestingly, the CCCC's popularity even caught the attention of the Central Intellegence Agency, as expressed in this passage of a recently released secret document on Soviet postal spying:

Letters containing orders or requests for stamps by catalogue numbers may lend themselves to clandestine transmittal of coded Information. It should be noted that these letters are not in violation of Soviet postal regulations. The RIS [Russian Intelligence Service] has used international stamp collectors' letters for agent communication outside the USSR to the USSR. "Cover" exchanges to and from the Soviet Union are not as prevalent as in other countries but there have been exchanges with the Western world. Probably the most widely circulated cover club in the USSR is the Cover Collectors Circuit Club with headquarters in Waterloo, Iowa.
["Soviet Postal Intelligence," CIA, May, 1962    relevant pages    full online document]

The world is definitely a different place since the CCCC came about in 1947. But even with the Internet and other mass-communications tools, there is nothing that can replace the excitement of receiving a colorful envelope from a fellow collector in a far-off land. That's how and why the Cover Collectors Circuit Club thrived then and now!

© Webmaster Tom Fortunato