Although not as common these days, I still hear people disparage an item in an exhibit as, “Oh, that’s just a philatelic cover.” I suspect this may just be sloppy use of language.
A case could be made that any cover in an exhibit is a philatelic cover (I know that is not what is meant.) since it is acquired by a philatelist.
Oftentimes the cover in question is one addressed to or from a stamp dealer. Does that automatically make the cover philatelic? In my opinion NO. Remember, stamp dealers are business people and so most of these covers are really business covers, especially if they use stamps currently available at the post office. Shown here is an example of currently available stamps in the minimum number necessary to pay the fees.
Say you have a cover going from one person to another. Is that always a non-philatelic cover? In my opinion, again NO. If they are old enough how do you know that one or both were not collectors? You probably don’t unless one was a famous collector and you recognize the name. Here is an example of a cover going to a collector although you may not recognize the name. (He wrote the classic article on the Old Postal Cancellations of Nicaragua that appeared in the magazine Die Post in 1935.)
To overcome the problem of sloppy use of language, I submit that we should always use the term “philatelically inspired cover.” So, how do you recognize a philatelically inspired cover? There are several ways. If it is an unaddressed cover it means it was created specifically for collectors so it is philatelic ally inspired. Another way is if the stamps were not regularly issued to the general public. Here is an example from El Salvador. Most of these stamps were not issued to the public but if you had the right political connection you could get examples and their usage was tolerated.
What is your opinion?