Westpex Retrospective

Introduction and Background


Exhibit Goals

We are Will and Abby Csaplar. This exhibit is the synthesis of two lifelong passions, wildlife conservation and philately. It is the culmination of 30-plus years of actively collecting and researching revenue stamps for waterfowl conservation. Our goals are:

  1. To tell the entire story by placing individual items of social, historical and philatelic importance into their appropriate context, an in-depth context that has never before been fully achieved;
  2. It is hoped that our efforts may lead to a renewed interest in the hobby, which, like so many collectibles, was measurably impacted by the recession;
  3. To show collectors of similar material that they can succeed in the philatelic arena;
  4. To help secure a measure of respect that is so deserved for the many collectors that have competed on the sidelines of organized philately for decades.

Exhibit Organization and How the items Were Selected for Inclusion

A superficial examination might lead one to conclude this is really five different exhibits under one title. That would not be accurate. We spent three years in the active preparation phase. Over this time, several different forms of organization were considered. We felt that by telling the story in five distinct chapters under one title, we could most accurately portray the nature of the cooperative effort that existed for waterfowl conservation in the U.S. during the 20th Century. The five levels of government discussed in each chapter operated both:

  1. Independently of each other to manage waterfowl populations under their jurisdiction; and
  2. Together, to achieve the most effective overall conservation policy. They independently gathered species population data. They subsequently shared the data to establish nation-wide season lengths and bag limits. It was this combination that effectively kept waterfowl populations in equilibrium.

More to the crux of this exhibit, the five different levels of government:

  1. Adopted a collective method of regulation and law enforcement that developed into the backbone of waterfowl conservation policy in the U.S. in the 20th Century. During this time, the license and stamp system evolved into a powerful and efficient regulatory tool; and
  2. They shared a common approach to secure funding. Sales of licenses and stamps served to generate badly needed funds for this massive undertaking.

We believe we have selected the most appropriate organizational approach. Each chapter is organized chronologically. The first jurisdiction to issue stamps is shown altogether, followed by the second, third, and so on.

After acquiring portions of the Rudy and Torre collections, we found that our own collection had grown to over 20,000 items. The criteria for selecting items for this exhibit were straightforward: We wished to showcase the material with the highest difficulty of acquisition that also told the story in a definitive way. If an item was important to the story, but of low difficulty, it was included. On the other hand, items of low difficulty that were unnecessary to tell the story were excluded.

The number of examples recorded in this exhibit is derived from an ongoing census, begun by in the 1950s by E. L. Vanderford and continued by David R. Torre to date. All certificate numbers are printed on the exhibit pages and the certificates themselves are located behind the exhibit pages.


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants 

E. L. Vanderford. Federal “duck” stamps have attracted collectors and wildlife enthusiasts since their inception in 1934. Once state and local governments began issuing waterfowl stamps in the late 1930s, there existed a group of stamps that was of sufficient size to stimulate pioneer revenue collectors to research them and organize them into collections. Foremost amongst them was E. L. Vanderford of Sacramento, who took the fledgling hobby to a new level, helping to get hundreds of new collectors started through his articles in various wildlife publications, columns in the The American Revenuer, The State Revenue Newsletter and Linn’s Stamp News, and culminating in his 1973 Handbook of Fish and Game License Stamps. This was an exhaustive compilation of all fish and game stamps issued until that time, which served as the definitive guide for the hobby for nearly two decades. Vanderford amassed the greatest fish and game collection of his time. Shortly before his death in 1994, he allowed his protege, David R. Torre, to purchase the majority of his collection (see Figure 2).



Figure 2. Among the most important items in the exhibit is the 1956 Honey Lake stamp, one of three examples recorded and originally in the Vanderford collection. This is the stamp which has been used to illustrate virtually all philatelic references, including the Scott Specialized Catalog.




Jeannette C. Rudy. Although never very involved in organized philately, Jeannette was an avid hunter and award-winning markswoman with a lifelong interest in waterfowl stamps. In the 1970s she had the good fortune of having Opryland USA built on her ranch in Nashville. She now had the means to acquire anything she wanted —and she wanted the best collection of waterfowl stamps in the world. Although an exhibit of her stamps was never shown at a Champion of Champions (C of C) qualifying show in open competition, it was shown in the Court of Honor at Napex in the late 1990s. Jeannette funded an entire room at the National Postal Museum devoted exclusively to waterfowl stamps. Her contributions to the hobby should not be underestimated. Her philatelic legacy rests in her concentration of a large percentage of the hobby’s rarest and most desirable items into one collection.

Prior to Jeannette donating the majority of her waterfowl collection to the National Postal Museum, she allowed us to purchase many key items needed for this exhibit, including the large die proof of RW1, the RW3 FDC (see Figure 3c), the latest recorded usage of a federal stamp on form 3333 (RW22), and the latest recorded federal large die proof in collector hands (RW23). For this we shall always be grateful.



Figure 3a. With the help of Jeannette Rudy and Bob Dumaine, we were able to assemble the RW1-3 FDC progression. In attempting to create the first federal waterfowl stamp first day cover, Roessler missed on RW1 by three days.



Figure 3b. Roessler came closer with RW2, missing by a single day.



Figure 3c. Roessler finally succeeded in creating the first federal waterfowl stamp first day cover with RW3.




Robert Dumaine. A stamp dealer from Houston, who has specialized in buying and selling duck stamps for over 30 years. His firm, Sam Houston Philatelies, has conducted regular auctions of duck stamps and related material for much of this time. Bob wrote The Duck Stamp Column in Linns Stamp News for 14 years and was the founder of The Duck Stamp Collector’s Society. He is co-author of The Duck Stamp Story, and has arguably done more to popularize the collecting of duck stamps than anyone in history. Recently, he was inducted into the American Stamp Dealers Association Hall of Fame. Over the years. Bob has been the source for many of the important items in our exhibit, including the 1910 Canal Zone metal license, the RW1-2 covers in the FDC progression, most of the difficult form 3333 usages, the 1945 Pymatuning Hunting stamp and the 1951 Illinois Daily stamp (see Figures 4 and 5). He has also provided us with research materials and has otherwise been of invaluable assistance.



Figure 4. The 1910 Canal Zone hunting license is the earliest recorded from a series issued by the U.S. government to license workers on the canal to hunt in their leisure time. The metal license has a slot at the top and was intended as a watch fob.




Figure 5. The 1945 Pymatuning hunting stamp (below) appeared on Ebay, was purchased by Dumaine and resold to the Csaplars. It is one of three examples recorded.




David R. Torre. Residing in Santa Rosa, California, David has been a lifelong collector, started at age six by his father, Angelo Torre Jr., one of the pioneer fish and game collectors and one of the first duck stamp dealers. David began apprenticing with other stamp dealers in Northern California by age 11. He also started washing dishes at his family’s restaurant and used his earnings to form a collection of high quality U.S. stamps. In 1974 (at age 16) he flew to New York and sold his entire collection at a single INTERPEX show, reinvesting every dollar in duck stamps, thus becoming the youngest major duck stamp dealer in the country. He began keeping the best material as a personal investment in the speculative late 1970s, and these gems later formed the nucleus for what would eventually become the most renowned collection of fish and game stamps.

David would go on to publish over 200 pages of articles in The American Revenuer, edit the Specialized Catalog of U.S. Non Pictorial Waterfowl Stamps, and has edited the waterfowl stamp section of the Scott Specialized Catalog for over 20 years. David has judged at C of C qualifying shows. His own exhibit, Classic State and Local Fish and Game Stamps, won 29 national and international gold medals, was featured at the philatelic exhibits at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, numerous courts of honor including Napex, Westpex and World Stamp Expo 2000. In 2000, David’s exhibit won a Grand Award and was entered into the C of C. Following this achievement, he retired his pioneering exhibit.

Through David’s great kindness, he allowed us to purchase some of the most important waterfowl stamp rarities from his collection needed for our exhibit (see Figure 6). As he knows this area of philately better than anyone, ourselves included, we asked him to prepare a Judge’s Guide for our exhibit. It is included in this package of information. David has been tremendously supportive of our efforts to document the waterfowl license and stamp story for posterity and hopefully garner some respect for a niche of philately he shares with us. For all his help we are truly indebted.



Figure 6. Among the rarities David Torre allowed us obtain for our exhibit were the 1946 and 1947 Marion County duck stamps. Among the first recorded Marion County stamps, they were discovered by legendary stamp dealer Gilson Willets of Flying Horse stamp Company fame. Willets inscribed the stamps “KANSAS” and later sold the stamps to E.L. Vanderford, who sold them to David shortly before his death.




Finally, we would like to thank you, the judges, for taking the time to understand our exhibit.



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