A Set of Stamps for the Ages – Extended Cut
A Set of Stamps for the Ages
When Charles W. Schwartz was asked to design Missouri’s first trout stamps, it would prove to be a momentous and far-reaching (philatelically speaking) decision, affecting not just Missouri sportsmen. Friends and fans of Charles and his art, conservation-minded lovers of wildlife art around the country and, especially, a growing number of fish and game stamp collectors were in for a very special treat – as he chose to produce the stamps in multicolor.
As a result, Missouri became just the second state or local government (following Nebraska in 1967) to follow the precedent set by the federal migratory bird hunting stamp program a decade earlier – with a stamp whose vignette was created by Iowa artist Maynard Reece and featured John Olin’s champion retriever, King Buck (see Figure 1).
When I wrote the introduction to Part One of this blog series, I included the following passage:
Often, when we do take notice of nature, it is only because something beautiful briefly captures our attention and provides us with immediate gratification – a therapeutic moment for sure, which should not be discounted too heavily in this day and age. Aldo Leopold, himself, offered this assessment: “Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty.”
As he and Aldo were kindred spirits, Charles no doubt recognized this human trait and, I am certain, also realized that for most of us – that is where our attention span too often ends. For this reason, he purposefully removed the gloss that color provides and preferred to work in black and white – both in his photography and his illustrations.
He has been quoted as saying “black and white reduced everything to its simplest terms”. However, I believe there was a much more tangible benefit; when you are exposed to his art (the illustrations, especially) you bypass the fleeting “skin deep” impression and are taken to the next level from the outset. This provides a rare opportunity to delve deeper, perhaps resulting in a more meaningful, lasting impression.
In other words, Charles wanted to remove the distraction which is multicolor and, in so doing, facilitate a deeper insight into our world. His attention to detail and his connection with nature allowed Charles to present birds and animals in a way that was not only anatomically correct and completely natural – but in a way that captured the imagination of viewers of all ages.
With this in mind, it may seem curious or even paradoxical that Charles Schwartz, an esteemed artist who had (until the 1960s) purposefully eschewed the use of color in order to bypass the initial, fleeting “skin deep” impression, would now choose to bring “the pretty” into play and become known – in philatelic circles – for being a multicolor trendsetter. There is a lot to unpackage here, so let us start with some fish and game stamp design background.
In the introduction to The Maryland Big Game Stamps – Part Six, I provided a discussion and survey of some of the most popular pictorial state and local fish and game stamps that had been issued prior to staff artist John Taylor’s 1965-66 Maryland big game stamps.
I stated that all of the consensus best-designed stamps had either been produced in monochrome; printed in black ink on white paper or using a single color of ink (other than black) on white paper or, in a sort of step-up from monochrome, they were printed in black ink on colored paper or using a single color of ink (other than black) on colored paper.
Therefore, Taylor’s use of an additional color – along with exceptional composition and juxtaposition of the individual design elements – had produced a classic bicolor stamp (see Figure 2).
When it comes to state trout stamps, specifically, this was the case for every single issue – the staff artists and / or issuing state agencies chose to make minimal use of color – right up until Missouri issued their first stamp in 1969. Next, in order to develop a frame of reference and proper context for Charles’ ground-breaking trout stamps, I will briefly discuss these (in alphabetical order) and we shall take a look at the most recent issue (prior to 1969) for every state:
Delaware required anglers wishing to fish for trout in designated streams to purchase trout stamps starting in 1956. Every single issue (for non-residents as well as residents, when required) featured an identical leaping trout design until 1976. The design was printed using either black ink on white paper or a single color of ink other than black on colored paper (see Figure 3). To see all of the Delaware trout stamps in one gallery, click here.
Neighboring Iowa started requiring the purchase of trout stamps in 1961. Every stamp issued through 1971-72, once again, featured the same design printed using either black ink or a single color of ink other than black on white paper (the first year only) or on different color of paper – included several unique stamps printed on gold or silver (twice) coated paper stock (see Figure 4). To see all of the early Delaware trout stamps in one gallery, click here.
Indiana began requiring trout stamps in 1951. While almost every issue featured a unique design, seven of the first eight stamps were printed in black ink on white paper. The next eleven stamps leading up to Charles’ first design in 1969 were printed using a single color of ink other than black on white paper (see Figure 5). To see all of the early Indiana trout stamps in one gallery, click here.
Maryland began requiring trout stamps in 1963. In contrast with their big game stamps, Taylor used the same design for every issue. Each stamp was printed using either black or a single color of ink other than black for the leaping trout motif, in combination with a second color of ink for the lettering, numerals and banner at the bottom (after the first two issues, this second color was always black – see Figure 6). To see all of the early Maryland trout stamps in one gallery, click here.
Michigan was the first state to require anglers to purchase trout stamps, starting in 1948. Their stamps featured a new design every year and the first 16 stamps (through 1963) were engraved by large bank note companies. Therefore, the images were of extremely high quality – comparable to the federal duck stamps.
Philatelic lore tells us that through buying a Michigan trout stamp for his wife each year as a gift, future guru E.L. Vanderford became hooked on the fish and game stamp hobby. For more on this, click here. However, all of the Michigan trout stamps were printed using a single color of ink on white paper (see Figure 7). To see all of the early Michigan trout stamps in one gallery, click here.
Pennsylvania began requiring non-resident anglers (only) to purchase trout stamps starting in 1956. Every stamp featured the same (vertical) leaping trout design. All of the stamps were printed in either black ink or a single color other than black on white or colored paper (see Figure 8). The series was relatively short-lived and the stamps were discontinued after 1963. To see all of the Pennsylvania non-resident trout stamps in one gallery, click here.
Tennessee began requiring anglers to purchase trout stamps in 1956. All of the stamps through 1962-63 featured a different (often spectacular) design by the legendary Worth B. Carnahan. For more on this great story, see From Girlie Pulps to Trout Stamps. Stamps issued from 1964-65 through 1968-69 featured the same (vertical) design of a standing fisherman with rod extended.
All of the stamps, including those designed by Carnahan, were printed using a single color of ink on white paper (see Figure 9). To see all of the Tennessee trout stamps in one gallery, click here.
The survey above includes the states featuring the best trout stamp art prior to Charles’ stamps, the creme de la creme. As such, these series were (and continue to be) very popular with collectors and sportsmen alike.
A few other states also issued trout stamps during this period: Arizona starting in 1959, New Jersey starting in 1953 and West Virginia in 1960 and 1961 (only), all issued trout stamps that were printed in a similar style that was evidently status quo for this period – using black ink or a single color other than black on white or colored paper.
So Why Choose Multicolor?
Charles’ skill set combined his knowledge as a trained biologist with prowess as a wildlife artist specializing in small detailed drawings, extensive experience as an illustrator for books and magazines and an innate ability to represent his subjects in an anatomically correct and completely natural way. Hence it was custom made to produce trout stamps that would keep in line with the status quo, and yet, almost certainly be guaranteed to surpass (aesthetically) all those that had come before – with the possible exception of a few of Carnahan’s unique poster-style masterpieces.
So we are left to ask the question, why would Charles Schwartz – of all people – become the first artist to choose to have his trout stamps produced in multicolor? There are a number of possible explanations and the choice was likely made due to a combination of these:
First, Charles and Libby enjoyed duck hunting, albeit in moderation (see Figures 3 and 4 Part Four). Therefore, they were not only aware of the federal migratory bird hunting stamps as a result of discussions with artist friends such as Maynard Reece and Stanley Stearns – they would have actually purchased a new stamp every waterfowl hunting season and affixed it to their licenses.
As wildlife art was such a big part of their lives, we can safely assume it was not simply a matter of buying a couple of stamps, slapped them on their licenses and buried them in their billfolds. More likely, they would have shared in admiring, studying and discussing each new issue. In other words, The Schwartz’s certainly would have kept up with the current parameters for federal duck stamp art and when their friend Maynard Reece “broke the color barrier” with his soulful rendition of King Buck in 1959, it would not have gone unnoticed.
Second, in Collecting Used Federal Duck Stamps – Part Three, I suggested that Reece’s 1959-60 stamp was part of a collective effort on the part of all American artists to “elevate their game” in order to help preserve the American spirit during the Vietnam War. As a result, the 1960s and early 1970s was, arguably, responsible for the greatest period of federal duck stamp art in the program’s history. This group of stamps includes not only three by Reece – but also Stanley Stearns’ Nene in 1964 (see Figure10).
As we have seen throughout this blog series, Charles Schwartz was nothing if not compassionate and multitalented. Therefore, I do not believe he would have been immune to this calling.
Third, in the same post I pointed out that “In acknowledgement, more hunters than ever before took great care when signing their stamps, lessening their impact on the ameliorative artwork.” This was likely not lost on either Charles or Libby, whose shared goal was to reach the most people possible in their quest to strengthen the connection between humans and the natural world.
If bringing “the pretty” into play on Charles’ trout stamps would help to capture the attention and focus the interest of a larger audience – in addition to the possibility of serving as an emotional salve during the height of American involvement in the Vietnam War – then why not? Besides, hadn’t he just spent a considerable amount of time working in full color, creating the murals for the MDOC?
Finally, from the standpoint of the MDOC, the goal of these new trout stamps was to raise as much money as possible to fund restocking programs. If the additional expense of printing the stamps in multicolor was likely to result in more attention being paid to the new stamp program and, therefore, produced a greater bottom line – the historically progressive (as of the 1930s) Missouri Department of Conservation would find a way to make it happen.
On June 20, 1968, the Department created a $3 trout stamp and less than a month later, on July 18, Charles’ multicolor design for the first stamp was approved.
Helping to Solidify a Nascent Hobby
Charles would design the first 14 Missouri trout stamps and for a brief “avant-garde” period of time (1969 – 1972), his stamps would be the only multicolor state fishing stamps produced in the U.S. The first six or seven stamps, in particular, are exceptional – Charles’ fabulous art was infused with a technicolor-like quality and then shrunk down into an affordable, convenient size. Everyone who so desired (and there would be many) could now own examples of Charles’ art, to keep and admire.
Throughout his long and diversified career, Charles Schwartz had always been a team player – serving important roles in saving the Nene goose and in allowing Aldo Leopold’s teachings to be visualized and internalized. Along with his wife and partner Libby, they educated people of all ages and from all walks of live about human’s relationship with the environment and nature and the value of good stewardship.
Now, Charles was to extemporaneously team up with two men he would never meet and probably never even spoke to on the phone, Ken Pruess, a professor in the Entomology Department at the University of Nebraska, a lifelong trout fisherman and passionate fly tyer and Elmore Vanderford, who managed an automobile parts warehouse in Sacramento, California and was also a weekend sportsman extraordinaire – to help solidify the nascent hobby of fish and game stamp collecting into a viable niche within the larger revenue stamp and greater philatelic communities.
By the time Missouri issued their first trout stamps, Pruess and Vanderford were avid collectors of state and local fish and game stamps. As Managing Editor and Assistant Editor (Fish & Game) of The State Revenue Newsletter, Ken and Van worked tirelessly in their spare time to make people aware of and educate them about these fascinating stamps – which at this point were viewed as simply part and parcel of state revenue stamp collecting.
Ken serially published Van’s detailed and well-researched listings and descriptions of the various state and local stamps in The State Revenue Newsletter starting with the September, 1967 issue. Ken and Van would work tirelessly on this project for over six years. At the end of this time, in 1973, Ken and Van published the listings as the Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps [by] E.L. Vanderford (see Figure 11).
As we can see from the examples shown in Figures 2-9 and 11, even the most attractive stamps in the state and local field that Ken and Van were advocating – when they actually included an image (the majority were still non pictorial at this point) – featured a relatively primitive or “rustic” design, executed in one or (rarely) two colors as per the prevailing status quo.
And while many of these stamps did not lack for inherit charm and had, therefore, developed a devoted (albeit relatively small) following among disparate groups: sportsmen, bird watchers and wildlife lovers, conservation-minded philanthropists, revenue stamp collectors in general and what can best be described as those stamp collectors for which “the pretty” was not so much a factor when choosing a pastime – there was really nothing in the field that Ken and Van could use to attract a significant percentage of the thousands of collectors who shared a passion for the beautiful federal duck stamps… until now.
The Whole Package
On a number of occasions I have compared the visual impact of federal duck stamps going from monochrome to multicolor with movies going from black and white to technicolor, for it is one of my favorite analogies. I believe the technicolor analogy is even more appropriate when discussing Charles’ first six or seven stamps.
When used for feature-length movies in the 1930s (including such classics as Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz) a 3-strip process converted red, blue and green into cyan, yellow and magenta. These strips were then overlaid to produce the “glorious technicolor” known for its bold, highly saturated colors. The result was visually stunning.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that when those famous films were first shown to live movie audiences in 1939, they did not look the same as the much higher quality restorations we view today. There were occasional slight problems with the registration between the three strips and a lack of detail here and there. However, technicolor films were something new and magical and their lack of perfection, in a way, enhanced their period charm.
This was much the case with Charles’ trout stamps. Unlike Maynard Reece and Stanley Stearns, Charles did not have a support team like the Bureau of Engraving & Printing (BEP) to help design, engrave, color proof and print his stamps. Therefore, Charles’ trout stamps, similar to the original Wizard of Oz prints, were not of such high quality. While stunning, they still retained some of the imperfect charm associated with the classic fish and game stamps that had come before them and, because of this, stood alone in the hobby. For stamp collectors, they embodied “the whole package.”
What made the stamps truly sublime is that they featured the natural artwork of Charles Schwartz – an artist who had been inextricably linked to black and white – now in vivid color. It was not unlike the scene where Dorothy opens the door of the house after it was carried away by the tornado and the audience was taken from faded sepia to a magical, multicolored world… (see Figure 12).
1969, the First Issue
Charles’ first trout stamp, previously seen in Figures 18, 19 and 22, was fairly conventional in design, featuring a rainbow trout leaping for an artificial red fly. However, as those familiar with his work had come to expect, the trout was more anatomically correct, the artwork was more detailed and, above all else, the scene was more natural than was found on any of the trout stamps that had been issued in the past – for this was Charles Schwartz’s uncommon gift.
The origins of this ability can be traced back to St. Louis in the 1920s, when a young boy became fascinated with the natural world and began to draw. In middle age and having achieved full mastery, Charles would now create a set of stamps for the ages; trout stamps that at once could strike a familiar cord with Missouri anglers, warm the hearts of lovers of the outdoors and intrigue the many collectors of federal duck stamps.
Aside from being printed in multicolor, all Missouri trout stamps issued through 1980 were printed in panes of ten (2 x 5) with a blank space or selvage along the left side. The selvage was used to accommodate staples without damaging the artwork, with which five panes were held together to form a booklet (see Figures 13-16).
The back cover of the January, 1970 issue of the Missouri Conservationist reproduced Charles’ original artwork for the 1970 trout stamp. It featured an enlarged version of a scarlet ibis fly (similar to the one that was a component of his 1969 artwork) making contact with the surface of the water.
The bottom of the page stated: “Stamp collectors will be interested to know that unused 1969 Missouri trout stamps will be for sale from the Department’s central office in Jefferson City. Singles, $1.00; pages of ten, $8.00, or [a] book of 50 for $25.00.”
This policy, which consisted of offering expired stamps to collectors at a discount for a period of one year, came as the result of a joint recommendation on the part of Ken Pruess and E.L. Vanderford. The intent was three-fold: 1) to allow everyone who so desired an opportunity to acquire their own piece(s) of Charles’ art without the impediment of cost; 2) to provide more revenue for the MDOC and the Fisheries division’s restocking program and 3) to attract a large influx of new collectors to the field of state and local fish and game stamps.
Therefore, similar notices were placed in the sports sections of newspapers around Missouri and in selected philatelic publications (see Figures 17-19).
This coordinated effort on the part of Ken, Van, Charles and the MDOC produced amazing results, for it soon became clear that a lot of stamp collectors – including collectors of federal duck stamps – became smitten with Charles’ “pretty” trout stamps. According to a 1987 MDOC memo pertaining to the number of stamps sold, complete information was not available on the total number of stamps sold to collectors from 1969 through 1975, however “revenue indicates it was approximately 1,000 or less each year.”
Before we put this figure in perspective, please keep in mind it only pertained to those who actually identified themselves as collectors during the discounted period and, for the most part, purchased their stamps through the mail.
It does not include the untold number of stamps (thousands?) purchased by local collectors and also the huge following Charles had developed over the years within Missouri and the neighboring states for their full face value, when the stamps were still valid. These would typically have been purchased from license agents or vendors, “over the counter” and recorded as normal sales (to fishermen).
With regard to perspective, I am certain that collectors purchased less than 30-40 examples of the 1968 trout stamps from such popular states as Delaware, Maryland or Tennessee. In other words, the collector interest in Charles’ 1969 stamps was not only unprecedented – it was “off the charts.” This would remain the case through 1980, with identifiable collector mail-in orders topping 1,000 many times (registering a high of 1,654 in 1976).
1970, the Second Issue
The trout stamps Charles designed form 1970 through 1974 or 1975 are considered his “classics.” Unlike the 1969 design, they most definitely are not conventional as, with each stamp, he tackles a different aspect of the trout fishing experience. Taken altogether, they illustrated the story of trout fishing in Missouri – and called attention to a popular way in which humans could connect with the natural world.
As these designs are all unique, over the years each of them has developed its own fan club, independent of the others. That is to say, over the years stamp collectors and people from various walks of life have developed an opinion as to which of Charles’s trout stamps is their favorite. While opinions vary, I have found their picks to be concentrated among the following five or six stamps.
The 1970 issue, as stated above, features an enlarged version of a scarlet ibis fly making contact with the surface of the water. Charles’ design is elegant and the red, white and blue color scheme is eye-catching. As a result, this stamp is the favorite of many a stamp collector and fisherman, alike (see Figures 20, 21 and 22).
1971, the Third Issue
In the book Wildlife Drawings (1980), Charles shows the original black and white artwork for the 1971 trout stamp and provides some personal insights:
“The kingfisher is a familiar companion to most trout fishermen. And I imagine everybody has seen lures swinging merrily in the breeze, tangled in a tree from some unlikely back-cast. Put the two together, and you’ve got a common sight along a Missouri trout steam.’
“I’m not sure that the people who rear the trout in hatcheries are very fond of the kingfisher, but for this [stamp] I wanted something different from the usual picture of a trout jumping out of the water or on the end of a line…’
“And so the kingfisher. I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching them when I’m fishing or floating – the way they can swoop down an snatch up a minnow that’s just under the surface of the water. And the way they sit on a dead snag looking so proud of themselves. But I suppose I’d be proud of myself, too, if I could fish as successfully as these birds do.
The 1971 stamp was a favorite of both Charles and Ken Pruess (see Figures 23, 24 and 25).
1972, the Fourth Issue
According to an MDOC press release, “The 1972 stamp portrays a rainbow trout enticed into action by a struggling May fly on the surface of the pool. This 2″ x 1 1/2″ adhesive, done by staff artist, Charles Schwartz, captures vividly the reaction of the rainbow to this tasty morsel.”
When asking only stamp collectors, the consensus all time favorite is this 1972 stamp and for about ten years after the stamp went off sale it was the most difficult and pricy of the Missouri trouts for collectors to acquire (despite the relatively large number sold). The reason for this, according to the preeminent fish and game stamp dealers of the day, Barry Porter and David Curtis, was because it was “such a pretty stamp that few of the original buyers could be persuaded to part with them and, therefore, it could not be kept in stock.”
The 1972 stamp was a favorite of E.L. Vanderford and the complete pane shown below is one of the very few panes he included in his entire collection. In recognition of Charles Schwartz and the lasting impact he made on our hobby, it remains one of the most popular fish and game stamps among collectors today (see Figures 26 and 27).
1973, the Fifth Issue
Both Charles’ original artwork and a photo of an actual 1973 trout stamp were first revealed in the March, 1973 issue of the Missouri Conservationist. They were used to illustrate an article by Charles Hicks on the current state of trout fishing in Missouri titled “Trout ’73” (see Figure 28).
I first made contact with Charles Schwartz in the mid 1980s. I thought Charles’ pretty Missouri trout stamps might be of interest to the growing number of collectors interested in federal and state duck stamp customers. Alas, I was not alone in this assessment (more on this later) and Charles had long since sold what remaining stamps he had left to other dealers (after giving the bulk of them away to associates, friends and admirers of his art).
At this point, he retained a set of unused blocks of four as mementos and some miscellaneous single stamps that were of otherwise personal significance. Charles and I hit it off and we spoke on the phone many times over the next couple of years. On one such occasion, he allowed me to purchase the blocks and some (at the time) seemingly random unused singles.
Rather than sell them, I chose to save the stamps in my own collection as I was, by then, a big fan of Charles Schwartz – both the artist and the man, himself. We shared a love for the outdoors and conservation (one set of my grandparents had a large ranch and the other a resort that featured steelhead fishing along the Russian River, both in Sonoma County. Growing up, I spent a great deal of time hunting, fishing and hiking, in addition to collecting duck stamps and serving as president of the local conservation club) and enjoyed many wonderful conversations together.
I will share a couple of Charles’ blocks, starting with the 1973 issue. For obvious reasons, this is his stamp that most takes me back to my days fishing along the Russian River (although we frequently fished out of a small boat) and it is a favorite of fishermen, in general. This stamp is also an excellent example of the “vintage” charm that resulted from taking Charles’ drawings and producing them in multicolor. As Charles and Libby expected, Missouri trout fishermen greatly respected this art and, more often than not, took great care when signing their stamps (see Figures 29, 30 and 31).
1974, the Sixth Issue
Of all Charles’ trout stamps, the 1974 issue is my own personal favorite. While I love the composition and delicate use of color for all the different flies and portions of the large feather, there is something else about this stamp that draws me to it and makes me feel good. As I spend much of my time busily moving through my life, I am grateful for the fact that when I spend a little time with this stamp – it invariably results in a feeling of tranquility (see Figures 32 and 33).
1975, the Seventh Issue
While Charles would continue to design Missouri’s trout stamps through 1982, the 1975 issue is considered to be the last of his great “classic” designs. According to an MDOC press release:
“Charles Schwartz continues his fine work on the 1975 edition of our trout stamp. This unique stamp honors the fly tying art. The foreground of the stamp is given to a just-finished fly gripped in the fingers of the craftsman. A typical fly-tying bench is depicted in great detail in the background. This departure from Charlie Schwatrz’ usual wildlife theme for this stamp emphasizes his interest in correctness and detail.”
An article which appeared in the December, 1974 issue of the [Sikeston] Daily Standard provides additional details about the model for the stamp: “This year’s stamp features the fly-tying fingers of E.E. Bryson, Springfield. Bryson posed for Charles Schwartz, Department of Conservation artist, tying the fly.” With this stamp, Charles’ artwork benefits greatly from the multicolor process and appears to posses an almost pastel watercolor appearance (see Figures 34 and 35).
1977, the Ninth Issue
In early 1970, Charles was asked to design what has been variously described as a new logo, emblem or insignia for the MDOC. According to James Keefe, “In June of 1970, the Commission adopted a new emblem designed by Charles W. Schwartz – the now familiar triangle with the oak leaf, bass and raccoon representing the forestry, fisheries and wildlife programs of the Department.”
As 1977 marked the 40th Anniversary of the MDOC, Charles was asked to incorporate the new logo into his current trout stamp design. The resulting stamp marks one of the few times that one of Charles’ designs was not popular with collectors. For this reason, far fewer were sold and it has always been more difficult for collectors to acquire in unused condition (see Figures 36 and 37).
1979, the Eleventh Issue
This particular stamp was one of Charles’ personal favorites. In Wildlife Drawings he explained: “For another [trout stamp] I drew the gross embryology of the trout. In the course of making a motion picture on the production of trout in our hatcheries, it occurred to me that showing the development of a baby trout might make a good stamp. It’s one of my favorites.”
In fact, the origins for his idea can be traced back to one of the books Libby wrote and he illustrated for children, When Water Animals are Babies (1970). In this Junior Literary Guild Selection, at the top of one of the pages, can be found a very similar drawing (see Figures 38 and 39).
1981, the Thirteenth Issue
After a long run of extraordinary trout stamps, in 1981 Charles came full circle, in a way, with a rather conventional design featuring a leaping brown trout. While somewhat reminiscent of his 1969 debut – it lacked the same visual impact, foreshadowing an end to his invaluable contribution to our hobby. Starting with this, the thirteenth in the series, the MDOC made a change to the printing format; all Missouri trout stamps were printed in panes of five (1 x 5) with a longer tab to the left of each stamp (see Figures 40 and 41).
Charles and Libby would retire in 1981 (more on this in Part Five) and Charles would be responsible for only one more Missouri trout stamp. It would be typical fare, lacking not just in the innovative artwork that his fans had come to expect but also – in a case of extreme irony – the transformative use of full color for which his stamps would always be remembered. However, make no mistake – Charles W. Schwartz helped to profoundly alter the course of fish and game stamp collecting like few people that had come before or since.
Charles Schwartz’ Philatelic Legacy
When Charles introduced his trout stamps in 1969, the hobby of fish and game stamp collecting was comprised predominantly of thousands of general U.S stamp collectors who were seeking to complete a set of federal duck stamp singles in order to fill spaces in their Scott National album.
Some of these collectors additionally sought out plate number singles and or plate blocks, however, owing to the fact there were only 35 different stamps, the prospects for specialization were limited.
A small number of pioneer fish and game collectors, such as Ken Pruess and E.L. Vanderford, seeking additional opportunities for enjoyment and, often, a greater challenge – had expanded beyond the federal stamps, into the closely related fields of non pictorial state and local waterfowl stamps (the first pictorial state waterfowl stamp was not issued until 1971), state big game and upland game bird stamps and state and local fishing stamps.
As the early state and local fish and game stamps were not produced with stamp collectors in mind, their artwork – when any was present – was usually confined to relatively “primitive” drawings, quickly created by conservation department staff artists and typically produced in monochrome or using two colors as was the case with the Maryland big game stamps designed by John Taylor.
As such, general U.S. stamp collectors typically paid little notice to these “back of the book” items.
Simply put, Charles Schwartz and his captivating trout stamps, along with the help of Ken Pruess and E.L. Vanderford, changed this situation forever.
Maynard Follows Charles’ Lead
After Ken and Van advised the MDOC to discount Charles’ trout stamps and advertise them in the Missouri Conservationist, newspapers throughout Missouri and selected philatelic publications such as Linns Stamp News, Meekels stamp News and The State revenue Newsletter – it resulted in thousands of people other than fishermen purchasing the stamps, many of them stamp collectors.
Among these were a large number of fairly serious U.S. stamp collectors who were previously only aware of or interested in the federal duck stamps. Charles’ trout stamps looked very similar to the federal stamps and, due to their lack of ultimate “gloss and polish” were actually more charming and, arguably, even more compelling due to his ability to present scenes that were so completely natural.
This huge increase in interest and the additional revenue from stamp collectors was not lost on the neighboring Iowa State Conservation Commission. Whereas Charles had previously drew inspiration from Maynard Reece’s multicolored 1959-60 federal duck stamp featuring King Buck, now the Iowa Commission approached Maynard about designing a pictorial waterfowl stamp and Maynard, this time following Charles’ lead, created artwork intended to be produced in multicolor.
The Commission consented to cover the additional cost and the first multicolor pictorial state duck stamp became a reality in 1972. Then, Ken and Van included the Iowa waterfowl stamp, along with Charles’ first three stamps, in the Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps (see Figures 42 and 43).
The majority of stamp clubs and philatelic libraries – such as the American Philatelic Society Research Library (APRL) purchased copies and these were available for loan. Thousands of additional stamp collectors were subsequently exposed to the philatelic niche for the first time.
Engaging Ambassadors for a Hobby
Soon, hundreds of new collectors began to first add the “pretty” state stamps to their collections and then, many of them – armed with Van’s Handbook for a guide – began to delve deeper into the fascinating world of state and local fish and game stamps. They were attracted by the earlier stamps’ history, integrity, visual charm and relative scarcity.
As the number of states producing multicolor duck and fishing stamps expanded, the hobby began to grow more rapidly. In the late 1970s, Van helped two new dealers, Barry porter in Tennessee and David Curtis in Texas to get started. They began to publish “buy prices” and retail price lists offering all of the state and local fish and game stamps they could acquire.
In the 1980s, after a sizable number of pictorial state waterfowl stamps had been issued, a larger percentage of collectors started to specialize in collecting pictorial duck stamps, in general – not just the federal stamps. The “duck stamp dealers” of the day began to service these collectors and many found the new breed of duck stamp collector was often very receptive to Charles’ trout stamps. Perhaps most important, because they had been sold in such large quantities relative to other state fishing stamps, they could usually be kept “in stock” and, therefore, readily supplied to customers.
Charles’ stamps regularly appeared on the price lists of not just fish and game specialists such as Porter and Curtis – but nearly every duck stamp dealer in the country (and still do). In this way, the early Missouri trout stamps came to serve as engaging ambassadors for the now popular hobby of collecting state and local fish and game stamps.
While human nature may predispose us to having “our attention span begin and end with the pretty”, the pretty can also be a starting place; an opportunity to delve deeper and discover something more meaningful and lasting. When Charles designed his engaging multicolor trout stamps, he bestowed upon collectors a marvelous gift – an opportunity for them to enrich their lives.
For a gallery including images of all 14 of Charles’ trout stamps, signed by him, click here.
For a gallery featuring Charles’ trout stamps with small, unobtrusive signatures, click here.
To return to Missouri’s Audubon – Part Four, click here.
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