General Collections and Non Pictorial
As you can see, there are many options for specialization. However, there has been a trend developing that started in the late 1980s and which has become widespread in the 21st Century, whereby comprehensive or “general” waterfowl stamp collections are once again in vogue. In this regard, the hobby has returned to its roots, with contemporary collectors retracing the path of the pioneers. General collectors attempt to add as many different waterfowl stamps to their collections as possible, whether they be federal, state, local or tribal. The common denominator is that the stamps were all required to hunt for waterfowl. This method of collecting may be compared to putting together a large jigsaw puzzle over time. As with a jig-saw puzzle, the order of acquisition of the “pieces” is not particularly important.
It is the general collection that chronicles the waterfowl stamp story in the U.S. in its entirety, and enables the collector to develop an understanding for the interrelated conservation efforts at each level of government. It allows the collector to experience the ultimate “thrill of the hunt” adventure, never knowing what the next addition will be. Also, it frees the collector from the anxiety sometimes associated with striving for completeness — for completeness is simply not possible. A lifetime of enjoyment is the reward for those who choose general waterfowl stamp collecting.
Finally, there is a growing segment of collectors that are specializing solely in non-pictorial state, local and tribal waterfowl stamps. Collectors are drawn to this area for many reasons. Some are drawn by the historical significance of the stamps — each of the first state, local, tribal and military waterfowl stamps in the U.S. were non-pictorial (see Figures 4, 5, 8 and 9). Many are drawn by the integrity of the stamps. Non-pictorial stamps were printed and issued with one purpose in mind — licensing hunters. Since they were not made for collectors, in many cases all known examples have been removed from licenses — no unused copies exist. This level of credibility appeals to many people, especially in today’s society.
Perhaps the most enticing aspect of collecting non-pictorial waterfowl stamps is that the area represents the ultimate challenge. The majority of the stamps are not readily available. In at least one instance, the 1956 stamp issued by California for the public hunting grounds at Madeline Plains, not even a single stamp has been recorded. Desire, intellectual resourcefulness and passionate searching become as important as financial considerations. Collectors who have dreamed of becoming a sleuth or private detective will enjoy this hobby.