E. L. Vanderford: 1913-1994

by David R. Torre, ARA






Fish and game philately lost one of its most prominent collectors during September of 1994. Elmore Vanderford passed away in his sleep at his long-time residence in Sacramento, California. Known better as E. L. Vanderford or simply “Van” in philatelic circles, he had suffered from a variety of illnesses in recent years, including a chronic heart condition and asthma. These robbed him of much of his energy and time. For this reason he recently was unable to keep up the voluminous correspondence that had maintained faithfully for over 30 years. Although alternating between good days and bad, he was able to derive a great deal of enjoyment and personal satisfaction from the fish and game renaissance of the 1990s. For this, the author will be forever grateful.

Van started to collect stamps in 1922, at age nine. The following year he bought his first hunting license and began a lifelong pursuit of duck hunting (see Figure 1a). When California issued it’s first (now legendary) “BOY” hunting licenses in 1928, Van was the right age to qualify. Van’s carefully preserved, unfolded license is the finest recorded used example of this rare fish and game artifact (see Figure 1b).



Figure 1a. At Age 10, Van bought his first California hunting license.


Figure 1b. At age 15, Van received one of the short-lived BOY hunting licenses.



Van also hunted many other kinds of game and enjoyed fishing. Being a stamp collector, Van would always carry his unsigned federal duck stamp loose in his wallet. After the season, he put the stamp in his collection. One year, in 1940, a game warden checked his license and Van had to sign and affix the stamp (see Figure 2).



Figure 2. In 1940, a game warden made Van sign and affix his federal duck stamp to his license.




It seems natural that one day his two great passions would become inextricably combined in the form of fish and game stamp collecting. For many years Van was a general collector of U.S. and British stamps. Eventually, he became interested in U.S. revenue stamps and joined the American Revenue Association. Through the ARA, he made contact with Frank Applegate and Bert Hubbard. Applegate and Hubbard were the two most influential state revenue dealers on the west coast. Applegate was one of the first dealers to specialize in fish and game stamps (see Figure 3a and b).



Figure 3a. Frank Applegate was one of the first stamp dealers to specialize in fish and game stamps. Two ads Applegate ran in philatelic publications are shown here and in the illustration below.



Figure 3b. Enlargement of Applegate’s ad suggesting collectors add other fish and game stamps to their federal duck stamps – and that is what Van and chose to do.




Applegate and Hubbard introduced Van to state revenues, which at the time included the Kansas quail stamps and Virginia big gameNational Forest and elk stamps. Being an avid hunter, Van immediately took a keen interest in the hunting license stamps and he began to buy these from them for his fledgling collection.

Three of Van’s earliest hunting stamp purchases turned out to be rarities over time. It is believed that the 1938-39 Virginia National Forest stamps that were issued to hunters were serial numbered (as all used copies on or off license are numbered). Most of the stamps surviving today are likely unused remainders as they lack the number. In 1940, Kansas printed and issued their quail stamps as single stamp booklet panes with a tab at the left. They ran out of stamps at the end of the season and sold a small number of stamps to hunters and collectors from a proof sheet of ten. Van was fortunate to acquire this variety, probably from dealer Frank Applegate. The 1946-47 Virginia resident elk is one of my favorite stamps from his collection. It is unusually well centered for the series and has huge margins (see Figures 4a, b and c).



Figure 4a. Unused numbered 1938-39 Virginia National Forest.


Figure 4b. 1939-40 Kansas quail from proof sheet of ten.


Figure 4c. 1946-47 Virginia Resident Elk.




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