Collecting Fish and Game Stamps
Elmore’s wife, Jane, shared in her husband’s hobbies. She hunted ducks, loved to fish and also had a topical collection of fish stamps. In 1948 Michigan issued the first pictorial fishing stamps in the U.S. Van, having learned of these stamps and thinking they would make a nice gift for his wife, began to buy one for her each year directly from the state agency (see Figure 5). Van grew to like the fishing stamps himself and soon developed an interest in collecting fish and game stamps in general. It was not long before he was more involved in them than Jane was.
He began a practice of purchasing at least one or two examples of each stamp from various conservation agencies while they were still valid. This meant paying full face value. However, Van knew that (for various reasons) occasionally there were no remainders made available to collectors at a reduced fee following the season. As he learned of increasing numbers of state and local governments that issued stamps, he took on a series of “ordering partners” to help him with this task. Were it not for Van and his ordering partners, examples of many of the rarer fish and game stamps would not exist today—especially in unused condition (see Figure 6a, b and c).
In the 1950s Van began to correspond with other collectors which he contacted through The American Revenuer. These included John Bobo, Charles Herman, Joseph Janousek, Morton Dean Joyce and John Theil. These pioneer collectors enjoyed sharing information and trading stamps among themselves. All the while, Van was becoming more infatuated with the hobby—and more knowledgeable. The thing that appealed to him the most was the “thrill of the hunt” for new and elusive items. Joseph Janousek in particular would have a big influence on Van’s life (see Figure 7).
In April of 1959, Joseph Janousek started writing a regular column in The American Revenuer. In his column, Janousek attempted to list all of the fish and game stamps that had been issued up until that time. This was a significant event in Van’s life for two reasons. First, Janousek enlisted the assistance of several fellow collectors, including Van. This had the effect of getting Van more involved in organized philately. Second, and far more important, it would later serve as the inspiration for Van to compile his own Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps – essentially an update of Janousek’s work and the accomplishment that Van is most remembered for in philatelic circles (see Figure 8).