The early 1970s was when Van acquired the two crown jewels of his collection. The 1938 Pymatuning Lake waterfowl stamp was the earliest state issued waterfowl stamp on record and the only recorded example. Discovered by Terry Hines over thirty years after it was issued, this stamp received a great amount of publicity in philatelic publications. For many years it remained the only Pymatuning waterfowl stamp known to collectors. Van obtained the stamp from Hines in a trade for several federal duck stamps he was missing (see Figure 15). Over time, several other Pymatuning waterfowl and fishing stamps have been discovered. However, the 1938 waterfowl stamp remains unique and this has earned it the nickname “the British Guiana of the waterfowl stamp hobby”.
Acting on a tip from Ken Pruess, Van was able to obtain an unused example of Colorado’s 1973 North Central Goose stamp. Collectors were unaware of this stamp and the copy Van obtained from a license supervisor following the season is one of two examples recorded in unused condition (see Figure 16). Van ways favored waterfowl stamps in general because of his love of duck hunting; the Pymatuning and Colorado Goose stamps were two of his most prized possessions until he allowed me to acquire them in 1991.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s Van continued to be very active. He kept up correspondence, sold and traded stamps to other collectors and shared his vast knowledge. He had several more major articles published in the SRS Newsletter during this time, most notable being his “Check List of State and Locally Issued Migratory Waterfowl Hunting License Stamps” in 1977.
In 1979 he began an important correspondence with Don Terrell. At the time, Don was an intermediate collector of waterfowl stamps and an avid duck hunter. The two became close friends. Van inspired Don to write a column about fish and game stamps in Sporting Classics magazine simply titled “Stamps”. The column ran for many years in the 1980s and resulted in hundreds of new collectors (see Figures 17a, b and c). The column initially focussed on state waterfowl stamps, then evolved to include all fish and game stamps.
Although nearing 70 years of age, Van still loved to hunt ducks. Much of his correspondence at this time was filled with hunting stories. The following is an excerpt from a letter to Don Terrell dated January 24, 1980 (reproduced with Don’s consent):
“Did have one freakish but red hot shoot Dec. 30th. My partner and I worked like beavers for six hours on a Friday afternoon putting out 6 doz. duck decoys, 2 doz. honker decoys and 5 large white swan like decoys as attractors. It was a pond of about 1000 acres of cultivated peat land which had been deliberately flooded to improve the soil. The only meaner stuff to try to walk in is quick sand. It’s impossible to walk at all without a two inch round pole for support and even then you fall down every now and then. The secret to success is to fall forward on you knees so the water doesn’t go over your waders. Anyway, Saturday’s shoot was a bust—only one crippled ‘Can’ which even a big stray lab couldn’t retrieve—also a bust in as much as I broke the magazine spring retainer latch on my Rem. 58 Sportsman. My buddy has a house full of guns but I did a double take Sunday morning when he brought out a battered old Rem. pump gun and said ‘here use this, its the tightest shooting gun in the house.’ From appearances I would be ashamed to offer it for sale in a flea market but we have hunted together for well over 40 years and I knew he wouldn’t slip me a ‘moldy fig.’”
“Just as we left about 4 AM it started to rain and the wind started to come up. Before we got there we had a miniature hurricane on our hands—including rain by the buckets full. Upon arrival it was immediately apparent our hard work of two days before (and decoys) were blown all over hell and there was no way we could possible use the site.”
“We waited it out in the car until it started to lighten up when we noticed about 2000 swans in one comer of the pond and every duck in sight fighting the gale wind to pitch in near them. We worked our way around the swans so as not to alarm them and got 150 yards or so downwind of them. There was no cover to hide in but a drag line had cleaned out a ditch and we spread out about 100 yards apart and lay down against some small piles the bucket had dumped. It was miserable as hell lying there on my back but my favorite shot is one almost straight overhead.”
“Those pintails — almost all drakes — just kept on coming and it was over all too quickly (7 bird limit here). They were all about 50-55 yards high — a little farther than I like to shoot 2 3/4” shells but my friend wasn’t lying about that old Rem — I never had a single cripple. I just lay there on my back and marked where they fell. That Rem. looked like hell but it sure threw a tight pattern.
“Well to stamps…”