My Favorite Federal Duck Stamp – Part Two

Aside from the proofs, singles, plate number blocks and sheets that we discussed in Part One, what else can be added to a specialized collection of (in this case) the 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp (RW8)? A lot of things that can help to provide context and make the story more interesting – and some pieces that are just enjoyable to look at.

For starters, stamp collectors have traditionally sought plate plate number singles and blocks of four. When collecting plate number singles, there are choices to be made. Most collectors are happy with just a single example; others attempt to acquire one for each plate that was used to print the entire run (see Figure 1), while some advanced collectors add a little more challenge to the mix by attempting to acquire each position (top and bottom) for each plate used.



Figure 1. 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp top plate number singles. Note these two items represent both plates used to produce the entire run.



A block of four is pretty much what it sounds like – four stamps that are still attached together by their perforations. A block of four differs from a strip of four in that the block is two stamps tall by two stamps wide (see Figure 2). Blocks of four are thought to have a lot of eye appeal. Unfortunately, federal waterfowl stamp blocks tend to be more difficult to acquire than those for postage stamps.



Figure 2. 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp block of four.



The reason for this is twofold: 1) There are far less waterfowl stamps around than postage stamps to start with and 2) There is no legitimate premium for a block of four. Therefore, when most stamp dealers get blocks in a collection they immediately break them up to produce four single stamps that are easier to sell. Personally, I save this for a last resort as I learned a long time ago that you can always break it up – but you can’t put it back together again.



Collecting Stamps That Were Used To Hunt

Collecting stamps that have been used for their intended purpose is one of the foundations of the hobby. In the 1930s and 1940s most collectors were only interested in the used stamp itself, signed by the hunter. To get them in this condition, they soaked the signed stamps off of their original hunting licenses. For those collectors who still prefer signed stamps off license, a small signature that does not obscure the artwork is desirable (see Figure 3).



Figure 3. 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp signed in the lower left by the hunter.



Alternatively, you can save the stamp still affixed to the license and this not only serves to demonstrate its usage, it also provides context for the signed stamp and preserves additional (often important or useful) information that can often only be found on the license itself.

Some pioneer fish and game collectors started to save stamps on license back in the 1950s as conversation pieces. As more serious collectors entered the hobby over time (including some interested in exhibiting at organized stamp shows), the attitude toward soaking stamps off licenses started to change. Starting in the 1960s and then increasingly in the 1970s and 1980s, most collectors started to include a few licenses in their collections; many collected a variety of licenses and some collectors started to specialize in collecting usages.

Before we get into discussing usages, let us review the laws governing the intended usages of the stamps. The Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act was passed through Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 16, 1934 (see Figure 4).



Figure 4. President Roosevelt signing the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act into law, March 16, 1934.



The Act read:


” An act to supplement and support the Migratory Bird Conservation Act by providing funds for the acquisition of areas for use as migratory-bird sanctuaries, refuges and breeding grounds, for developing and administering such areas, for the enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and regulations thereunder, and for other purposes…”


The original Act in 1934 required hunters to purchase and carry on their person a federal migratory bird stamp and affix it to a state game license or a certificate furnished by the Post Office (the blue card better known as Form 3333, to be discussed later in this post) but it did not require the stamp to be signed. The Act was amended on June 15, 1935 to read:


“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That no person over 16 years of age shall take any migratory waterfowl unless at the time of such taking he carries on his person an unexpired Federal migratory-bird hunting stamp validated by his signature written by himself in ink across the face of the stamp prior to his taking such birds

Any person to whom a stamp has been sold under this Act shall upon request exhibit such stamp for inspection to any officer or employee of the Department of Agriculture authorized to enforce the provisions of this Act or to any officer of any State or any political subdivision thereof authorized to enforce game laws.”


In Summary: The purpose of the stamps was to generate badly needed funds for waterfowl conservation. In 1934, the stamps were required to be purchased and affixed to either a state hunting license or a Form 3333. Starting in 1935, the stamps were required to be affixed to a license or a card and signed across the face in ink. Signing validated the stamp (and license) for the purpose of hunting waterfowl.

This is the fundamental structure for the license and stamp system in the U.S. This model has subsequently been adopted by numerous countries around the world and is, therefore, and the essence of the hobby of collecting fish and game stamps. It stands to reason then, that when building either larger (more comprehensive) or smaller (more specialized) collections – that we should consider including stamps on license showing their intended usage.



RW8 Used On State Licenses

The vast majority of federal stamps that have been used to hunt waterfowl in the United States were affixed to either state hunting licenses or state combination hunting and fishing licenses. The reason being it is the individual states that have the right to issue licenses and the responsibility to regulate hunting. In other words, although federal law requires the purchase of a federal migratory bird (waterfowl) stamp – the regulation of hunting is primarily performed by state law.

Collecting stamps on state licenses offers a great deal of personal choice. Some collectors are only interested in having one example of the stamp’s usage and don’t particularly care which state license it is affixed to. Others seek usages from the state they were either born in or currently live in (or both). Still others attempt to acquire as many different state usages as possible. Advanced collectors look for unusual usages that tend to be more difficult to acquire.

Various factors contribute to a usage being unusual or difficult to acquire. In general, the smaller the state in terms of its size and / or population contributes greatly. Usages from southern states, especially early in the federal waterfowl stamp program, can be very difficult. Among the most difficult to acquire, are usages from states that do not fall into a major migration route or flyway. These are often referred to as dry states and include Arizona and New Mexico (see Figure 5).



Figure 5. 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp used on a New Mexico general hunting and fishing license.



Federal waterfowl stamp usages in combination with state or local fish and game stamps are always in high demand. When considering combination usages, collectors look for two things: 1) The more different kinds of stamps the better and 2) the presence of state or local stamps that are difficult to acquire on their own.

With regard to my specialized collection of Kalmbach’s federal waterfowl stamp, I am fortunate that the timing of its release coincided with two of the most important stamp series in fish and game history. In 1937 Ohio issued the first state stamp required to hunt waterfowl. The stamps were required of Ohio residents wishing to hunt on Pymatuning Lake (reservoir), which straddled the upper Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

The State of Pennsylvania built the lake and entered into an agreement whereby Ohio residents could use the lake for hunting and fishing. There was a provision that led to the stamps being issued from 1937 through 1945 (for waterfowl) and 1938 through 1946 (for fishing). During this time, Pennsylvania charged their resident hunters and fishermen $1.00 more than Ohio did to buy a license.

In order to be fair, Pennsylvania requested that Ohio make up the fee difference and the idea to issue the Pymatuning stamp was born. The stamp cost $1.00 and was an effective solution (see Figure 6).



Figure 5. 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp used in combination with a 1941 Pymatuning (Ohio) waterfowl stamp. Both stamps are affixed to the reverse of a 1941 Ohio resident hunting and trapping license.



In a stroke of good fortune (for my Kalmbach collection), 1941 was also the first year that the Marion County (Kansas) Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to allow waterfowl hunting at the Marion County Park and Lake. The lake had been constructed as a grand WPA project in the late 1930s. When the lake opened in May of 1940, the focus was on fishing and no thought to waterfowl hunting had been made.

However, during the fall and winter of 1940-41, thousands of migrating ducks found the lake and settled in. On September 16, 1941, the historic resolution was passed which led to Marion County becoming the first local government in the U.S. to issue stamps required to hunt waterfowl (see Figure 7).



Figure 7. Resolution to allow waterfowl hunting at Marion County Park and Lake. The document on the left is the original hand typed resolution; the one on the right is a photocopy of the signed resolution located in the Marion County Courthouse.



Jerry Mullikin, a former peace officer who had a lifelong interest in fish and game conservation, was selected by the County board of Commissioners as the first Park and Lake Supervisor in March of 1939 (see Figure 8).



Figure 8. Park and Lake Supervisor Jerry Mullikin (left) talking with Marion County Commissioner Karl Moshbacher in front of the lake.



Each season, Mulliken received a new supply of stamps to issue from his lake office. The license below bears (in addition to the 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp) what is believed to be the first copy sold of the first locally issued waterfowl stamp in the U.S. (see Figure 9). The license, with the federal stamp signed across Kalmbach’s family of Ruddy ducks by the legendary Jerry Mulliken, is my favorite item in the RW8 collection.



Figure 9. 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp used in combination with a 1941 Marion County, Kansas waterfowl stamp and a 1941-42 Kansas quail stamp. All three stamps have been affixed to the obverse of a Kansas resident license to hunt, issued June 22. The Marion County stamp was not required to be signed.



RW8 Used On Form 3333

As previously discussed, when the Migratory Hunting Stamp Act was passed in 1934, it stated that the federal waterfowl stamps were to be affixed to a state game license or a certificate furnished by the Post Office. The certificate referred to in the Act was a blue card known as Form 3333.

The original intent of Form 3333 in 1934 was to serve as a stamp holder in lieu of a hunting license. The hunter was to sign the reverse of the card and this prevented hunters from sharing stamps and depriving the waterfowl conservation fund of badly needed capital.

When the original Act was amended in 1935, hunters were required to sign the stamp itself and the card became obsolete. However, many Post Offices (particularly in remote locations) continued to affix federal waterfowl stamps to the obsolete card for many subsequent years. In general, the farther a federal stamp is removed from 1934 – the more difficult for collectors to acquire used on Form 3333.

This implies that the Post Offices that were misusing the card gradually caught on over time and discontinued the practice. The vast majority of known Form 3333 usages are from 1934-35; a fair number are known from 1935-36; less from 1936-37 and 1937-38 and, starting with the 1938-39 issue, less than ten examples have been recorded for any given year. My census for the 1941-42 issue shows seven examples (see Figure 10).



Figure 10. 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp used (incorrectly) on Form 3333, cancelled Avoca, New York. Avoca is a small town located in the northwest area of the state. Note that on Form 3333s, the hunter did not sign the stamp itself – he signed the reverse of the card.



I am aware of at least one example used on Form 3333 for every federal waterfowl stamp through 1948-49 (RW15). In addition, there is one example from 1955-56 (RW22) in the Csaplar collection. Form 3333 usages is a popular speciality area with waterfowl stamp collectors.



Continue to Part Three

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