Usages – Collecting Federal Waterfowl Stamps on License
One way of collecting federal waterfowl stamps is attempting to find them still affixed to their original license – thus demonstrating the conservation and regulatory purposes for which the stamps were actually intended. This form of collecting is very popular among advanced collectors and exhibitors. In addition, many people simply enjoy collecting stamps used on licenses issued by their home state.
By far and away the most common form of early federal waterfowl stamp usage is on state licenses. The reason for this is because it was the right of the state governments – not the federal government – to license hunters. This right, in fact, prevented the first federal waterfowl stamp from being issued all through the 1920s and up until 1934, as the states were worried that a federal stamp would infringe upon their right to license hunters. Many attempts to get a National hunting stamp passed through Congress failed until the need became absolutely necessary following the terrible drought and subsequent dust bowl years across the Great Plains in the early 1930s.
There are many types of state hunting licenses. There are resident hunting licenses, resident combination hunting and fishing licenses (see Figure 1) and non-resident licenses. It should be noted that if a non resident hunter already possessed a valid license with a federal stamp affixed from his own state – he was only required to purchase a new license in the visited state and did not have to purchase a second stamp. He then needed to carry both state licenses while hunting.
Starting in 1937, when the first state fish and game stamps were issued by Ohio and Kansas, for hunting waterfowl on Pymatuning Lake and quail, respectively, it is possible to find federal waterfowl stamps used in combination with various state issues. Multiple stamps usually adds up to increased eye appeal and these usages are very popular with collectors (see Figures 2 – 5).
Duplicate and Replacement Licenses
One of the more fascinating types of state license usages occurred when the hunter lost his license. Some states had preprinted "DUPLICATE" licenses that were available to hunter's at a reduced fee upon proof of original purchase. At this point the hunter was required to purchase a second federal stamp (at full price) and affix it to the duplicate license (see Figures 6 and 7).
Often, the state did not have preprinted duplicate licenses or the loss occurred in a remote area where the licenses were not available. At this point duplicate licenses were created as needed and these account for some of the most interesting waterfowl stamp usages (see Figures 8a, 8b and 9).
For the 1934-35 seasons, a state license was not always required to hunt on private property. Sometimes an enterprising farmer or rancher would charge the hunter and create handmade private licenses. In these cases, if the hunter wished to shoot waterfowl, a federal stamp was still required (see Figure 10).
In many states, licensing was handled at the county level. Perhaps the most highly sought after of all county usages were recorded in Hawaii from 1934 through 1936 (after which time waterfowl hunting was no longer permitted). Each of the main Hawaiian Islands was also a county and printed and issued separate hunting licenses.
For the 1934-35 seasons, only 137 federal waterfowl stamps were issued in all of the Hawaiian Islands combined. At least one Hawaiian example of a 1934-35 federal waterfowl stamp has been recorded, used on a County of Hawaii Hunting license (see Figure 11).
In 1941, Marion County, Kansas began requiring county residents to purchase a waterfowl stamp and affix it to their license. Usages combining federal and Marion County waterfowl stamps are always in high demand with advanced collectors and exhibitors. They may include Marion County fishing or Kansas quail or upland game stamps, as well (see Figures 12 and 13).
Military and Indian Reservations
When the federal waterfowl stamp program originated, many military bases and reservations did not print their own licenses. In subsequent years, most installations would print licenses and a few printed and issued their own fish and game stamps. For the 1934-35 seasons, most bases still used state licenses. In 1967 Vandenberg Air Force Base issued the first fish and game adhesives. It was now possible to find federal stamps used in combination with military stamps (see Figure 14, 15 and 16).
Starting in 1959, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota began issuing their own licenses and stamps. It then became possible to find federal waterfowl stamps used in combination with tribal stamps. This most often occurred when the tribal stamp was incorrectly (and illegally) affixed to a state hunting license. Tribal game laws required that tribal stamps be affixed to tribal licenses (see Figures 17 and 18).
To see a gallery containing a large number of combination usages, click here.
Collecting Usages on Form 3333
One of the most popular methods of collecting federal waterfowl stamp usages is to collect stamps affixed to Form 3333. By far and away the most readily available are from 1934-35, as this was the only year the card was actually required to be used. I would estimate there are more 1934-35 Form 3333 usages in collections today than all other years combined. One collector who specializes in 1934-35 Form 3333 usages has told me he has over 200 alone. Although the intended use of Form 3333 became obsolete starting with the 1935-36 issue (when hunters were required to sign their stamp across the face), a surprisingly large number of Post Offices continued to use the form in subsequent years.
There have been many theories proposed for why this occurred. Those most often heard suggest that either 1) Postmasters in remote locations were simply "out of touch" and were not aware that use of the form had been discontinued and 2) that some Postmasters were not very diligent and did not bother to read all of their official correspondence. Either way, it is possible to generalize and state that seldom did later usages originate from Post Offices in highly populated cities or towns.
There are many ways to approach collecting usages on Form 3333. Many collectors are satisfied with owning one example from the state in which they were born or the state in which they currently live. Other collectors find themselves captivated by the blue card and develop bigger ambitions. Perhaps the most common pursuit involves attempting to acquire one Form 3333 with a federal waterfowl stamp affixed from as many different states and territories as possible – ideally every state and territory that issued one.
Such collections usually consist primarily of 1934-35 usages, either because they are more easily obtainable or because so many collectors favor Darling's stamp. Another factor is that later usages command a (sometimes substantial) premium. When attempting to acquire one example from every state and territory, one quickly discovers that about half of the collection can be readily acquired and the other half can be quite difficult. In general, the smaller the physical size of the state or territory in square miles and more specifically – the smaller the population at the time of issue – the more difficult a Form 3333 usage is to acquire.
Three of the keys to this type of collection are the Territories of Alaska and Hawaii and the state of Nevada. Alaska and Nevada had the smallest populations during 1934-35, with both being under 100,000. Hawaii is small in both size and population and, as I have previously stated, only 137 federal waterfowl stamps were sold in the territory during the 1934-35 season.
The Hawaii usage is considered the Holy Grail for collectors of federal waterfowl stamps on Form 3333. The Nevada usage is even more difficult to acquire and as of this writing (May 2018), there has only been one example recorded (see Figures 19, 20, 21 and 28).
Collectors always seek Form 3333 usages from states that are small in size, such as Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island (see Figures 22, 23 and 24). It should be noted that Form 3333 usages from southern states are also very desirable and can be very difficult to acquire. I have heard from many long time collectors that hunters in southern states often did not bother to to purchase a stamp (or a license for that matter) prior to hunting for waterfowl.
Another method of collecting Form 3333 usages is to attempt to acquire as many different types of cancellations on the card as possible. Some of the more difficult cancellations are Stamp Section and Stamp Window (see Figures 25 and 26), Division of Finance (see Figure 27) and General Delivery (see Figure 29).
Perhaps the next most popular method of collecting Form 3333 usages is to attempt to acquire an example from as many different years as possible. This is also the most challenging, as there are relatively few Form 3333 usages in collections today that were issued after 1934-35. Remember, the form was by then obsolete and should not have been used at all.
A fair number have been recorded, however. I am aware of at least one example from every year through 1948-49 as well as 1955-56 (the latest known usage of a federal waterfowl stamp on Form 3333). In general, the farther removed from 1934-35 (the later the usage), the more difficult to acquire and the greater the premium (see Figures 28 – 32).
Whichever method you choose, collecting federal waterfowl stamp usages can be very rewarding as they add elements of genuineness and interest to collections of all levels. For a gallery containing selected Form 3333 usages, click here.