Happy New Year and the Introduction to Killer Thirteen

All of us at Waterfowl Stamps and More would like to wish everyone a happy New Year and health, happiness and success in 2023! While rereading the the introduction for Killer Twelve (written in late December of 2020), I was struck with how much many of our lives have changed for the better in the last two years.



At that time, we (especially those of us living in the western U.S.) were enduring a painful and demoralizing one-two punch from COVID-19 and wildfires. Now COVID, although not to be taken lightly, is seemingly on a path to dummy itself down via an endless series of mutations – the vast majority of which have proven too be either far less deadly than the original strain or unable to gain a competitive advantage. In addition, we now have effective vaccines and many people the world over have acquired some level of natural immunity through direct exposure.

I realize that as I write this a winter surge may be only a matter of weeks away, however, I also understand the number of cases in the U.S. (no doubt underreported due to the rise in home testing) is half the number of this time last year and a third of when I wrote the introduction to Killer Twelve in 2020. This gives me reason for optimism.

With regard to wildfires, while climate change and drought will remain a concern for the foreseeable future, their most feared product – destructive and deadly fires – may also be trending in a positive direction. When I wrote the introduction to Killer Twelve we had recently been evacuated for the third time in the last four years. Beyond stressful. Once again, things have greatly improved.

As I write this today, we have not been evacuated three out of the last four years. More importantly, this past year the total number of acres burned in California was 363,917 – compared to 2,569,386 acres last year (2021). While it would be irrational to make too big of a deal out of such limited data, I choose to believe that the cumulative efforts of four years of intense fire mitigation may finally be showing the fruits of our labor. This, once again, gives me reason for optimism going forward.

With regard to the hobby of stamp collecting, I can tell you from personal experience and from what I have learned from talking to other collectors and dealers – the hobby is not only alive and well but continuing to expand its wings during the “COVID Renaissance.” For this, I am grateful.

For all of these reasons, rather than looking forward to 2023 – I am truly excited about its prospects. I am happy to say that today we are not publishing Killer Thirteen with a diversion primarily in mind – simply to continue its original purpose as a visual resource that is both educational and fun.




Killer Thirteen is intended to showcase the wide variety of items that can be included in a fish and game collection and is highlighted by 43 different pieces that were chosen for their eye appeal and, yes, a bit of “wow” factor. It can be reached by clicking on Killer beneath the Home page banner, then clicking on Killer Thirteen. This is a very high resolution page and may take some time to load the first time or two, then it gets faster.

The Killer pages are collages that are intended to achieve an uncommon visual experience. For this reason, the text has been limited to captions that are only visible when hovering over each image. We recommend first taking in the entire collage at once, with the aid of the scroll bar located to the far right of your screen (or with the dial on your mouse, for those with that option).

If you click on an image it will expand in size (allowing the entire caption to be seen). From there, you can navigate through the collage using the forward and back arrows located at the right and left sides of your screen. The slide show function is especially effective with the Killer pages. It may be activated by clicking on the symbol located at the lower right of the enlarged image (it looks like a triangle facing right). Once the slide show is running, the same symbol then turns into a pause button (see Figure 1).



Figure 1. Screenshot of a 1903 Advertising Cover from Killer Thirteen, enlarged image showing the command functions located at the sides and in three corners.



1942 Marion County Error

The first stamp located in the upper left corner of the collage is a 1942 Marion County (Kansas) Water Fowl Stamp. It is no secret that the Marion County fish and game stamps are a favorite of mine and many other collectors. The stamp program’s story is interesting and fun, the cumulation of many years of efforts on the part of county residents who strove to build a community recreational area “second to none in the entire U.S.” towards the end of the Great Recession. Their achievement is both remarkable and inspiring.

The series includes many important fish and game “firsts”, including the first locally issued fish and game stamp in the U.S. with one required for fishing in 1940 (see Figure 2), the first locally issued stamp required to hunt waterfowl in 1941 – and just the second state or local waterfowl stamp in the U.S. after Ohio’s stamps for Pymatuning Lake were introduced in 1937 (see Figure 3) and, in 1943, the first “Duck Stamp” in the world (see Figure 4).


Figure 2. 1940 Marion County Fishing Stamp.



Figure 3. 1941 Marion County Water Fowl Stamp, ex Bellinghausen.



Figure 3. 1943 Marion County Duck Stamp, Csaplar collection.



In 1942, remainders of the 1941 stamps were rubber stamped “1942” and intitialed by Park Supervisor Jerry Mulliken. The example shown in Killer Thirteen is remarkable not just because it lacks Mulliken’s initials – but because it is rouletted beneath the year date, in error (see Figure 4).



Figure 4. 1942 Marion County with Extra Row of Roulettes (enlarged). Ex Bellinghausen.



To read an in-depth article about these fascinating stamps, see The Fish and Game Stamps of Marion County, Kansas.



1941 Pymatuning Waterfowl Stamp on License

The Pymatuning stamps are represented in Killer Thirteen by an example of the 1941 hunting stamp used on license. Considered one of the “Holy Grails” of the F&G hobby, the Pymatuning stamps for hunting waterfowl (1937 – 1945) had very low quantities sold – a hundred or so each year – and are very difficult for collectors to acquire today.

Pymatuning Lake (actually a reservoir) was constructed by the State of Pennsylvania and straddles the northern Ohio-Pennsylvania border (see Figure 5). Once the lake was completed, Ohio residents wished to use it for hunting and fishing. The State of Ohio negotiated a reciprocal agreement with Pennsylvania whereby Ohio sportsmen could use the lake – provided they first purchased a special Pymatuning hunting or fishing stamp.



Figure 5. Brochure which tells the history of the Pymatuning project. First printed in 1938; revised in 1939.



The reason for this was that Ohio license fees were $1.00 less than Pennsylvania; so purchase of the stamp would make mutual use of the lake fair for residents of both states. Since $1.00 was a lot of money during The Great Recession and WWII, only the Ohio residents who lived near the lake (and figured to get their money’s worth) tended to purchase the stamps. Since that region of Ohio was very sparsely populated, very few stamps were sold.

This particular example, located in the far right column, third down, currently graces the Will Csaplar collection and is one of the highlights of the award-winning exhibit A License and Stamp System for Waterfowl Conservation in the 20th Century U.S.

This example is special for two reasons; it was the first Pymatuning stamp acquired by Will and Abby and it is simply a stunning piece – with both the cloth license and the stamp being completely sound and in immaculate condition (rare for this series, see Figure 5a).



Figure 5a. 1941 Pymatuning Hunting Stamp on License, Will Csaplar Collection.



Non Resident California Hunting License

Directly above the Pymatuning Waterfowl Stamp is a captivating 1923-24 California Hunting License. California started requiring the purchase of hunting licenses in 1907 and, after the first two were produced out of metal (see Figure 6), the licenses were subsequently printed on paper and featured amazing chromolithography by some of the finest artisans in San Fransisco (see Figures 7 and 8).



Figure 6. Type I 1907-08 California Hunting License.



Figure 7. 1909-10 resident California Hunting License.



Figure 8. 1914-15 Resident California Hunting License.



Owing to to their beauty, many sportsmen and their relatives saved the paper licenses. Therefore, the licenses issued to residents – while highly sought after – fortunately are not terribly difficult to for collectors to acquire today. However, the licenses issued to other classifications of hunters, such as non residents, aliens or declarant aliens were issued in far smaller quantities and relatively few have survived the hundred or so years since they were produced.

The 1923-24 Non Resident License shown in Killer thirteen features one of the more popular and, some might say romanticized designs, depicting geese on the once vast central valley marshlands – prior to the land being “reclaimed” for farming and ranching purposes (see Figure 9).



Figure 9. 1923-24 Non Resident California Hunting License.



For a comprehensive overview of these incredibly historic pieces, including the license that inspired George Lawyer to propose the first federal migratory waterfowl stamp, click here.



Licenses in Celluloid Pinback or “Button” Form

Throughout the history of fish and game licensing in the U.S., the licenses themselves have been produced and issued in many different forms. In addition to the cloth, metal and paper licenses we have seen above, a number of states and military reservations issued hunting and fishing licenses that were layered between a circular or oval piece of metal and a coating of celluloid (an early form of plastic).

The back of the license featured a pin for the the purpose of attaching the “button” (some collectors refer to these as pinbacks or badges) to the outer garment, usually a coat or jacket, while hunting or fishing. The purpose of the button was to present proof of having obtained a license which was visible to game or fish wardens from a distance, thereby eliminating the need for them to approach and engage every sportsman and, thus, make their work more efficient.

Also located in the back, the button often contained a small compartment where an accompanying paper license containing additional personal information could be carefully folded and inserted. As a rule, both the button and the paper portions were imprinted with matching numbers.

The first hunting and fishing buttons were issued by the states of Maryland and New York in 1916 and 1917, respectively (see Figures 10 and 11). Over the years, license buttons were adopted by many other states and the practice was greatly gaining in popularity among state game and fish commissions in the 1930s – until metal shortages during WWII brought it to an abrupt halt.



Figure 10. 1916 Allegany County, Maryland Hunters License Button, Csaplar collection.



Figure 11, 1917 New York Hunting and Trapping License Button. Note: this button features an unusual screw and cap on the back, instead of a pin.



When the collecting of fish and game stamps really took off in the 1970s (in large part due to the publication of E.L. Vanderford’s Handbook), the closely related hobby of license collecting followed suit. Specialized shows dedicated to the collecting of licenses sprang up across the country, especially in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Many of the more serious collectors focussed their attention on the pleasingly-shaped buttons and it did not take long for them to learn which buttons were common and which were rare. In general, the more difficult buttons to acquire for most states were the same as the paper licenses – those issued to classifications of sportsmen that were not residents, especially those from the southern states.

Killer Thirteen features four of these buttons, including one that is so rare we originally wondered if it was a fake (the consensus among collectors who have contacted us that it is, indeed, authentic – see Figure 12) and another that has become legendary among license and button collectors, the Non Resident Special Ohio River Button issued by the State of West Virginia in 1940.

The Ohio River button is somewhat unusual in that the metal has been cut out so that the paper license is visible from the front (see Figure 13). This practice was largely confined to Arkansas and West Virginia.



Figure 12. 1933 Non Resident MS Trapper’s Button.



Figure 13. 1940 Non Resident WV Special Ohio River Button.



Two More Early Licenses of Note

Located near the bottom of the collage (second from the bottom in the left column) is a license that is rather plain in appearance – however, very significant to our hobby from a historical perspective. It is a federal gun permit, issued in 1904 by the Department of the Interior to license Richard Weir to hunt in the E.D. of Santa Barbara Reserve (see Figure 14).

What is now known as the Santa Barbara National Forest was established by the General Land office in California on December 22, 1903. The permit featured in Killer Thirteen is the earliest recorded license to hunt in California – preceding the state-issued metal license shown in Figure 6 by three years.



Figure 14.1904 Federal Gun Permit for Santa Barbara Preserve – the earliest license to hunt in California.



The piece located at the bottom right of the collage is also of tremendous importance. It is a license in the form of a letter, issued in 1910 by the Department of the Interior to Franklin Albertson, a resident of Epley, Washington, permitting him to hunt and fish on the Colville Indian Reservation.

Authorized by a U.S. Army Captain at Fort Spokane, Washington on July 19, the license spells out the limits of 50 trout and 10 ducks in any one day as well as reminding the sportsman that the introduction of liquor on an Indian Reservation is forbidden by an act of Congress. A truly remarkable piece of fish and game history that is shown here courtesy of Will Csaplar (see Figure 15).



Figure 15. 1910 Federal Permit to Hunt and Fish on the Colville Reservation – the earliest license to hunt or fish on an Indian Reservation in the U.S.



Some Rare Usages

Crow Creek

Located five places above the 1910 Colville License in the collage, there is another significant Indian Reservation license, this one dating from 1998. In 1961 the Crow Creek Sioux became the second tribal government (after the Rosebud in 1959) to adopt a license and stamp system – independent from the State of South Dakota. To date, only one Crow Creek stamp from 1961 has been recorded, a big game stamp whose date was changed to 1964 with a ball point pen (see Figure 16).



Figure 16. 1961 Crow Creek Big Game Stamp, changed for issue in 1964. Ex Vanderford.



Starting in 1989 the Crow Creek Tribal Council authorized the Department of Natural Resources to contract with the State Publishing Company in Pierre. The result was that the new Crow Creek fish and game stamps looked very professional and very much like many of the state stamps that were being issued at the time (see Figure 17).



Figure 17. 1989 Crow Creek Reservation Waterfowl.



Starting in 1995 and continuing through at least 2005, the tribe issued stamps to license tribal members as hunting guides. Unused stamps are not easy to acquire and examples used by the guide on license, are extremely difficult for collectors to acquire (see Figure 18).



Figure 18. 1998 Crow Creek Guide Stamp on License.



For more information on these stamps, see Fish and Game Stamps of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.



Illinois Daily Usage

Following the end of WWII and the return of the majority of American soldiers back to the states, there was an unprecedented demand for public hunting grounds. Many of the prime waterfowl areas had already been acquired by wealthy businessmen and sportsmen for the purpose of operating private hunting clubs.

To ensure that all sportsmen had a fair opportunity to enjoy a recreational hunting experience for a nominal cost, the State of Illinois developed, owned and operated a number of public wildlife areas around the state where hunting was allowed during specific times of the year. A mail-in drawing system was devised for applicants to secure places in blinds for ducks, geese and pheasants.

Once the applications were approved, the hunters went to a site on a designated day and at a designated time. Once there, one, two or three Daily Usage Stamps were affixed to the permit (depending on the number of hunters sharing the blind).

The earliest recorded Daily Usage Stamps are dated 1951. It is the only year that was issued imperforate (see Figure 19). After that, the stamps were issued in sheets of 25 (5 x 5) with individual stamps perforated on two, three or four sides. One of two recorded examples from 1952 is located at the bottom left of the Killer Thirteen collage, this one is perforated on all four sides (see Figure 20).



Figure 19. 1951 $2.00 Illinois Daily Usage.



Figure 20. 1952 Illinois $2.00 Daily Usage, perforated on all four sides.



The stamps were either wetted or stapled to the permit, the hunter’s state hunting licenses were held as collateral during the shoot and, at the end of the day, the permits and stamps were to be returned to the onsite agent in order to get their hunting licenses back. The permits and stamps were then supposed to be sent to the Illinois Department of Conservation Headquarters in Springfield for accounting purposes and destruction.

For this reason, it was always difficult for collectors to obtain unused stamps (the Department would not sell them). A relatively small number of stamps from 1951 through 1972 have made their way into the philatelic market – primarily as a result of a collector appealing to a sympathetic license clerk who gave them the stamps at no charge.

With regard to stamps affixed to the original permits, very few have been recorded in fish and game collections. In most cases their origin has not been verified, however, I have heard stories ranging from a discovery of a cigar box in a cabin in the woods belonging to a deceased game warden to dumpster diving at wildlife sites who failed to return all of their permits before the deadline.

Regardless, prior to the APS Show in Sacramento this past summer, the latest Daily Usage Stamp on license in collections from the original, classic series (1951-1972) was dated 1965. There are a number of these 1965 permits around and it is believed they all originated from the same retired game warden.

I had a booth at the APS Show and on Saturday I took a break to walk around “the floor.” I asked every dealer if they had any fish and game stamps and looked at their stocks. One dealer provided me with a big surprise by offering me the piece shown in Figure 21 (located four places above the 1952 stamp in the collage). This now the latest known usage from the original series. This just goes to show you never know what you will find at a stamp show!



Figure 21. 1970 $5.00 Illinois Daily Usage pair on permit. Note: the permit has information for two hunters; therefore it has two stamps affixed and the manuscript “3” tells us they were assigned blind #3 at The Carlyle State Fish and Wildlife Area (rubber stamped at the upper left).



To learn more about these stamps, see The Illinois Daily Usage Stamps.



Vandenberg Air Force Base

Portions of military reservations and occupied territories have historically been opened to hunting and fishing (following federal seasons and limits where applicable) for the purpose of affording military personnel the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities. Such activities are viewed as therapeutic, a chance to decompress and, in general, important for the personnel’s health and well being.

The Vietnam and subsequent conflicts brought with them a host of new mental challenges for active and returning personnel. In addition to PTSD, divided political views and a mixed reception upon returning stateside contributed to feelings of guilt and anger. The pentagon recognized this challenge and began to develop more outdoor opportunities and increase the level of organization for hunting and fishing programs on military bases and installations.

Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), located in Santa Barbara County, California (not far from the Santa Barbara National Forest) became the first U.S. military reservation to issue adhesive fish and game stamps in 1967 with one required for hunting (see Figure 22).



Figure 22. 1967-68 VAFB Hunting, ex Vanderford.



For decades, until the very end of the 20th century, hunting and fishing on VAFB (as well as the majority of military reservations), was limited to military personnel. For this reason, military hunting and fishing stamps have always been very difficult for collectors to acquire.

Not only would they not allow civilians to hunt or fish on the base – they would not sell the stamps (even after they were no longer valid) to civilian collectors. The vast majority of the U.S. military stamps that have found their way into the philatelic market were via a handful of ex military collectors with good connections such as E.L. Vanderford.

Acquiring military fish and game stamps used on license is even more difficult and often the result of either blind luck (a retired military sportsmen saved his/her license as a memento and then it ended up in a garage sale or at a flea market) or a lot of effort on the part of motivated collectors.

The license shown in figure 23 (located two places above the Illinois Daily Usage Permit in the collage) is a real mind-blower – dating from the early 1980s, it has no less than nine different VAFB hunting and fishing stamps affixed! Four are completely visible (as they are stacked), and they include 1983-84 deer, 1984-85 deer, 1984-85 pig and 1984-85 small game.



Figure 23. California hunting license with nine different VAFB stamps affixed.



We hope you enjoy spending some time with Killer Thirteen!



  1. Tim Hickey on January 1, 2023 at 2:30 am

    I like that “Pig” stamp on the Vandenberg License!

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