First, we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and health, happiness and success in 2021. For most of us, this past year was unlike any other in our lifetime; with the emergence of COVID-19, the unprecedented wildfire season in the west and a rancorous political scene – it was challenging, to say the least.
The purpose of today’s post is to present yet another brief diversion, Killer Twelve. Highlighted by 42 different items 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 Twelve”.
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 2).
You may also choose to go full screen by clicking the symbol located at the the upper left of the image (it looks like arrows extending in four different directions). To get back to the collage, click the “x” symbol at the upper right of the image or click on the page outside of the image.
RW1 Top Plate Number Single
The stamp shown at the top center of Killer Twelve is one of my favorites and has developed quite a fan club over the years. It seems that most of us who collect duck stamps have “a thing” for the very pretty first stamp whose vignette, featuring a pair of mallards, was created by the famous cartoonist and conservationist J.N. “Ding” Darling (see Figure 2).
As many of you already know, the “finished product” (stamp) we admire and collect is the result of a team effort. In this particular case, after Darling finished his brush and ink artwork, it was delivered to stamp designer and modeler Alvin R. Meissner at the Bureau of Engraving & Printing (BEP).
Meissner copied Darling’s artwork by hand (in miniature), then drew a series of borders to surround the vignette and designed the numeral “tablets.” He then created all of the lettering and numerals, including the void after date of June, 1935 and the numeral 1s within the tablets to complete his own original artwork design.
For the 1934-35 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp, Meissner created two different pieces of original artwork known as models. The two differed in the placement of the wording and the number of numeral tablets (two verses one). The BEP then made photographs of Meisner’s original artwork.
According to information on the National Postal Museum website, “At the time, most models sent to the Post Office Department for approval were photographic prints of [the original] artwork and were mounted on gray board with a space for a signature and date. The Bureau usually produced several copies of the photograph in order to satisfy requests from the Post Office Department and to retain in its own files.”
The BEP then submitted photographic prints of Meisner’s artwork to the Post Office Department for approval. At this point, the model which included two numeral tablets (designated I) was approved and the model with one tablet (designated II) was rejected (see Figure 3).
Both of Meisner’s original pieces of artwork are considered essays – as they both differed from the finished design in that they lacked the sky detail behind the ducks and the water detail at the bottom of the vignette (as did Darling’s original artwork shown in Figure 2). The BEP’s original photographs of Meisner’s artwork (produced from the original negatives) are considered true photo essays – whether they were mounted or not.
Later copies of these photographs (either not made from the original BEP negatives and/or made at a later date, using different photographic paper) have entered the collector market and are often represented as official “RW1 photo essays”. All examples I have examined have small margins, are unmounted and can be easily differentiated by their lack of detail and, occasionally, the presence of random tiny white spots that are likely caused by a film defect or darkroom problem (see Figure 4).
The exact origin of these copies is not known to me, however, in my opinion they should not be included in a philatelic exhibit and have relatively little monetary value. Click on figures 3 and 4 to enlarge and better see the difference.
After version I was approved, the corresponding photo essay was sent to BEP engravers Carl T. Arlt and Frank Lamasure; Alt engraved the vignette and Lamasure the letters and numerals for small and large die proofs (for more see The First Fish and Game Stamp – Part One). It is not known if the die proofs were prepared in colors other than blue, however, collectors are fortunate this was the color selected; as the stamp remains to this day, along with the 1959-60 issue featuring King Buck, one of the consensus top two favorites in the history of the duck stamp program (see Figure 5).
1941 Marion County Water Fowl Error
Located in the upper right of Killer Twelve is, without a doubt, the most incredible discovery I have ever made in over 50 years as a very involved member of our hobby. In addition, those I have shared this with agree it instantly ranks, along with the unique 1938 Pymatuning Hunting Stamp (discovered by Terry Hines in 1971) as one of our hobby’s preeminent crown jewels.
In 1941 Marion County (Kansas) issued the first waterfowl hunting stamp by a local government in the U.S., subsequent to having issued the first local fishing stamp the year before: In a nutshell, the citizens of Marion County built a huge recreational complex outside the county seat of Marion during the late 1930s. It included a large lake and the intent was always to feature fishing, however, duck hunting had not been considered until after the park opened. Then, the first winter after the park and lake were completed – ducks started to show up. The County Commissioners quickly approved a resolution to allow waterfowl hunting on the lake and thus, the 1941 stamp was printed. For an in-depth article, see The Fish and Game Stamps of Marion County, Kansas.
All of the Marion County stamps (fishing and waterfowl through 1973) were printed at the local newspaper office, the Marion County Record. Much to the delight of fish and game stamp collectors, the typesetting for all their stamps was done by hand – by rapidly grabbing cast metal sorts from drawers to compose words, dates and fees (see Figures 6 and 7).
Well, sometimes the sorts did not find their way back into the proper box and, seeing how typesetting fish and game stamps was probably not super high on their priority list – quality control was not always great. During the period that unsold stamp remainders were kept in a box by the county clerk (1954 – 1973), a number of typesetting errors were subsequently discovered.
Almost all of these were first reported in the Kansas State Revenue Catalog (1972) by Charles Bellinghausen, a Kansas stamp specialist and pioneer fish and game collector. The Marion County stamp section was compiled after Bellinghousen carefully examined the clerk’s box of remainders (which contained a relatively large number of stamps for all these years with the exception of 1966, which had sold out).
I use the word relatively as, during this period, only 50 – 1,050 stamps were printed each year and only a small percentage of the unsold remainders were archived and kept in the box. It should be noted that during the 1990s, Bob Dumaine and I each made one additional discovery, on the 1964 and 1957 duck stamps, respectively.
Prior to the current discovery, the most notable typesetting error was thought to have occurred in 1969, when Duck stamps from position eight were misspelled “Dusk” (see Figure 8). No typesetting errors had been recorded on any fishing or waterfowl stamp issued prior to the remainder period.
A Case for Ripley’s Believe It or Not
Maybe the wildest thing about the 1941 Marion County error, is the story I am about to tell detailing how it was finally “discovered.” To save a lot of people from embarrassment, I will withhold all of the names in this section except my own:
Only 68 waterfowl stamps were sold in 1941 (partially due to the attack on Pearl Harbor eclipsing the latter portion of the hunting season). Remarkably, given the small number sold, four used examples have been recorded by philatelists to date – one on license and three off license (including the error). This particular example was, I believe, the first to be discovered and was in the hands of a notable state revenue collector for many years. He subsequently sold his entire collection (including the Marion County stamp) to another advanced state revenue collector who owned it for some 30 years.
Back in the late 1980s or very early 1990s, I visited with the collector and he showed me the stamp, which, at the time, I could have really used for my first fish and game exhibit. We both admired it as I pleaded my case for 15 – 20 minutes. Alas, I could not persuade him to sell or trade it to me then – or any other time during many subsequent conversations that took place in person or on the phone over the next 20 plus years.
The stamp was then obtained by a very knowledgable stamp dealer, who finally sold it to me at WESTPEX in 2017. During this transaction, I carefully examined the stamp for condition as I had not seen it in person for so long. At this point the dealer told me he had already done the same and, satisfied, I then set it on the table between us where it remained clearly visible for about 45 minutes as we finalized the deal and chatted.
By this time, I had managed to acquire the other three 1941 Marion County waterfowl stamps, including the Mullikin example on his license (Killer Five), the Smiley example from Bob Dumaine (which I later sold to the Csaplars for their exhibit) and the exceptionally fine Bellinghausen example (Killer Ten) so, after holding on to the stamp for a year, I sold it to an advanced collector.
Then, wishing to place the stamp with another collector who has expressed interest in exhibiting, I reacquired the stamp just over a year later. Before completing the transaction, we waited eight months because the first collector wanted to receive payments spread over two calendar years. Most of this time it was in a safe deposit box, however, for the last two weeks it sat on my desk – where I looked at it every day.
During this entire time, none of us (including many of the most astute collectors and dealers in the fish and game hobby) ever noticed the error… Believe It or Not!
As (until very recently) I made every effort never to trust anything extremely rare or valuable to the Postal Service or Fedex, I had arranged to deliver the stamp to my client (who is also a good friend) in person. I arrived late, just in time for two (three?) glasses of wine and an enjoyable dinner before we each retired for the evening. The next morning I arose early, excited to present an example of my favorite stamp to my friend. Next, I will try to describe an occasion neither of us is likely to forget:
As I was showing him the stamp it occurred to me to point out that one of the coolest things about it was the fact that not only did the typesetter split “Waterfowl” into two words, Water and Fowl – he (or she) also set the two words on two (consecutive) lines.
As we were looking at the stamp and I attempted to illustrate my point, I suddenly became confused: Water was there, right where it was supposed to be – but Fowl was not (see Figures 9 and 10).
I think I actually went into a state of shock (my friend says he will never forget the look on my face). So many things were now racing through my mind: This was certainly the best stamp from a set of fish and game stamps that was really important to me – and I had just let it slip through my fingers… This could be the greatest stamp in the entire hobby… I had just sold it for way less than it was worth… and finally… what a potentially awkward situation I had inadvertently created for someone I greatly admired and respected.
As soon as I regained my composure, I stated my intention to honor the deal. At least someone I very much liked was the beneficiary of my blunder. He, quite understandably, didn’t really know what to say in the moment and asked for some time to wrap his mind around what had just transpired.
I returned home and within a few days my wonderful friend had decided to trade the stamp back to me for the “normal” Bellinghausen example – which had just gone from the finest of three recorded examples off license to the finest of two – and an option on a nice piece he had previously traded me and desired back. We both ended up feeling good about it – and I had another anecdote to share!
J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. Advertising Cover
Located directly beneath the Marion County stamp is an advertising cover produced for the Stevens Firearms Company. These early “gun covers” are often very attractive and this is one of the best designs, featuring a woman shooting a rifle from the front of a canoe in exquisite chromolithography.
Gun Covers typically feature hunting or fishing themed scenes and, as such, are enticing collateral for fish and game stamp collectors. Along with pre-stamp hunting and fishing licenses, they also serve to add “age” to our collections and exhibits.
When this current cover came up at action, I already had a nice example (Killer Two). However, the cool thing about this example is it is addressed to the Chenango County Fish, Game and Gun Club, making it too hard to resist (see Figure 11).
1938-39 Mississippi Family Fishing Button
Directly beneath the Stevens cover is a legendary fishing license in pinback badge or “button” form. Matching number buttons were issued along with paper licenses and were required, much like back tags, to be affixed to the sportsman’s jacket or outer garment – thus facilitating licensing compliance by game wardens from a distance.
Beginning with the east coast states of Maryland and New York in 1916 and 1917, respectively, license buttons were subsequently adopted by other states and the use of these buttons was fairly widespread across the U.S. (enjoying peak popularity during the Great Depression) until metal shortages during WW2 effectively brought the practice to a halt. This orange and black button was issued by the State of Mississippi and, along with its matching papers, licensed all family members to fish during the 1938-39 season – coming at the end of the Depression and just prior to WW2 breaking out in Europe (see Figures 12 and 13).
Hunting and fishing license buttons are popular with many kinds of collectors: fish and game stamp collectors, license collectors, pinback collectors, token collectors and, perhaps most of all (surprise), coin collectors – many of which apparently find round collectibles to be appealing. For this reason, they are referred to as a “crossover” collectible.
The most popular license buttons depict a fish or animal and long-time collectors fondly refer to these as “critter” buttons. In general, license buttons from the southern states are the most difficult for collectors to acquire, especially in nice condition. Relatively few were sold and high humidity has resulted in a large percentage of the surviving examples rusting over time. When it is heavy, rust can migrate through the metal to the overlaying paper and celluloid. When this becomes unsightly, it can render them uncollectible except as “space fillers”.
Therefore, pictorial buttons from the southern states of Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina are among the rarest and most highly sought after. Those with little rust often command a premium. In this particular case, I had been aware of only one other example (there must be more out there). There were two problems with it; it was not in the greatest of shape (exhibiting moderate “foxing” caused by rust migration to the surface) and it was not for sale.
As with the 1941 Marion County stamp, I had made many offers over a period of about 10-12 years. One night last year, I was out to dinner with Kay, my wife, and I said, “You know, I think I am going to call that guy with the Mississippi Family Fishing button and make him a substantially higher offer.”
The very next morning, before I called, I was looking at Ebay when someone listed the button below, starting at $9.95. I immediately emailed the unknowing seller and advised them not to let anyone talk them into ending the auction early, as it was of great value. A week later, I was the happy owner of an item that had been near the top of my “wish list” for much of my adult life.
The RW14 Original Selected by Committee
To the left of the Mississippi button, we have Jack Murrray’s original artwork which was selected by a special committee within the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1946 for the vignette of 1947-48 federal duck stamp, shown courtesy of collector Richard Prager.
This was one of the last pieces chosen by the USFWS special committee, just prior to Robert Hines (who created the artwork for the 1946-47 stamp) proposing an open art contest with stated rules, guidelines and impartial judges – the same format that is used today. Walter Webber was the winner of the first federal duck stamp contest which, contrary to popular belief, was held in 1950 (not 1949). For more on this see John Olin, Ding Darling, Maynard Reece & King Buck: The Making of an Icon – Part Three and Walter Webber: Winner of the First Federal Duck Stamp Contest – Part Three.
Murray’s beautiful painting features a pair of snow geese and the medium he used to create the artwork was wash and gouache (watercolor). The reason I have chosen to highlight this particular piece in Killer Twelve is because it is one of the earliest duck stamp entries (invitation or contest) to be executed in color and, as a result, is simply stunning – especially compared to the monochrome stamps and prints that most collectors are only aware of (see Figures 15-17).
For those interested in learning more about Jack Murray, you can read his Stearns and Fink biographical essay here. Kudos to Richie, who has been tireless in his pursuit of the federal duck stamp originals. His collection numbers over 60 pieces and it serves a fundamental role in documenting the federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp program in Gallery Nine.
The Ketch-Em Brand Crate Label
Located directly beneath the Mississippi button is the Ketch-Em Brand crate label. Canned salmon labels often feature fishing related motifs and, much like the gun covers are collateral collectibles that add interest and age to fish and game collections.
There are two sizes of “salmon labels”, small ones that were applied to the individual products (cans or jars) and larger ones that were applied to crates for shipping and storing quantities of the former. While it has been my experience that the smaller size is often more difficult for collectors to acquire today, it is the larger ones that make a more prominent visual statement and are highly sought after to frame and display on the wall of dens and offices.
This particular piece is not as well known to 21st century collectors as most salmon labels. At one time extremely rare, a small quantity of “new old stock” was discovered in Oregon in the 1980s. These were eventually obtained by a collector and “vest-pocket dealer” in sporting collectibles and he brought them to a few decoy and fishing lure shows in California, where they were immediately snatched up. Today originals are seldom offered for sale because people don’t want to let them go (Walmart offers reproduction posters on their website).
While not the rarest of salmon labels, the original Ketch-Em Label, produced by Simpson – Doeller using exceptional chromolithography with lots of gold highlights, is arguably the most eye-catching (the stacked jars and can are also very slightly embossed) and, without a doubt, an absolute killer (see Figure 18).
1958-59 Tennessee Trial Color Proof Block
Located directly below the Ketch-Em label is a 1958-59 Tennessee Big Game trial color proof block of four from the Carnahan Archive. In From Girlie Pulps to Trout Stamps – Part Four, I revealed that the archive contained a set of five different trial color proofs for this issue in blocks of four, the only multiples extant. At the time space permitted only one block to be shown. As the series remains one of the all-time favorites on this blog, I have decide to share another of the blocks in a different color (see Figure 19).
First, I will reproduce the series summary and, for those of you that are new to this website and blog, if it kindles some interest you may wish to check it out:
Worth B. Carnahan was an avid stamp collector as a youth. As Worth grew up in Washington, D.C., he was able to frequent The Bureau of Engraving and Printing. While observing the Bureau’s talented artisans, the stamp design process captured his imagination.
A natural and gifted artist, Worth longed to design stamps himself, but instead chose a more practical career in commercial illustration. During the Roaring Twenties, the first girlie pulps became tremendously popular on the newsstands and it was not long before Worth became heavily involved.
Worth moved to New York City and came to work in the studios of Adolphe Barreaux, an entrepreneur who supplied artwork for the various pulps produced by Harry Donenfeld. During the Great Depression, Worth and Barreaux’s other artists were kept busy creating alluring covers and interior illustrations for Donenfeld’s burgeoning pulp media empire.
When presented with the opportunity, Worth created his stamp pages for non-girlie pulps, such as The Lone Ranger Magazine. This allowed him to partially fulfill a childhood dream by designing stamp illustrations. The pulps also provided him with an outlet with which to inform young people about stamp collecting.
When Donenfeld segued into comic books, he incorporated Barreaux’s studio into what would soon become D.C. Comics. Worth subsequently became involved in all facets of comic book production, including editing and publishing. In comics, Worth found the perfect vehicle to continue to expand upon his stamp pages.
Toward the end of WWII, Worth and his family moved to Nashville, the childhood home of his wife, Elizabeth. In Nashville, Worth finally found his calling as an actual stamp designer for the Tennessee Game and Fish Commission.
During the middle part of the 20th Century, Worth B. Carnahan drew upon his unique background to create some of the greatest stamp designs in fish and game history. In so doing, he left a lasting mark on the hobby he loved.
To be taken to From Girlie Pulps to Trout Stamps – Part One, click here.
The 1908 Louisiana License to Hunt
Directly beneath the Carnahan proof block is an example of the 1908 Louisiana License to Hunt. As stated above, license buttons from the southern states are often difficult to come by, especially in nice condition. The same can be said for early hunting, fishing or trapping licenses in any form – be they paper, cardboard, cloth or celluloid-covered pin backs (to include federal duck stamps affixed to the blue cards known as Form 3333).
The reasons are much the same; relatively few licenses were sold in the south – primarily because residents didn’t appreciate being required to purchase one. Therefore, support for licensing laws in the south were usually lacking unless they contained the following loophole: residents would not be required to purchase a license to hunt, fish or trap either in their voting precinct or in their county of residence and, quite often in the case of the latter, adjacent counties to boot. For more on this, see Shorty’s Scrapbook – Part One & Two.
This provision pretty much ensured relatively few licenses would be sold. Add to this the humidity and accompanying mildew or rust issues and it becomes clear why any early southern licenses are difficult for collectors to acquire today.
According to Game laws for 1908 by T.S. Palmer and Henry Oldys (U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey), Louisiana resident hunting licenses were first issued in 1908, with a caveat being residents were not required to purchase one when hunting on their own land (see Figures 20 and 21).
The Miles Allgood Hunting Permit
Located in the center of Killer Twelve, about two-thirds of the way down, is a fascinating piece of U.S. hunting license history. According to Game Laws for 1907 by T.S. Palmer, Henry Oldys and Chas. E. Brewster (U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey), in 1907 Alabama first required residents to purchase hunting licenses.
There were two options: A $1 county license, “required to hunt outside of [the] voting precinct, ward or beat of [the] hunter, except on lands owned or leased by him” or a $3 state license, “required to hunt outside of [the hunter’s] county of residence, except on lands owned or leased by [the] hunter.”
What Palmer et al. do not state, is that the new Alabama game law, in addition to requiring the purchase of a hunting license – also required written permission “to hunt on the lands of another.” This provision was highly controversial, as it mitigated the voting precinct and county of residence loophole and gave large landowners in Alabama considerable power to license hunters (or not) via their permits (see Figures 22 and 23).
Newspaper accounts over the next two years are full of incidents where game wardens arrested hunters for failing to secure the required written permission. These hunters appeared before a judge and the vast majority were found guilty and fined $10 as per the law.
By 1910, this had the unintended effect of discouraged many citizens from participating in hunting and resulted in a substantial drop in license revenue. For example Talladega County reported 152 hunting licenses sold in 1909 and only 61 sold in 1910 – a decrease of 60%.
In response, Oneconta resident and U.S. Congressman Miles C. Allgood had hunting permits for his land printed in a postcard format (on heavy stock) and sent them out to the citizens in his surrounding area. This example was included in a collection I purchased from a southern gentleman in the fall of 2017 and which was subsequently misplaced by either Eric or myself as we scrambled to evacuate the California wildfires. I recently rediscovered both the collection and the permit when preparing to evacuate, yet again, this last fall (2020).
It represents the earliest hunting license or permit recorded from the State of Alabama. Due to the striking Native American motif, I immediately thought of Michael Jaffe, who is planning to show his fabulous Indian Reservation Stamp exhibit again as soon as the pandemic subsides (see Figure 24).
The 1973 Marion County Duck Stamp Pane
As the most will agree the most earth-shaking piece in Killer Twelve is the 1941 Marion County error, I have decide to end both Killer Twelve and this blog by presenting another important Marion County piece to provide context and enhance the frame of reference for new visitors to the website.
In 1942, unused remainders of the 1941 stamp were issued to hunters after overprinting them with the new year date and, in at least some cases, after the Park & Lake Supervisor Jerry Mullikin had initialed them. Starting in 1943, the word(s) waterfowl was replaced by “Duck”, giving birth to the world’s first actual “Duck stamp” (see Figures 25-27).
Marion County continued to print and issue duck stamps until the early 1970s, at which time duck hunting on Marion County Lake effectively came to an end – brought about by the construction of the 6,000 acre Marion Reservoir located three miles northwest of Marion and just 6 1/2 miles from the county lake. Congress had authorized the dam and reservoir in 1950 for flood control, water supply and conservation. The project was designed by the Army Corps of Engineers and construction began in 1964. The project was completed in 1968.
Once the federal reservoir began to fill with water in the early 1970s, the majority of ducks did not return to the county lake (where they would be shot at). In 1973 only 50 duck stamps were printed and sales to hunters reached an all time low of five. The stamps were then discontinued and replaced by printed permits.
This brought to an end the longest running waterfowl stamp series issued by a state or local government in the United States during the twentieth century.
Of the 45 unused remainders, 29 were in the office of the County Clerk. She archived these in the box. The other 16 were in then Supervisor Dale Snelling’s office out at the lake and he disposed of them in the trash. Of the 29 unused stamps that eventually entered the collector market, there were two complete panes of ten. One was acquired by the legendary duck stamp collector Jeannette Rudy and now resides in the collection of the National Postal Museum and the other is shown in Killer Twelve (see Figure 28).
To be taken to Killer Twelve, click here.