Introduction to Killer Ten

First, we would like to thank all of you who emailed or called to let us know you enjoyed the last post, Garage Sale Gold. Clearly, a lot of you like reading about these kind of “finds” and we will keep that in mind as we select topics for future blogs.

The purpose of today’s post is to introduce Killer Ten. Highlighted by 40 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 Ten”.

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 1934 Maine Complimentary Fishing License from Killer Ten, enlarged image showing the command functions located at the sides and in three corners.



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.

As an introduction, I have selected ten items from Killer Ten for a brief discussion. For many of the other items, additional information may be found by exploring other areas of this website.


No Fee Overprint for Civil War Veterans on California Anglers License

The California Anglers License in the upper left of the collage was issued to Jesse Millikan (Jr.) of Lodi, California in 1928 and is the companion to the hunting license shown at the upper left in the Killer Three collage. The fish and game hobby primarily deals with items pertaining to 20th century history. Rarely do I encounter items that are so clearly associated with participants in the Civil War and when I do, they quickly grab my attention and inspire me to learn more about the person.

My research has shown that, at the time this license was issued, Jessie was one of two surviving children (originally nine) of Jesse Millikan Sr. and Lydia Ann Metzger. Jessie and Lydia met and were married in Fayette County, Ohio before moving to Indiana in 1844. The elder Jessie was then stricken with gold fever and brought his family to California in 1851. It took the Millikan family 100 days traveling in covered wagons pulled by ox teams to cross from Indiana to Amador County, California. Here, Jessie Sr. enjoyed a fair amount of success as a miner for a period ten years, until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.

Since the license tells us Jessie Jr. was 79 in 1928, we know he was only two years old when his family made this rugged trip across both the great plains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1861 Jessie Sr. sent two of his sons to fight for the Union. One, whose name I cannot find, died in battle and the other, Jessie Jr., survived and returned to live in California. At the time he entered the war, Jessie was only 12 years old.

I first became aware of these licenses back in the 1980s when I was writing a column for the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) Magazine. A CWA member in Chico contacted me and described the pair of licenses. I was very excited but also a little dubious. Although the game laws for 1928-29 clearly stated “License issued free to veterans of Civil War” and I was aware of the more recent (1950s – 1980s) “No Fee” overprints, I had never seen or even heard of a Civil War Veteran overprint. While I was thinking it kind of seems like one of those things that is too good to be true, he invited me to come to his house and see for myself.

On my first visit, he had the licenses laying in a display case in a kitchen nook along with some decoys and various other hunting and fishing collectibles. The case was located along a short wall adjacent a sliding glass door opening to the backyard. When I first saw the licenses, the overprints were much more vivid.

I told the owner that this location was probably not great for the licenses. He was not too concerned nor was he interested in selling them. I continued to inquire periodically for 15 years until, one winter day, he told me I could finally have them.

When I arrived at his house, the licenses were still in the same spot – in the glass case by the window. I noticed the overprints had faded since I first saw them. However, I completed the deal.

Once we move beyond pictorial waterfowl stamps, our hobby includes numerous very rare items. New discoveries are still being made (see The Boward Family Find and Garage Sale Gold). For these reasons, we get to experience one of the best philatelic “thrill of the hunt” experiences.

Many of these rarities are not going to be perfect – and that is OK. I appreciate Millikan’s licenses for what they are – very historical and quite possibly the only examples of the California No Fee overprints for Civil War Veterans extant. I am proud to be able to share these fish and game artifacts with you via our site (see Figure 2).



Figure 2. 1928 California Citizen Angling License overprinted “Civil War Veteran”.



The First Fish and Game Stamp – from the First Pane Sold to Ding Darling

During a matter of days in the Spring of 1934, a small bipartisan group of conservation-minded people –  including then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, conservation game management pioneer Aldo Leopold and interim Director of the Bureau of Biological Survey Jay N. “Ding” Darling – managed to do what no single person or committee had been able to do for over a decade. These men guided the federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act through Congress (For more on this, see The Making of an Icon – Part Two) .

The artwork for the vignette (central image) of the first federal waterfowl stamp – and the first fish and game stamp in the United States – was designed by Darling himself. On August 22 (two days before they went on sale to the general public), Ding Darling was allowed to purchase stamps from the first pane in a special ceremony (see Figure 3).



Figure 3. Darling purchases stamps from the first sheet on August 22, 1934.



I have heard from various sources that Darling purchased 25 stamps from the pane of 28. Further, that most of the stamps were immediately affixed to a Form 3333 and signed by Darling on the reverse. I have reported elsewhere that many of these were given to friends and politicians as favors and they were subsequently discarded.

Less than half of the original cards are believed to have survived and the actual number may be much smaller. I know the whereabouts of four, including the one Jeannette Rudy donated to the National Postal Museum. The one shown in the upper right of the collage was originally in the Collection of Henry Tolman II (see Figures 4 and 5).



Figure 4. RW1 from the first pane of stamps sold; affixed to Form 3333. Obverse cancelled August 22, 1934.


Figure 5. Form 3333 above, reverse showing Darling’s signature.



The First State Fish and Game Stamp – Complete Pane of 50

The Kansas Fish and Game Department was established in 1905. In 1925 the Department was reorganized as the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission and consisted of a three-member board appointed by the governor. This Commission has the distinction of ordering the first state fish and game stamps to be printed in the Spring of 1937, less than three years after the release of the first federal waterfowl stamp.

According to Kansas quail stamp specialist David R. Lucas, “The quail stamps were issued by the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission to raise monies for the Quail Preservation and Propagation Fund, which supported the state quail farms and other efforts. All quail hunters were required to purchase the 50-cent stamp and affix it to their hunting licenses”.

Some collectors believe the undated Pymatuning hunting stamp was the first fish and game stamp required by a state government (Ohio). However, my research has revealed that on September 1, 1937, the Ohio Conservation Council approved “a stamp to be affixed to the regular hunting and fishing licenses for the Pymatuning district”.

Therefore, the quail stamp was actually issued first, by just a few months. The first two issues, 1937-38 and 1938-39, were printed in large panes of 50 with a blank selvage at the top and straight edges on all four sides. I acquired the pane at the upper center of the collage from Kansas collector Neil Danielson – who had previously obtained it from our mutual friend, David Lucas ( see Figure 6).



Figure 6. 1937 Kansas Quail – The First Fish & Game Stamp – complete pane of 50.



Update (April 2018): Additional research has shown that in 1937, the waterfowl season in Ohio began on October 9 and the Kansas quail hunting season over a month later, on November 20. Therefore, the undated Pymatuning waterfowl stamp was, in fact, the first fish and game stamp in the U.S. (see The Kansas Upland Game Bird Stamps – Part One).



1941 Marion County – The First Local Waterfowl Stamp

What follows is a synopsis of The Fish and Game Stamps of Marion County Kansas:

Marion County is located in central Kansas, with the county seat of Marion being approx. 43 miles northeast of Wichita. In the early 1930s local residents, including many sportsmen, became interested in building a recreational park featuring a lake. A park committee was was formed in 1935 whose goal was to produce “a recreational center that cannot be excelled anywhere in the country”.

The federal government agreed to cover virtually all of the costs, presumably as a flood control project and as a way to put people to work following the Great Depression. A site was chosen 3 miles southeast of Marion. Plans for the dam were drawn were drawn by the Kansas State Fish and Game Commission and approved by the State Department of Agriculture.

Construction began in February of 1936. The county park committee worked with The Marion County Board of Commissioners, the Soil Conservation Service and the Works Progress Administration to bring the project to completion in 1939.

When finished, the new recreational center named Marion County Park and Lake featured an 80 acre lake 35 feet deep at the dam, 39 concrete picnic tables, a golf course, a baseball diamond, tennis courts, shuffleboard courts, a roller skating rink, croquet grounds and a fly casting course.

Jerry E. Mullikin, a former peace officer who had a lifelong interest in fish and game conservation, was selected by the board of commissioners as the first Park and Lake Supervisor. Fishing was intended to be the primary attraction of the park and during the three years of construction the lake had been stocked with 80,000 fish.

In 1939 the County Board of Commissioners developed a set of rules and regulations for the Park and Lake. It included requiring county residents to purchase a fishing stamp and on May 26, 1940, the first local fish and game stamp in the U.S. was put on sale –  for fishing. At this point there was no requirement for waterfowl stamps as no waterfowl hunting was allowed on the lake.

Then the unexpected happened. According to an excerpt from “Park and Lake Notes” in the January 9, 1941 Marion Record, “Thousands of ducks have been with us since last fall and are still here in large numbers… they are beautiful to look at, but that is where their usefulness (currently) ends”.

On September 16, 1941, the County board of Commissioners passed and adopted a resolution to allow waterfowl hunting at the Marion County Park and Lake during the 1941 season, “Provided that each person so hunting shall have a state license with a federal duck stamp attached, also a Marion County Duck stamp [residents only] or permit [non residents] as the case may be”. An interesting note about the stamp: when they were typeset at the local newspaper office, the word “waterfowl” was split into two words and set on different lines.

The 1941 Marion County Water Fowl stamp was the first local waterfowl stamp in the U.S. and ranks second only to those issued by Ohio for Pymatuning Lake as the earliest state or local waterfowl stamp on record.

A total of 1,000 stamps were printed in 1941. Of these, only 68 were sold. All of the unused remainders were overprinted “1942” and distributed to vendors the following year (see Killer Nine, upper left). Of the 68 stamps that were sold in 1941, four examples can be accounted for today. The stamp included in Killer Ten is the Bellinghausen example and it has not been seen by the public since Charles exhibited in the 1970s (see Figure 7).



Figure 7. 1941 Marion County Water Fowl, ex Bellinghausen.



1940 Pymatuning Waterfowl Stamp on License – Cancelled “Tennant Pharmacy”

Pymatuning Lake straddles the Ohio/Pennsylvania border in the northern part of each state, 89 miles directly east of Cleveland. The lake is actually a reservoir that was built by Pennsylvania in the early 1930s to control flooding.

Effective May 18, 1937, an agreement  between the two states allowed Ohio hunters and fishermen to use the lake. As Pennsylvania licenses cost a dollar more than Ohio licenses, Ohio residents were required to pay an additional dollar above the cost of their state license to use the lake.

The purchase of a special Pymatuning hunting or fishing stamp facilitated this equity. When affixed to an Ohio license, the stamp then conveyed rights to hunt or fish on the lake to the license holder. The stamps were issued by venders located throughout the lake region, however, the leading outlet for Pymatuning stamps was Tennant Pharmacy, located in Andover, Ohio (see Figure 8).



Figure 8. An early photo (1950s?) of Rexall Drugs in Andover, Ohio – formerly Tennant Pharmacy.



When Tennant Pharmacy issued a Pymatuning stamp, they affixed it to the sportsman’s license and “cancelled” it with a rubber stamp. This was a fairly unusual practice for vendors of fish and game stamps but one that helps to strengthen the analogy between fish and game license usages and postage stamp usages; the latter commonly referred to as “postal History” (see Figure 9).



Figure 9. 1940 Pymatuning waterfowl stamp affixed to license and cancelled “Tennant Pharmacy”.



RW46 with Reverse Inscription Missing

Federal errors have become somewhat of a mixed bag over the years. On the one hand, they usually posses tremendous eye appeal and for this reason are very popular with advanced collectors. On the other hand, the field is a bit of a mine field, occasionally populated by bogus errors that have had colors chemically altered or had their fugitive ink faded by the sun –  for example.

One must be very careful who they are buying federal errors from. It is important to understand that even knowledgeable dealers can be fooled in this area. If the seller is not well known to you, consider getting it in writing that the item may be returned for an extended period of time and for a full cash refund.

New technology is continually being made available to philatelic expertization services and just because a stamp is sold with a “good” certificate – that does not always mean it will necessarily get one upon resubmission down the road.

Having said that, one should not avoid federal errors like the plague. There are seemingly many legitimate ones and examples of many of these can be found in Gallery Nine. Perhaps one of the most dramatic is the RW46 with reverse inscription missing (see Figure 9).

I obtained this stamp from a U.S. dealer at a stamp show in Texas in the 1990s. Since then, it has passed back and forth between the Csaplar collection and my own a couple of times in trades. The stamp has a fairly recent certificate; the gum is clear as a bell and, in all likelihood, this stamp is a true major error.



Figure 9. Unused RW46 with reverse inscription missing



1929 Maryland Angler’s License Button for Deep Creek Lake

The collecting of hunting and fishing license buttons (sometimes referred to as “pin-backs” or “badges”) is a very popular speciality area of the fish and game hobby, particularly in the eastern half of the country. In fact, the east has by far and away the most collectors and for a good reason – these are the states that issued most of the license buttons.

The celluloid covered button is derivative of the back-tag. In the case of many states east of the Mississippi River, hunting (frequently) and fishing (occasionally) licenses were issued in two parts. One part consisted on the actual paper (sometimes cloth or cardboard) license and one part consisted of the back-tag.

The back-tag was required to be pinned or sewn to the sportsman’s outer garment (often a jacket), to make it easier for game wardens to see that they had purchased a current license. The back-tag usually changed colors from year to year to facilitate this process – eliminating the need for the warden to approach each person, have them stop what they were doing and fish (no pun intended) their license out of their wallet or purse. In other words, back-tags enabled wardens to do their job faster and more efficiently.

Starting with Maryland in 1916 and New York in 1917, some states began to substitute a celluloid-covered pin-back button in place of the back tag. The color of these buttons could also be changed from year to year. In addition, the celluloid reflected the sunlight, making them easy for the wardens to detect. Eventually, many states adopted the button format and they saw widespread use up until WWII. At this point, a shortage of metals effectively put an end to the use of buttons by most states and they began to revert back to traditional back-tags.

License buttons have a pleasing shape and are especially attractive (addictive?) to collectors who have an oval fixation – coin collectors and token collectors. As such, they may be considered a crossover collectible. This is an item that is sought after by collectors in two or more diverse fields.

In general, the “better” buttons are those issued by southern states (scarcer), featured an image of a fish or animal (cute) or were issued for a small area (potentially rare). An example of the latter would be the those issued by Maryland for Deep Creek Lake. The lake is located in the far western part of the state. It is somewhat remote and sales figures for the Deep Creek Lake buttons were relatively low as a result. Records show that for 1929, only 40 buttons were sold to non residents ($2.75 fee – see Figure 10).



Figure 10. 1929 Maryland NR Angler’s License button for fishing in Deep Creek Lake.



1902 Nebraska License to Hunt and Fish

As with buttons, pre-stamp paper, cloth or cardboard hunting and fishing licenses fall into the crossover collectible category. They are avidly sought by collectors of licenses and collectors of fish and game stamps. In addition, they are occasionally in demand by collectors of antique decoys, fishing tackle and game warden history.

For fish and game collectors who are interested in exhibiting, pre-stamp licenses have become important in providing age and context to an exhibit which would otherwise begin in the 1930s.

Their are many options when it comes to collecting pre-stamp licenses. Many people try to assemble comprehensive collections of licenses from the state in which they currently live and/or the state in which they were born. Others are interested in licenses from the states in which they have spent a significant portion of their lives hunting, fishing or trapping.

Still others form “type” collections. These may consist of one license from each state; the earliest license they can find from each state; hunting licenses from all states; non-resident or alien licenses; licenses with large years dates printed across the face and so on. The possibilities are endless.

In general, the earlier the license the fewer were issued and the more difficult it is to acquire for collectors today. Licenses from states that are smaller in size and/or population tend to be difficult as do the southern states and “dry” states, such as Arizona and New Mexico. Oversized licenses have survived in fewer numbers and are difficult to find in nice condition.

Territories, such as Alaska and Hawaii, were both remote and had low populations. New Mexico Territory was small, had a low population, was dry and remote. Territorial licenses are highly sought by all license collectors.

Demand is a factor in availability. There are some states that have a large number of collectors relative to the rest of the country and these collectors are often interested in licenses from their own state. These include Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

For this collage, I have chosen to highlight the 1902 Nebraska Resident License to Hunt and Fish. This was the second resident license issued by Nebraska and the first required to hunt state-wide, including the county in which the hunter lived. The first resident license from Nebraska can be seen in Killer One.

Nebraska at the beginning of the 20th century had a low population and relatively few licenses were sold. The first few were oversized and had the year date printed across the face in large numbers. Also, Nebraska is one of the states that has a lot of license collectors – big demand. All of this adds up to making the 1902 license a Killer (see Figure 11).



Figure 11. 1902 Nebraska Resident License to Hunt and Fish.




1968-69 VAFB Hunting Stamp

There are a surprising number of serious collectors interested in the stamps and licenses that have been required to hunt or fish on military bases or reservations. The problem is, in 90% of the cases, only military personnel could obtain them and, as a consequence, relatively few have entered the collector market.

Perhaps most familiar to collectors are the stamps issued by Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB). VAFB is located along the coast in Southern California, one hour north of Santa Barbara. A lot of fascinating things have happened at VAFB since it opened in 1941 and it makes for an interesting google search. Of current interest, I found that VAFB is one of two military bases that would defend the United States against an incoming missile attack by North Korea.

E.L Vanderford was the first to publish information about fish and game stamps used on the base; initially in the State Revenue Newsletter in the late 1960s and then in his updated Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps, published in 1973:

“The base officer advises these stamps have been issued annually starting with the 1967-68 issue. Usage of these was restricted to military personnel”.

Vanderford was able to obtain stamps for his collection from VAFB as he was a retired military officer and had connections on the base. Van’s 1967-68 Hunting Stamp is shown in Killer One. Personally, I have always had a preference for the second issue.

The difference in rarity is negligible (two vs three examples recorded) and I like how the red color combines with the large $1 to make for an impressive visual impact (see Figure 12). To see all of the VAFB stamps that have been recorded, click here.



Figure 12. 1968-69 VAFB Hunting Stamp, ex Vanderford.



1962 Lower Brule Predator Pane of Five

Fish and game collectors have been intrigued by stamps used on Indian reservations since editor David Strock first published information about them on the front page of the February, 1964 issue of The State Revenue Newsletter. In his article he pictured an undated Lower Brule Predator stamp (see Figure 13).



Figure 13. David Strock informed collectors about fish and game stamps issued by the Sioux tribes of South Dakota in the State Revenue Newsletter in early 1964.



Collectors attempted to add different tribal stamps throughout the rest of the 1960s and early 1970s – which was not always easy. The tribal licensing agents did not understand why people across the country would be interested in their stamps and, simply put, were not too helpful to collectors.

During the Spring of 1973, the second Incident at Wounded Knee occurred. Wounded Knee is now a town located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in south-central South Dakota. A large number of Oglala Sioux joined followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and occupied the town. It was a protest against tribal president Richard Watson, who was accused of abuse and corruption.

The U.S. Marshals, the FBI and other law enforcement agents were brought in and a tense standoff developed that lasted for 71 days. Unfortunately, during this period two Native Americans were killed and Ray Robinson, a well known black civil rights leader from Alabama, disappeared and was never seen again.

Following the incident, tribal governments stop printing stamps for a number of years. No one – Native American or white – was interested in having non-Indian hunters enter tribal lands with weapons in the 1970s. Vanderford told me that after being told there were no new stamps, year after year for six or seven years, fish and game collectors simply gave up trying to collect tribal stamps.

Then, in 1990, I was sent a group of licenses in the mail by a collector in South Dakota. One of the licenses had a pictorial waterfowl stamp affixed to it that, at first glance, looked like a typical S.D. state-printed stamp. However, it was actually issued by the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

I then wrote an article explaining that tribes had resumed issuing fish and game stamps in The American Revenuer. Since then we have learned that the tribes started issuing stamps again in the late 1970s – over 20 tribes in all – and today many people enjoy collecting these interesting stamps.

Tribal stamps issued prior to the second Wounded Knee incident are the most highly prized by collectors. I have included an unused pane of the first Lower Brule predator stamp (1962) in this collage for everyone to enjoy (see Figure 14).



Figure 14. 1962 Lower Brule Predator, complete pane of five.




Welcome to Killer Ten. To go to the collage, click here.



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