What has been included

Although they are often referred to as non-pictorial, many of the stamps listed in this catalog may be more accurately described as "semi-pictorial". They may include a small or background image that is secondary to the printed text in the overall stamp design.

In some instances, pictorial stamps have also been listed. This has occurred for one of two reasons; either (1) information about the stamps has traditionally been excluded from pictorial waterfowl stamp references, or (2) it is necessary to include them in order to provide a complete listing for a particular series. An instance of the latter occurs with the small game stamps issued by North Dakota. Stamps were issued for resident and nonresident hunters starting in 1967 and resident youth hunters starting in 1981. All of the stamps in the series to date have been non-pictorial, with the exception of the stamps issued for resident hunters since 1981, which have been pictorial.

All of the stamps required by tribal governments to hunt waterfowl on Indian reservations through 1997 have been included in this catalog—with the exception of a small number of stamps for which the necessary research has not been completed.

A special note with regard to some tribal issues. Throughout the 1990s, various tribal waterfowl stamps were produced with collectors clearly—if not primarily—in mind. The editor has attempted to include only those stamps (whether they be state, local or tribal issues) that were actually required to be purchased by sportsmen and affixed to a license prior to hunting for waterfowl. In the case of tribal issues, sometimes it can be difficult to establish their legitimacy. Please refer to the introductions preceding the listings for each recent tribal series for more specific information. Although the editor feels that any questionable issues have been clearly identified in these introductions, it should be understood that the inclusion of such tribal issues in this catalog is in no way intended to be an endorsement by the editor or any of his associates.

The preceding paragraph is not intended to paint all recent tribal issues with the same brush. Most are legitimate. However, collectors are always encouraged to ask questions in order to learn more about the stamps they are buying.

How the catalog has been organized

This catalog has been organized as follows:

  1. By state, alphabetically
  2. State issues; local issues; tribal issues
  3. By series, chronologically
  4. By year, chronologically
  5. Resident; resident youth; non-resident (most common classification first)

A precedent for listing tribal issues under state headings was established in (Frank L.) Applegate's Catalogue of State and Territorial Game and Fishing License Stamps, published in the early 1960s. Tribal issues were similarly listed by Vanderford (1973, 1977). In recent years an alternative approach, related to the issue of sovereignty, has become popular and has been adopted by Scott for their Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps. It seems fairly clear, however, that although enjoying a degree of self-government, the tribes cannot be viewed as completely sovereign nations (Torre, 1992). Also, when tribal issues are listed in a separate section, the editor feels there is an interruption in geographical and historical context important to the waterfowl stamp story in the U.S. For this edition, the editor has chosen to retain the conventional approach, i.e.: under state headings.

How the stamps are numbered

In this catalog, the series is viewed as a basic, autonomous unit. Therefore, the stamps in each series have been numbered independently of those in other series under the same state, local or tribal heading. The use of a similar numbering system (Cummings, 1991) originally met with less than unanimous approval. However, feedback from the first three editions of this catalog (in print) was very positive and the editor is unaware of an alternative system which may be applied to this subject area and result in a reference that is more elegant or user friendly. In order to be clearly understood, it is expected that collectors and dealers will refer to specific issues by first stating appropriate government and series designations, then catalog numbers. For example: "Illinois daily usage number 8."

A separate figure number (F—) is located just to the right of the catalog number. The figure number corresponds to a representative illustration of the stamp, usually found between the introduction for each series and the listings. The figure number refers to the "design type".

Condition and values

In general, the values stated in this catalog are for sound stamps with fine-very fine centering. However, it is important to understand that with non-pictorial waterfowl stamps, condition is not so directly related to value as it is for pictorial waterfowl stamps. This is due to the fact that the quantities printed and issued are generally quite low relative to those for pictorial stamps. Many of the scarcer items are difficult for the collector to acquire in any condition and small faults or poor centering usually have little effect on their value.

There are three columns for values in this catalog. Values in the first column are for unused stamps with at least 90% of their original gum. Hinging is to be expected, especially on pre-1980 issues, and has little or no effect on an unused non-pictorial stamp's value. Values in the second column are for stamps with no gum. This column applies to unused stamps which have had their gum removed, as well as used stamps which were not signed or otherwise defaced. (See the introduction to each series for more specific information.) Values in the third column are generally for signed stamps. However, this column also applies to stamps which have been otherwise defaced — such as stamps which have had the license number filled in with a pen — whether or not they actually bear a signature.

For many stamps in this edition, no value is stated in one or more columns. In these instances, the absence of a "—" indicates that no examples of the stamp have been recorded in that specific condition. This frequently occurs for classic stamps in unused condition (early Honey Lake, Marion County, etc.). A "—" indicates that either (1) very few examples have been recorded and the stamps have seldom, if ever, changed hands, or (2) the recent market price has been so volatile that no stated value would be meaningful. Some of these will be valued in future editions.

In some cases where stamps have changed hands very few or no times within the past three to four years, the editor has felt comfortable assigning estimated values based on his knowledge of comparative rarity and demand. For such stamps, values appear in italics. Italics have also been used for stamps whose actual or estimated market value has changed significantly within the past year. In some cases, estimated values have been assigned to stamps in specific conditions that have not been confirmed by the editor. This occurs only in the unsigned and signed columns and often applies to stamps on license. It has been done where the editor feels there is a likelihood examples may exist. For such stamps, values appear in italics and bold print. As examples are confirmed by the editor, values will be removed from bold print in future editions of this catalog.

The balance of the stamps in this catalog have been valued primarily by averaging known sales over the past three to four years. While this system provided enough data to price most of the stamps, the time period involved has resulted in values which tend to be understated. The editor has adjusted some of the values when they were clearly out of line with current market conditions (using dealer's' retail price lists when available).

In recent years there has been an increasing trend toward collecting fish and game stamps on original licenses. As more collectors are now exhibiting at national and international stamp shows, this trend is expected to continue. The reason being that licenses are an essential component of fish and game stamp exhibits, as they demonstrate usage. In this regard, fish and game stamps on license are analogous to postage stamps "on cover". In most cases, stamps on license change hands far less frequently than unused examples. For this reason, stamps on license are often valued in italics. Values are for licenses that are in fine-very fine condition, with no pieces missing, no large tears, objectionable stains, etc. The licenses may have been neatly folded once or twice. If the affixed stamps are scarce-rare, they may have been lightly creased. Values for the more common stamps on license are for uncreased examples. Combination licenses, bearing non-pictorial waterfowl stamps in addition to other kinds of fish and game stamps, such as federal waterfowl stamps, fishing stamps, big game stamps, etc., may sell for a substantial premium over the listed values. In general, the more stamps legitimately affixed to a license — the greater the value.

Finally, it should be understood that this is not a retail price list, for the editor (who is also a dealer in fish and game stamps) or any other stamp dealer. Collectors and dealers may choose to to adopt the values stated herein. However, some will no doubt feel that they are too high or too low. The values given are solely intended to serve as a helpful guide in buying and selling.