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Ken Pruess Remembered – Part Five

In todays conclusion to the series remembering Ken Pruess, we shall finish our overview of Ken’s fabulous fish and game collection. As a preface, I wish to discuss an interest Ken and I shared – philatelic exhibiting – in a little more depth.

While a scholar and professor, Ken was also a dedicated and prolific exhibitor. He relied on his exhibits to share his specialized philatelic knowledge and, in so doing, he cultivated new interest in the subjects he cared passionately about.

Along the way, Ken and other revenue collector-exhibitors expanded their own knowledge and became more sophisticated collectors; for the process of researching and preparing an exhibit is the ultimate teacher – and the one that usually learns the most from an exhibit is the exhibitor, himself. 

In addition, the measured success of his (and other revenue collector’s) exhibits in terms of awards helped bring credibility to state revenue stamps and generated additional interest in the area among other philatelists.

Ken served as a role model for revenue stamp exhibitors. In part four, I began to reveal the extent to which pieces from Ken’s collection contributed to the success of my own exhibits and, more recently, the Cspalar’s exhibit. We shall see more of his contributions in today’s post.

In many ways, we are standing on Ken’s shoulders. We are using traditional exhibiting techniques to help solidify fish and game stamps as a viable collecting area. As we share our knowledge and help to generate “fresh blood”, we continue the process of guiding a niche hobby and merging it with organized philately.

We believe – as Ken believed – that it is under the umbrella of organized philately (and all it has to offer) that fish and game stamps will be seen to fully develop and flourish as a hobby.

In the era of internet information and its ensuing pros and cons, quite possibly our best means for sharing philatelic knowledge is still through our exhibits. For it is this process that heighten’s one’s ability to communicate in a concise and vetted way.

The information on exhibit pages is subject to continuous peer review and revision and, therefore, it is presented with a high degree of accuracy, transparency and integrity.

Online philatelic exhibits may represent the best of both worlds. We would highly encourage you to spend some time looking through the Exhibits area of this website. Perhaps you might consider putting together an exhibit yourself? If so, check out the Links section for valuable resources and feel free to contact us for assistance.


The Ken Pruess Collection – Continued


I can remember it like it was yesterday; the first time Ken showed me his Minnesota Pheasant Hunting stamps. I had never seen (or even heard of) one before – but stamps from two different counties? Mind-blowing, pure and simple.

Ken did not know much about the jumbo-sized stamps, other than he believed they were issued in the 1940s. It didn’t matter, for they were (possibly) unique and had tremendous eye appeal.

Of course, I was anxious to obtain one or both for my upcoming exhibit. However, Ken was very proud of these stamps and it took one of my less advantageous Pruess-Torre-Hubbard three-way trades to make it happen.

To this day, I am unaware of any additional pheasant stamps turning up from any Minnesota county. After I started showing the exhibit, Classic State and Local Fish and Game Stamps, Ken’s Minnesota Pheasant stamps inspired as many positive comments as any in the exhibit (see Figures 1, 2 and 3).



Figure 1. 1940s Grant County, Minnesota Pheasant stamp.



Figure 2. 1940s Otter Tail County, Minnesota Pheasant stamp.



Figure 3. A page from my first exhibit. Note Ken’s Minnesota Pheasant stamps at the top.




Being an avid fly fisherman, Ken was very fond of the early Missouri trout stamps that were designed by Charles Schwartz. So am I, for Charles was a personal friend and my wife, Kay, and I enjoyed spending time with him at this lovely home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho following his retirement (as staff artist for the Missouri Department of Conservation).

Although the early Missouri trout stamps were remaindered and sold at a discount, the 1971 stamp is by far and away the scarcest in the series. This is owing to the fact that it did not depict a trout. For this simple reason, relatively few fishermen and topical collectors of fish on stamps purchased it.

The 1971 Missouri trout was one of Ken’s favorite stamps. Not because of it’s scarcity (although at the time, his complete pane was the only one recorded) but because of the artificial fly hanging from the branch (see Figure 4).



Figure 4. 1971 Missouri Trout stamp, complete booklet pane.




We have already seen two of Ken’s best Montana stamps, in parts two and three of this series. I would like to highlight one more of “special” interest, the Special Elk stamp with “GARDINER” overprint. When I was exhibiting this stamp, it was the only recorded Montana Special Elk with an overprint that was used to designate the area of validity.

Although a couple more of these have turned up in the past 15 years, Ken’s example is still the only one with a true overprint – the others have their areas indicated with a typewriter (see Figure 5).



Figure 5. Special Area Permit to Hunt Elk, overprinted “GARDINER”.




Another big surprise was in store for me – and coming soon for most of you – when Ken showed me his Nebraska stamps. While Nebraska has issued a lot of fish and game stamps, I was not expecting to see anything particularly interesting. Wrong.

First, when he showed me his Upland Game stamps, he had some very interesting usages related to stamps that were issued free to hunters age 70 and older (see Figure 6).



Figure 6. A page from my second exhibit showing Ken’s Nebraska Old Age Upland Game Bird Stamps.



Then, when I looked at his trout page, I did a double take. Ken proceeded to inform me that the first printing of 1984 Nebraska trout stamps was perforated (not rouletted) and serial numbered on the face (see Figure 7). The artwork for the stamps was created by Neal Anderson.



Figure 7. Type I 1984 Nebraska Trout stamp.



I went down to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission License Section (located in Lincoln) and learned that the first printing was relatively small, I think 500 total. Of these, I was able to purchase the four remaining stamps. They were printed in panes of ten (2 x 5) with a perforated tab along the left side that had the last digit of the stamp serial numbers printed on it (see Figure 8).



Figure 8. Type I 1984 Nebraska Trout stamp, pair with tab at the left.



While at the Game and Parks Commission, I learned they retained some original artwork for previous stamp issues. They were not able to sell me the art outright. However, we came to a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby I funded NEBRASKAland Magazine for a period of time in return for several pieces of fish and game stamp art (see Figure 9).



Figure 9. A page from my second exhibit, featuring original art acquired from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.



North Dakota

Ken’s North Dakota collection was extensive. I would like to share one item, the 1965 Turkey stamp that was used to illustrate the cover for the Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps. It can be seen in the upper left of the Handbook cover and in the upper center of a page from my second exhibit (see Figure 10).



Figure 10. A page from my second exhibit. Note Ken’s 1965 Turkey stamp at the top.




Ken Pruess was the first fish and game collector to own a Pymatuning Fishing stamp. Ken acquired the stamp from a U.S. commemorative stamp collector, who lived in Steubenville, Ohio (two hours south of Pymatuning Lake), James Harries.

Harries wrote to Ken in 1978 after reading an article he wrote in Linn’s Stamp News about revenue stamps. In his letter, Harries told Ken, “Once upon a time I was a hunter and a fisherman and I have the following stamps affixed to my old licenses… ( see Figure 11).



Figure 11. Letter from James Harries to Ken, circa 1978.



The stamp was from 1940 and was affixed to the reverse of a 1940 Ohio Resident Hook and Line Fishing License. The license was issued in Steubenville and stamp was issued later by Tennant Pharmacy in Andover, Ohio.

Back in the day, there were only two Pymatuning stamps known to collectors; the 1938 Waterfowl (Hunting) that was originally discovered by Terry Hines and traded to E.L. Vanderford – and the Fishing stamp in Ken’s collection. Ken wrote an article about the discovery and it was published in the July, 1978 issue of the SRN (see Figure 12).



Figure 12. Ken’s article in the State Revenue Newsletter, published in July, 1978.



By the time I met Ken, a couple more Pymatuning stamps had been discovered. However, Ken was still mighty proud of it. I desperately wanted it for my exhibit and did not play hard to get. This did not prevent negotiations from continuing on for over two years.

One day I got a call from Ken, telling me he wanted me to have it! The stamp was in excellent condition. This is unusual for Pymatuning Fishing stamps as they were nearly always tightly folded and inserted in a metal frame. Often the frame got wet and the stamps show evidence of rust stains.

The license was quite nice and showed multiple strikes of the desirable “Tenant Pharmacy” cancellation. A killer usage and exactly what the judges are looking for. Thanks to Ken, it was among the featured items in my Classic exhibit (see Figures 13 and 14).



Figure 13. Enlargement of Ken’s 1940 Pymatuning Fishing stamp, clearly showing the Tenant Pharmacy cancelations.



Figure 14. A  page from my first exhibit, with Ken’s Pymatuning Fishing stamp at the top.




Another of Ken’s favorite sets was the Pennsylvania Non-Resident Trout. The reason is obvious; they feature a trout leaping out of the water for a fly – these are very similar to the Delaware Trout stamps except the designs are vertical instead of horizontal.

The Pennsylvania trouts are a mixed bag, ranging from uncommon (1956 – 1959, 1962, 1963), to scarce (1961), to rare (1960). What is unequivocal, however, is the fact that usages are very difficult to acquire.

Ken had the complete set, unused, and also a beautiful example of the 1958 stamp used on the reverse of a 1958 Pennsylvania Non-Resident fishing license. Ken’s Pennsylvania Trout stamp usage is the only one I could ever locate. I knew how much he loved the stamps and did not mind going back to Hubbard, yet again.

After completing the three-way trade, I removed the license from Ken’s album page and put it into my first exhibit. Ron Lesher judged the exhibit several times and was well aware of how difficult (maybe singular) the non resident usage was. I have no doubt the license was an asset to the exhibit (see Figures 15, 16 and 17).




Figure 15. Ken’s first Pennsylvania Non-Resident Trout stamp album page. You can see where I removed the 1958 license (My scanner did not reproduce the color of this 1958 single accurately – it is the color shown in Figure 17).



Figure 16. Ken’s second Pennsylvania Trout Stamp album page.



Figure 17. A page from my first exhibit. Note Ken’s license at the top.



South Dakota

Among the most significant stamps in the fish and game hobby are the early tribal government issues, starting in the late 1950s and continuing throughout the 1960s. The first three governments to issue their own licenses and stamps were all located within the geographical boundaries of the State of South Dakota. The first was The Rosebud Sioux Tribe in 1959, followed by the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux in 1961 and 1962, respectively.

These early tribal issues were first brought to the attention of collectors by David Strock. He wrote an article about them on the front page of the SRN in February of 1964. As Ken was becoming more interested in other fish and game stamps during this time (other than trout), he took notice. He eventually managed to acquire three great pieces. He placed these all on one page and included it in one of his state revenue exhibits.

After meeting Ken, he became one of the first collectors to make me aware of what are now commonly known as “Indian Reservation stamps”. Ken made me realize the important role these stamps played in the story that I was about to tell in my fish and game exhibits. It did not take me long to wrap my mind around this and I made Ken a substantial cash offer for the page containing the three items (see Figure 18).



Figure 18. Ken’s Indian Reservation exhibit page. At the upper left was a 1963 Rosebud Big Game stamp. To the right of it was a 1962 Crow Creek Small Game stamp and, at the bottom of  the page was a 1961 Rosebud Game Bird stamp affixed to the reverse of state hunting license, in error.



This was one of the infrequent occasions that Ken sold me any of his better items outright. However, we both agreed on their importance to the upcoming exhibits and neither of us wanted to leave this particular deal to chance.

Not only did he sell me all of his early tribal stamps, he provided me with the names of collectors who had other pieces I could use. With Ken’s help, the early tribal elements of my exhibits became one of their strengths (see Figures 19, 20 and 21).



Figure 19. A page from my second exhibit. Ken’s 1961 Rosebud Tribal Game Bird usage can be see at the bottom.



Figure 20. A page from my second exhibit. Ken’s Crow Creek Non-Indian Small Game stamp is at the top.



Figure 21. A page from my second exhibit. Ken’s 1963 Rosebud Tribal Big Game stamp can be seen in the lower right. The 1963 Kansas Upland Game Bird error at the upper right also came from Ken.




Ken had a nice selection of Tennessee fish and game stamps. However, an upcoming series of posts is going to explore these stamps in depth. For now, I will show you his best, a 1956-57 Trout (see Figure 22).



Figure 22. 1956-57 Tennessee Trout stamp.




Ken loved to fish the Green River, in Utah, for brown and rainbow trout. His Utah fish and game was very strong and even included some uncommon usages. I have chosen a couple of stamps that – while not terribly difficult to acquire as singles or pairs – were unheard of in full panes until Ken came up with a set. I am referring to the 1952 Game Bird stamps.

Back in the 1980s and into the early 1990s, I thought the 1951 Game Bird stamps were rarer (especially the non resident) than the 1952 stamps. I valued them in the Scott Specialized and my own catalogs accordingly. Then a curious thing happened; the 1951 stamps started showing up in increasing numbers relative to their 1952 counterparts.

This required me to lower the 1951 stamp prices in the catalogs for many consecutive years (kind of embarrassing), until it became painfully obvious I had made an big mistake. I did more research, which showed that for 1951, Utah printed way too many stamps (they misjudged the demand). This resulted in large numbers of remainders which were then auctioned off for pennies on the dollar.

Having learned from their mistake – and now having the 1951 sales data to work with – they scaled back the number of 1952 stamps printed. Therefore, following the season there were relatively few 1952 Game Bird remainders.

Thanks in part to my mistake, most collectors today still believe the 1951 panes are better. The 1952 panes in Ken’s collection are the only one’s I have ever seen. There are probably more out there – but for my money, they are much more difficult to acquire than those from 1951 (see Figure 23).



Figure 23. A page from my first exhibit, featuring Ken’s 1952 Utah Game Bird booklet panes.




We shall end this series of posts where we started – with one of the Virginia Elk stamps that I acquired in the first big three-way trade completed by Ken, Bert Hubbard and myself.

The 1946-47 Resident Elk stamp has always been one of my personal favorites. I don’t know why, perhaps it is the color (a very pale pink). At any rate, when I went back to my hotel room after leaving Ken’s house that night, I remember admiring that stamp.

It sticks in my mind because I noticed Ken’s example was unusual in that the frame line farthest to the right was almost completely missing and the the frame line just inside of it was partially gone (see Figure 24). I thought that was cool.



Figure 24. 1946-47 Virginia Resident Elk stamp.



That was my first thought. My second thought was what a great guy Ken was, to keep his word and, really, really help me out like this. Three-way trades are not always easy. You have to trust your trading partners completely.

When you leave the first guy’s house with only a verbal commitment and then proceed to the second guy’s house and spend a lot of money on items you know little about (and have no interest in owning personally), you really hope the first guy is not going to change his mind before you get back to him. If he does, you’re probably out your money.

Ken always honored his commitments to me (not just involving trades) – time and again, year after year. In so doing, he earned my complete trust, my respect and my eternal gratitude.

To see Ken’s last (one frame – Colorado) Fish and Game Stamp exhibit, click here.






Ken, you are going to be missed in more ways than anyone can even imagine. Good-bye, my friend.



Ken enjoying his favorite pastime on the Green River, Utah.





1 Comment

  1. John P Wheelock on December 12, 2017 at 3:49 am

    Enjoyed reading your tribute to my Uncle Ken. I always knew that he was a serious stamp collector, your tribute showed me that he was much more than a collector. He is missed by many.

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