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Ken Pruess Remembered – Part Three

In today’s post we will continue to look at Ken’s contributions to the hobby of collecting state revenue stamps in general and fish and game stamps in particular. During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Ken was a prolific writer and speaker. He wrote articles for the State Revenue Newsletter, The American Revenuer and published his first catalog, Nebraska Revenue Stamps, in 1972.


Articles in the SRN

The following is a listing of the more significant contributions made by Ken to the SRN during this period. It should be noted that the multi-part article, New York Stock Transfer Tax Stamps – A Study of the Plate Varieties (in collaboration with with Charles Bellinghausen) is one of the major revenue works of all time:


March, 1968 (Vol 8; No 2), Cigarette Meters – A Challenging Area of Specialization.

April, 1968 (Vol 8; No 3), Subject Index to State Revenue Newsletter (with O.R. Bloom).

May, 1968 (Vol 8: No 4), The Nebraska Real Estate Transfer Stamp.

January, 1969 (Vol 9; No 1), Cancellations on the New York Secured Debt Tax Stamps.

May, 1970 (Vol 10; No 3), “Paid Under Protest” Cancels on New York Stock Transfer Stamps.

January 1971 (Vol 11; No 1), New York Stock Transfer Tax Stamps – A Study of the Plate Varieties (with Charles Bellinghausen).

March, 1971 (Vol 11; No 2), Nebraska Feed Stamps and Tags.

July, 1971 (Vol 11; No 4) New York Stock Transfer… Part Two.

November, 1971 (Vol 11; No 6), New York Stock Transfer… Part Three.

January, 1972 (Vol 12; No 1), New York Stock Transfer… Part Four.

March, 1972 (Vol 12; No 2), New York Stock Transfer… Part Five.

May, 1972 (Vol 12; No 3), The 1901 Missouri Liquor Stamp.

July, 1972 (Vol 12; No 4), “Double Punched” Dates on Nebraska Stamps.

September, 1972 (Vol 12; No 5), New York Stock Transfer… Part Six.

November, 1972 (Vol 12; No 6), New York Stock Transfer… Part Seven.

January, 1973 (Vol 13; No 1), Missouri Beer Tax: 1899-1901.

January, 1973 (Vol 13; No 1), New York Stock Transfer… Part Eight.

May, 1973 (Vol 13; No 3), City Tobacco Decals.

January, 1974 (Vol 14; No 1), Maine Beer Stamps: History.

March, 1974 (Vol 14, No 2), Plate Varieties of the Pint Maine Beer Stamps.

September, 1974 (Vol 14; No 5), Kentucky Oleomargarine Tax.

November, 1974 (Vol 14; No 6), A critique of the State Revenue Exhibits by a Monday Morning Quarterback.

March, 1976 (Vol 16; No 2), State Revenue Index to Mekeels – 1892 to 1957.

May, 1977 (Vol 17; No 3), Virginia Documentary Stamp for Liquor.

January, 1978 (Vol 18; No 1), Fish and Game Stamps Available [from State Agencies].


In this last article (January, 1978), it was Ken who first informed collectors that Delaware was making their obsolete trout stamps available at a discount. One of each remainder was placed in a glassine envelope and sold to collectors for $10.00. It was first come, first served (see Figures 1a and b).



Figure 1a. Ken informed collectors of the Delaware trout stamp packs in 1978.



Figure 1b. Making it possible for them to acquire some rare stamps, quite inexpensively.



When the packs were initially sold, my understanding is there were no 1956, 1957, 1959 or 1968 resident or 1956 non resident stamps included. Only two or three packs contained 1976 Type I non resident stamps. David Curtis and Charles Souder were two of the fortunate recipients of these, thanks to Ken’s tip.

Very few (less than ten) packs included 1960, 1961, 1965 or 1976 Type I resident or 1972 non resident stamps. Less than 20 packs included the 1966 resident. The next to sell out were the 1963 and 1964 resident, in that order. On the other hand, packets sold well into the 1990s included 1958 and 1962 resident stamps.


By putting his specialized knowledge in print, Ken helped other collectors to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for various revenue stamps. Many would then become interested in collecting these stamps, themselves.

Ken’s writing also helped make it possible for his own exhibit, New York Stock Transfer Tax, to do quite well over the years – including winning the ARA Grand Award as recently as this year (2016).

Exhibitors take note: It is of vital importance to provide the (philatelic) judges with sufficient information about the material in your exhibit. This may require you to write up some of the information (and get it published) yourself.

During this time, Ken was also giving talks and seminars about his revenue stamp collecting interests at stamp club meetings, stamp shows and even at Entomologist meetings and conventions. It seems that his fellow Entomologists found the stamps which included insects fascinating – especially the trout stamps.


The Kansas and Nebraska Revenue Catalogs

The March, 1972, issue of the SRN announced that two new catalogs “should be ready for shipment by May 15.” Both catalogs were being offered spiral-bound as well as loose leaf. The new catalogs were the Kansas State Revenue Catalog by fish and game Hall of Famer Charles J. Bellinghausen and Nebraska Revenue Stamps by Kenneth P. Pruess (see Figures 2 and 3).



Figure 2. Cover for the Kansas State Revenue Catalog, by Charles J. Bellinghausen.



Figure 3. Cover for Nebraska Revenue Stamps, by Kenneth P. Pruess.



The SRS was able to offer both catalogs in a spiral-bound format courtesy of Bellinghausen, who arranged for this service on his own. Both catalogs were updated and more comprehensive versions of previous listings compiled by Bert Hubbard and (for the fish and game stamps) Joseph Janousek.

It was in the Kansas State Revenue Catalog that Bellinghausen first provided information about four early Marion County, Kansas duck and fishing stamps not recorded by Janousek. These included the 1943 duck stamp, the first true duck stamp to be issued by any level of government (see Figure 4).



Figure 4. In 1972, Charles Bellinghausen first recorded four early Marion County stamps in his Kansas State Revenue Catalog. The 1943 stamp is the world’s first true “duck Stamp”.



The SRN description for Nebraska Revenue Stamps is as follows: “…18 pp., 81/2 x 11. 85 illus. Extensive historical data. Over 350 major, many minor varieties listed. Includes cigarette, beer, liquor, wine, feed, tags, hunting stamps… $1.25 postpaid.”

Once again, Ken was sharing his extensive knowledge with the collecting community. More recently, in 2007, Ken would publish his second catalog, Colorado Revenue Stamps.


Ken Arranges for LINPEX ’74 to Host the SRS

Page 19 of the March, 1974, issue of the SRN carried two items of interest regarding our story about Ken Pruess. The top of the page featured an open letter from SRS President Mac Matesen.

In it, Matesen stated “Our organization has reached a significant landmark in that for the FIRST time we are being co-hosted at a major stamp show. On behalf of the membership of the SRS I have accepted the invitation of the Lincoln Stamp Club to attend LINPEX ’74 which shall be held October 5 and 6… Kenneth P. Pruess will be the coordinator for the SRS…” (see Figure 5).



Figure 5. Ken Pruess arranged for the SRS to be hosted at a major stamp show. Click to enlarge.



Getting the State Revenue Society to be hosted by a major stamp show provided much credibility for the organization. Not too many people know this, but it was Ken who also developed the SRS program – and personally wrote the criteria – for presenting awards at World Series of Philately (WSP) shows.

The lower portion of the page contained Ken’s short article on the previously unrecorded Montana Bow and Arrow and Special Deer stamps discussed in the last post. At this point, I thought it would be interesting to show the pages from both our exhibits, Ken’s and my own, where the Special Deer stamp has resided, continuously, for over 40 years – ever since the SRN article above was published (see Figures 6, 7 and 8).



Figure 6. Ken’s exhibit page for the Montana Special Area Deer and Elk stamps. The deer stamp was mounted at the top, with the elk stamp overprinted “GARDINER” to the right of the unused example.



Figure 7. Page from my Classic State and Local Fish and Game Stamps. Note that while Ken’s Special Deer stamp remains the only recorded unused example, a few used examples have been recorded since I last showed this exhibit – in the Champion of Champions Exhibition of 2000.



Figure 8. The unused Montana Special Deer stamp. ex Pruess.



Since Ken’s article in the SRN, no additional unused Montana Special Deer stamps have been recorded. It is likely this one example would not be in collectors hands today, if not for Ken Pruess.



The Great Crow Hunt

While Ken was researching fish and game stamps at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln Library, he came across an article which included a photograph of an Oklahoma Crow Hunting stamp.

The stamp fascinated Ken and would eventually cause him to spend many hours researching, writing about and writing to find all of the Oklahoma Crow stamps, themselves. Much of his time was spent trying to locate an example from 1968, the “first year of issue”.

Modeled after the federal waterfowl stamps, they were apparently not actually required to hunt crows but were given to hunters, gratis, who participated in an annual “invitational crow shoot” in the vicinity of Fort Cobb, Oklahoma. It seems that an overabundance of crows in the area – two million at its peak resulted in them being viewed as pests. The stamp was used as an inducement to recruit hunters to reduce their population (see Figure 9).



Figure 9. Hunters “Red” Watt and Frank Rusk show off crows killed at Fort Cobb, Oklahoma in the 1960s.



In October of 1973, Ken wrote to E.L. Vanderford, telling him of his discovery in the library and asking if he had ever heard of such a stamp (see Figure 10). Van told Ken he had not and also became intrigued.



Figure 10. Letter from Ken to Van, dated October 26, 1973. Note the last paragraph.



By March of 1975, Ken had obtained enough information (including two of the Oklahoma stamps) to write an article in The American Revenuer titled The Great Crow Hunt (see Figures 11a, b and c).



Figure 11a. The Great Crow Hunt, by Ken Pruess.



Figure 11b. The Great Crow Hunt (second page), by Ken Pruess.



Figure 11c. The Great Crow Hunt (third page), by Ken Pruess.



One day, many years later, Ken’s personal crow hunt finally came to an end when his billowing correspondence produced a lead enabling him to acquire the elusive 1968 Oklahoma Crow stamp (see Figure 12).



Figure 12. 1968 Oklahoma Crow Hunting Stamp, ex Pruess.



When I first saw the set of stamps at Ken’s house, back in the 1980s, I had the same reaction he did. Wow – these stamps were really cool! I made Ken some ridiculous offers, both in cash and trade, for the set of crow stamps but he did not want to part with them.

He really loved them and, besides, he had put so much time into acquiring the set – I could never come close to repaying him. Ken held on to the set for 30 more years, exhibiting them all over the country for others to enjoy, before bringing them out to me at Westpex last year (2016).

The time had come, he told me, for him to part with them. The asking price? A fraction of the offers I had made him (over half my life) earlier. I will provide them with a good home, Ken.



Continue to Part Four




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