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Morton Dean Joyce: Fish and Game Hall of Famer – Part Five

For today’s conclusion to the series about Morton Dean Joyce, I have chosen to highlight two short-lived series of fish and game stamps that were issued by West Virginia in 1960 and 1961. I wanted to pick stamps that most collectors were already familiar with and perhaps own.

West Virginia has a diverse licensing history, a sampling of which I thought would make for a compelling introduction. More relevant to our story on Joyce, is that the 1960 and 1961 West Virginia stamps were printed in a format that he was passionate about – booklet panes.


West Virginia Introduction

West Virginia has a long history of wildlife protection and licensing. The first fish and game laws were enacted in 1849, prior to statehood which came in 1863. The West Virginia Legislature passed its first laws protecting wildlife in 1869. These included prohibiting killing game between February 14 and September 15.

The first law enforcement was created by the legislature in 1897, with the office of Game and Fish Warden. Governor MacCorkle appointed Captain E.F. Smith of Hinton to the post.

The first hunting licenses were required in 1899. Costing $25.00, these non resident licenses were intended to discourage out-of-state hunters from entering West Virginia. In addition, they were only valid in the county that issued the license.

Starting in 1901, Warden Smith was allowed to select deputies who would work part-time and be paid by the fines they collected.

It was in 1909, however, that significant changes were made. First, the Warden was allowed to hire salaried full-time deputy wardens. Second, a law was passed that prevented game from being shipped out of state. Combined with the federal Lacey Act of 1900, this effectively ended market hunting in the State of West Virginia.

One of the changes made in 1909 was that fishing and hunting was prohibited on Sundays. The act that prohibited fishing on Sundays was soon overturned, however, the hunting prohibition was not repealed until 2001.

Most important to collectors, in 1909 the West Virginia Legislature passed an act authorizing the first statewide resident hunting licenses. The license fee was $1.00, including a 25 cent fee payable to the county clerk issuing the license. There were two printings of the first resident license, one printed on paper and one on cloth (see Figures 1 and 2).



Figure 1. Type I 1909-10 West Virginia Resident Hunter’s License (Paper).



Figure 2. Type II 1909-10 West Virginia Resident Hunter’s License (Cloth).



Landowners were authorized to give reciprocal privileges to adjoining landowners to hunt on their property without a license. Minors under the age of 15 could obtain a license with the written permission of their parents.

One type of Resident Hunter’s has been recorded for 1910, printed on paper. The form for 1910 was similar to that of 1909, with the most notable difference being the border of swastikas (see Figure 3).



Figure 3. 1910-11 West Virginia Resident Hunter’s License.



In 1911 the legislature repealed the statute requiring residents to buy a hunting license and none were issued until 1915, when a new resident statewide license costing $3.00 was introduced. At the same time, hunting licenses were offered for free to persons wishing only to hunt in their county of residence.

For this reason, hardly anyone purchased the $3.00 license and they are rare today. On the other hand, there was a sizable demand for the free county licenses. Once again, there was at least two printings. Type I 1915-16 county licenses were issued with a light red-orange (plastic) back tag with matching serial number ending with an “A” (see Figures 4 and 5).



Figure 4. Type I 1915-16 West Virginia Pendleton County Hunters License, issued at no charge.



Figure 5. Type I matching Pendleton County back tag. Note the serial number matches the license.



In fact, the free county licenses created such high demand in 1915, that at least one County Clerk was overwhelmed with applications (see Figure 6). Type II 1915 county licenses closely resembled those from 1909-10. The back tags were a deeper red-orange color and included an eyelet at the top (see Figures 7 and 8).



Figure 6. Letter from the Wetzel County Clerk, informing hunters that she didn’t have time to fill out out their license!



Figure 7. Type II 1915-16 West Virginia (Wetzel) County Hunter’ License, not filled out as per the letter above.



Figure 8. Type II matching Wetzel County back tag. Note the serial number matches the license above.



Starting in 1916, the size of the licenses was greatly reduced and the back tag was attached to the right side of the cloth license by perforations. The tag was intended to be detached and worn on the hunter’s outer garment. This same format was used through the teens (see Figures 9 through 15).



Figure 9. Rare 1916 West Virginia State Wide Resident Hunter’s License. Very few state wide license were sold during the period in which a person could hunt in their own county for free.



Figure 10. 1916 West Virginia Resident (Wetzel) County Hunter’s License.



Figure 11. 1917 West Virginia Resident (Upshur) County Hunter’s License. Note this was created from a 1916 remainder.



Figure 12. 1917 West Virginia Resident (Raleigh) County Hunter’s License.



Figure 13. 1918 West Virginia Resident (Mineral) County Hunter’s License.



Figure 14. Ultra Rare 1919 West Virginia Resident (Upshur) County Hunter’s License. Note this county license was created from a 1916 state wide license. The year and fee has been changed.



Figure 15. Detached tag for the license above. The pin holes indicate the tag was actually used.



In the 1920s, a similar format was used but the cloth license and attached back tag was enlarged. By 1924, fishing rights were included in West Virginia resident licenses. The next major innovation came in 1926, when licenses had the year date overprinted across the face. A different color of ink was used for each subsequent year (see Figures 16, 17 and 18). This style was used through 1933.



Figure 16. 1926 West Virginia State Wide Resident Hunting and Fishing License.



Figure 17. 1927 West Virginia State Wide Resident Hunting and Fishing License.



Figure 18. 1928 West Virginia State Wide Resident Hunting and Fishing License.



In 1933, the West Virginia Conservation Commission was created. This was the forerunner of the current Division of Natural Resources (DNR).

Starting in 1934, West Virginia issued their hunting and fishing licenses in the form of pin-back celluloid-covered buttons. The buttons were intended to be pinned on the outer garment, easily visible to a game warden from a distance. In effect, the colorful buttons replaced the back tag. 

Paper licenses were still printed but now on thinner stock that was intended to be carefully folded and inserted inside the button. Included in the series was a separate female button. Relatively few were sold and these are very popular with collectors today (see Figures 19 through 22).



Figure 19. 1934 WV Resident District Hunting & Fishing License button.



Figure 20. 1934 West Virginia Resident State-Wide Female License button.



Figure 21. 1934 WV Non-Resident Hunting & Fishing License button.



Figure 22. 1934 West Virginia Non-Resident Fishing Only License button.



West Virginia issued hunting and fishing licenses in the form of a pin-back buttons through the remainder of the 1930s. After the first year, a small window was die cut in the celluloid covered button so that the paper license was visible without having to first take it apart.

In the 1940s, West Virginia changed from buttons to metal framed license badges. Of major interest to collectors, West Virginia issued their first fish and game stamps starting in 1951.


The West Virginia National Forest Stamps

As a prerequisite to hunting or fishing in West Virginia’s National Forests, sportsmen were required to purchase special adhesive stamps (which WV referred to as “licenses”) and affix them to their regular hunting and fishing licenses (see Figure 23). Separate stamps were printed and issued for hunting and fishing.



Figure 23. Excerpt from West Virginia 1951-52 Hunting-Trapping Seasons and Bag Limits – Special Regulations.



In the Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps, E. L. Vanderford states that these stamps were not serial numbered. However, it is now known that some 1951 National Forest Hunting License stamps were, in fact, numbered. It is possible this occurred at the local (county clerk) level.

West Virginia National Forest stamps prior to 1955 are scarce in any condition (especially unused). For examples of combination usages from these first four years, see Figures 24 through 27.



1951 West Virginia National Forest Fishing and Hunting Stamps on License

Figure 24. 1951 West Virginia National Forest Fishing and Hunting Stamps used on License.



Figure 25. 1952 West Virginia National Forest Fishing and Hunting Stamps used on License.



Figure 26. 1953 West Virginia National Forest Fishing and Hunting Stamps used on License.



Figure 27. 1954 West Virginia National Forest Fishing and Hunting Stamps used on License.



The West Virginia National Forest License stamps are an interesting subject unto themselves and contain many interesting varieties for discussion. For now, we will have to settle for this brief introduction so that we can move on to the focus of today’s post.



The West Virginia Big Game and Trout Stamps

West Virginia introduced two new types of stamps in 1960. One was for big game (deer, elk and bear) and the other was for trout. Separate stamps were printed for residents and non-residents.

Both would be short short-lived. The DNR was created by the 1961 legislature and made sweeping changes, including discontinuing both series of stamps following the 1961 seasons.

For a brief period of time, however, as new issues these stamps charmed collectors, including such fish and game luminaries such as Mrs. Powell (see Figure 28) and Morton Dean Joyce.



Figure 28. A page from Mrs. Powell’s collection, featuring her own artwork that was inspired by the WV Trout stamps.



The stamps remain quite popular today. It seems that we collectors get pretty excited about an illustration on a fish and game stamp – no matter how small it is.

I must admit that I find these stamps to be appealing, myself, and that is why I selected them to conclude this series of posts. I really can’t explain why, there is just something about them I find elegant and pleasing.

There is a cute story that goes along with these stamps. It seems that for the 1961 trout stamp design, a contest was held among all West Virginia school children. A Charles Town seventh grader, Billy Willingham, was selected as the contest winner and he received a $25.00 savings bond from the West Virginia Conservation Commission (see Figure 29).



Figure 29. From the Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate, Charles Town, West Virginia on October 27, 1960.



The 1960 and 1961 big game and trout stamps are uncommon but not so much that most fish and game collectors have not seen them. Many collectors own unused singles. The treat that Mort preserved for us – and which I am finally going to share – was a full set of complete booklet panes (see Figures 30 through 33).



Figure 30. 1960 West Virginia Resident and Non Resident Big Game complete panes.



Figure 31. 1960 West Virginia resident and Non Resident Trout complete panes.




Figure 32. 196! West Virginia Resident and Non Resident Big Game complete panes.



Figure 33. 1961 West Virginia Resident and Non Resident Trout complete panes. Note these are the stamps that were designed by the seventh grader!



Over the years I have seen a few other collections with one or two complete panes. However, Mort’s collection had the only full set that I am aware of.



Morton Dean Joyce was an avid stamp collector. He is known as the greatest Revenue stamp collector who ever lived. Mort had a deep and abiding interest in all revenue stamps, including fish and game stamps.

Best remembered for his his amazing collection of private die “match and medicine” stamps, Mort also succeeded in putting together an impressive collection of fish and game stamps. One of the best of all time.

Mort was a highly educated businessman, held a seat on the New York Stock exchange and was well-heeled. He had little difficulty in acquiring fish and game stamps from state agencies that, as a rule, did not sell stamps to collectors. In addition to acquiring stamps for his own collection, he made a habit of obtaining extra stamps to trade with his friends.

His interest in collecting booklet panes and a desire to preserve multiples is responsible for many of the surviving fish and game multiples in collections today.

Mort was heavily involved in all aspects of organized philately. He was an exhibitor, author and officer for many organizations and societies. He was on the Board of Directors of the Collectors Club of New York and was a founding member of the American Revenue Association – ARA #2.

Not so well known is that Mort was very generous with his time and made financial contributions to many organized philatelic endeavors and organizations – frequently making substantial donations anonymously. In other words, Mort was a good friend to philately.

Morton Dean Joyce was named to the American Philatelic Society Hall of Fame in 2008 and was an initial inductee in the Fish and Game Collectors Hall of Fame in 2015.

For those of you who may have an unused Tennessee Shell Tax or Fur Tax stamp in your collection – or perhaps an unused Virginia Elk Hunting stamp – it is quite likely that your stamp was once held in the hands of Morton Dean Joyce.






I would like to thank Richard Friedberg, Eric Jackson and the Collectors Club of New York for their time and assistance in preparing this series of posts. To Mort, I am greatly appreciative of your farsighted method of stamp collecting – and am especially grateful for your help in obtaining and preserving many of the important treasures in the fish and game hobby.



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