As we have seen in parts one and two, Morton Dean Joyce was extraordinarily diligent and, therefore, often learned of new of stamps being offered or sold prior to other collectors. In addition, his clear advantages in business acumen and wealth often made it possible for him to acquire not just rare and unusual stamps, but multiples of these stamps when others could not.
This applied not only to regular federal and state revenues but also to the niche area that we have come to know as fish and game stamps. Mort was very adept at becoming aware of when new kinds of stamps were issued and was then able to follow through and acquire these stamps form the issuing agencies, for both his own collection and also to trade with other collector friends.
As accomplished as Mort was, he did miss out on some of the most arcane fish and game rarities, including those issued for small geographical areas such as Pymatuning Lake by the State of Ohio (see Figure 1) and Marion County Lake by the County of Marion, Kansas.
Perhaps the only weaknesses in the fish and game portion of his revenue collection – if you want to call it that – is that it lacked any of the Pymatuning waterfowl (hunting) or fishing stamps or any of the pre-remainder era Marion County duck or fishing stamps.
Mort was certainly not alone in this regard, as these stamps eluded all collectors for decades. Mort more than made up for this shortcoming by single-handedly bringing several entire fish and game series into the collector market (in unused condition). For this reason, we selected him as one of the initial inductees into the Fish and Game Collectors Hall of Fame.
In part two we saw how Mort was responsible for some of the more exotic stamps and series, such as the Kansas quail proofs and the Tennessee shell tax and fur tax. In todays post, we shall start to take a look at his more mainstream fish and game credits.
According to E.L. Vanderford, Virginia first issued big game stamps for the 1938-39 seasons. In fact, the stamps issued in 1938 were valid for the 1938 calendar year, as were those for 1939. It was not until the third issue that the big game stamps were valid for a fiscal year (1940-41).
Two separate stamps were issued each year, one required to be purchased by resident hunters and one by non resident hunters. A third stamp was required of all sportsmen who desired to hunt, trap or fish within Virginia’s National Forest, starting with the 1938-39 fiscal year (see Figures 2 and 3).
As some of the stamps recorded for 1938 and 1938-39 were serial numbered and some were not, I was for many years under the belief that the serial numbers may have been applied at the local (county clerk) level.
Over time, I have come to realize that all used examples are serial numbered and now believe that, for the first year only, all regularly issued stamps were serial numbered and those without serial numbers are unused remainders.
Starting with the change to a fiscal year in 1940-41, used Virginia stamps are no longer found with serial numbers applied (see Figures 4 and 5).
Also starting with the 1940-41 fiscal year, Virginia began issuing a fourth king of stamp, required to hunt elk. It is with the Virginia Elk stamps that Morton Dean Joyce once again came became a central figure.
The Virginia Elk Stamps
Elk were historically found throughout eastern North America, including Virginia. However, habitat loss and unregulated hunting caused elk to become eradicated within eastern North America by the late 1800s.
Attempts at restoring elk populations in eastern states during the early to mid 1900s usually failed due to a lack of suitable habitat and a knowledge of elk ecology. In 1916, the newly created Virginia Game Commission authorized the importation and release of of elk in 11 counties in Virginia.
The first attempt at reintroducing elk to Virginia took place in 1917, at the prompting of big game hunters, and involved 150 “surplus” animals brought by rail (some accounts say by truck) from Yellowstone National Park. At least 25 animals died en route.
The first Virginia elk hunt was held in 1920 or 1922 (accounts differ). Between 1922 and 1960, sporadic, short (2-15 days) elk hunting seasons were held. However, with less than 300 elk in the entire state, harvests were often in single digits.
Most of the county elk populations, small to begin with, soon disappeared. By 1926, only two small herds remained; one in the mountains of Giles and Bland counties and one in Botetourt County near Buchanan (see Figure 6).
It is known that Virginia opened elk hunting seasons for both residents and non residents from 1930 through 1932-33, as Virginia elk hunting license buttons have been recorded from these years (see Figures 7, 8 and 9).
To supplement Virginia elk populations in Giles, Bland and Botetourt Counties, 54 more elk were imported from Yellowstone National Park in 1935. Of these, 43 survived the transit. They were brought by train to Pearisburg, in Giles County, unloaded and driven into the mountains on hoof.
There is a rather amusing anecdote involving this second import. Early the next morning, the entire herd – apparently homesick – were found back down at the train station in the middle of town.
During the 1930s, Virginia was the only eastern state with an elk population that could support a hunting season, until New Hampshire held a season in 1941.
I can find no mention of a legal elk hunting season between 1932-33 and 1936-37 (a short period of unlawful hunting followed the 1935 import, fueled by resentful farmers that were tired of elk depredations on their lands).
The reverse of 1936-37 Virginia Resident Licenses to Hunt and Fish state that a state big game license was required to hunt bear, deer or elk. The obverse and reverse of a 1936-37 Resident Big Game License are shown in figures 10 and 11.
I have been unable to find any information for 1937-38 and 1938-39. However, by 1940-41,Virginia was not only holding elk hunting seasons for residents and non residents but special resident and non resident license stamps were printed and issued.
Although no non resident elk stamp has been recorded for 1940-41, the reverse of 1940-41 Virginia Nonresident License(s) to Hunt and Fish state an elk stamp was required (see Figures 12 and 13).
No stamps have been recorded for either residents or non residents for 1941-42. For 1942-43, one used resident example has been recorded (missing the lower left corner) in the Morton Dean Joyce collection (see Figure 14).
For 1943-44, one unused resident example in Mort’s collection and a couple of faulty used examples have been recorded (see Figure 15). For both 1942-43 and 1943-44, we know non resident stamps were printed from the back of the non resident licenses, similar to that shown in Figure 13. It is possible, however, that for all three years, 1941-42 through 1943-44, that no non resident stamps were actually issued.
Although Mort’s collection contained some very rare and unique examples of the first few Virginia elk stamps, it is the less rare resident and non resident stamps issued from 1944-45 through 1946-47 (see Figure 16) that will perhaps be remembered as one of Mort’s greatest contributions to the fish and game hobby.
The Virginia elk stamps have always been extremely popular with collectors and highly sought after. I probably get as many requests for Virginia elk stamps in a year as for any other non-waterfowl fish and game stamp.
In the Vanderford sales held by Sam Houston Philatelics after Van’s death, the Virginia elk stamps drew more attention (bidding) than any other fish and game series.
Fortunately, there are 10-15 of each of the last six stamps to go around in unused condition (twice as many for the 1944-45 resident) and this is primarily because Mort was able to purchase quantities of these stamps for both his own collection and to trade with his friends.
For the 1944-45 resident stamp, Fish and Game Hall of Famer Les Lebo of Knoxville acquired an additional complete pane (15 stamps) from an unknown source, which he subsequently broke up for trading purposes.
Les also had duplicates of some of the other later elk stamps in unused condition. However, I now believe he acquired these directly from Mort or through mutual friend E.L. Vanderford. For you see, the biggest part of Les’ fish and game collection was actually Virginia (not his home state of Tennessee) and these would have come in handy for trading.
Following the 1946-47 season, the Virginia elk stamp series was discontinued. The occasional elk hunts held between 1948 and 1960 once again ustilized paper licenses. The final Virginia elk hunt (until recent years) was held November 21 – 23, 1960 and the last elk license is shown in Figure 17.