Collecting Waterfowl Stamps

RW1 P# Single

Fish and game license stamps, as defined here, are those stamps required by federal, state, local or tribal law to be purchased by sportsmen and affixed to a license prior to fishing or hunting for various wildlife in the U.S. In most instances, such stamps convey additional rights that are not granted by a basic fishing or hunting license. A fee is generally paid by the sportsman to acquire these additional rights and the stamp serves as a receipt. For this reason, fish and game license stamps fall under the philatelic classification of revenue stamps. Once the stamps have been affixed to the license (and subsequently signed by the licensee in many cases) the license has been validated for harvesting the particular species involved — within the limitations established by a fish and game code.

23 pages
160.3 MB

The Fish and Game Stamps of Marion County, Kansas

1940 Fishing Marion County, Kansas

The non-pictorial stamps issued by Marion County, Kansas, have long held a fascination for advanced collectors and students of fish and game stamps. Over fifty years ago it was first reported that Marion County might have issued the first local fish and game stamps in the United States (Janousek, 1959). Since that time, a relative lack of published information about the stamps and the area where they were used has prevented the stamps from enjoying widespread popularity. The same can be said for many other fish and game stamps, aside from pictorial waterfowl stamps. The purpose of this article is to tell the story of the Marion County stamp program and to provide descriptions of stamps which were previously unrecorded. It is hoped that this knowledge might enhance the appreciation of longtime collectors for this interesting segment of fish and game philately and, perhaps, encourage prospective new collectors to take a closer look at these stamps.

55 pages
275.5 MB

Marion County Mystery Solved


When the Kansas State Historical Society made their search of the Marion County Courthouse in 1982 and no stamps were found, a mystery that went unsolved for years was born (see Figure 1). What had become of the collection that Charles Bellinghausen mounted for the county archives? Hugh Smiley returned to Marion in the late 1980s to inquire about any remaining stamps. Marquetta Eilerts, the current County Clerk, informed Smiley that not only were no additional reminders to be found, but that the archives collection was missing as well.

2 pages
7.1 MB

There’s More to Ducks Than Pretty Pictures

1943 Marion County Duck_1024 - Version 2

Thanks to an inspired collaboration at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, the world is finding out that there is much more to duck stamp collecting than just the federal stamps. The Feds had their day in the sun at the Postal Museum at the 1998-99 Federal duck stamp first day ceremony and the reopening of the Jeanette Rudy Duck Stamp Gallery on July 1. Now, the non-federal aspect of financing waterfowl hunting and conservation is the subject of a special exhibit of state, local and Indian reservation duck stamp issues that was inaugural at the Museum on July 4.

15 pages
96.4 MB

The Honey Lake Waterfowl Stamps

Figure CA1

Following the federal waterfowl stamps, the two most popular series of waterfowl stamps among longtime collectors are undoubtedly those issued by California for Honey Lake and the Illinois Daily Usage stamps. The Honey Lake stamps are non-pictorial, while the Daily Usage stamps may be liberally described as semi-pictorial. Their appeal results less from their aesthetic qualities than from their usages, related history (both social and philatelic) and longevity.

50 pages
227.1 MB

The Hunt for Ducks is Expanded

1949 SD NR WF (2)

For 1995 Scott has expanded the hunting permit section of this catalogue to include state, local and tribal waterfowl stamps. One of the main purposes of the state waterfowl stamp programs has been to generate revenue for waterfowl conservation and restoration projects. In addition, waterfowl stamps validate hunting licenses and often serve as a control to limit the harvest within a specific geographical area.

19 pages
129.7 MB

The Illinois Daily Usage Stamps

Figure IL1

The purpose of this article, the second of two discussing the stamps used on waterfowl management areas in California and Illinois, is to tell the story of the Illinois Daily Usage stamps. In Illinois, as in California, a number of such areas were developed in the 1940s and 1950s. In contrast to the situation in California, waterfowl depredations to agricultural crops did not serve as a major stimulus for these projects. The Illinois Department of Conservation (IDOC) had two priorities at this time. The first was to provide additional food and refuge for the large population of Canada geese that annually winters in the state. The second was to provide regulated public shooting grounds for sportsmen who could not afford to belong to private hunting clubs.

48 pages
198.4 MB

Westpex Retrospective


Editor’s note. Long gone are the days when pioneer exhibitors furnished only a title, then presented their material for judging. Eventually an explanatory title page became de rigeur, later an additional “second title page” giving an outline and highlights. The latter has lately morphed into a multi-page synopsis. All this is consistent with the realization that a key to successful exhibiting is facilitating the judge’s’ understanding of your material so as to maximize their limited time in front of the frames. The following pages provide an informative “inside look” at the explanatory material one pair of revenue exhibitors furnished to further this process. The results are shown in Figures 1a, b and c.

54 pages
408.6 MB

Waterfowl Stamp Exhibit Earns Appreciation


Only two exhibits from throughout the world are selected to be included in the rarity vault of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.. each year, and the current exhibit. State, Local and Tribal Waterfowl Stamps, assembled by David R. Torre, has been extended until the middle of January 1999.

15 pages
89.0 MB

E. L. Vanderford: 1913-1994

1923-24 Ca Hunting Licese

Fish and game philately lost one of its most prominent collectors during September of 1994. Elmore Vanderford passed away in his sleep at his long-time residence in Sacramento California. Known better as E. L. Vanderford or simply “Van” in philatelic circles, he had suffered from a variety of illnesses in recent years, including a chronic heart condition and asthma. These robbed him of much of his energy and time. For this reason he recently was unable to keep up the voluminous correspondence that had maintained faithfully for over 30 years. Although alternating between good days and bad, he was able to derive a great deal of enjoyment and personal satisfaction from the fish and game renaissance of the 1990s. For this, the author will be forever grateful.

26 pages
148.5 MB

The No Fee Fish and Game Stamps of California

1958 CA INDIAN on piece Fishing

An overprint on a stamp frequently stimulates special interest on the part of collectors. The overprint, be it rubber-stamped or printed, is an additional element to be appreciated and studied. Typesetting varieties may be discovered and in examples derived from a rubber stamp in particular, different colors of ink may have been used. More intriguing is the idea that an overprint often implies a usage that is out of the ordinary as compared to that for which regular stamps were issued. An above average rarity factor may be inferred from an overprinted stamp, if it is assumed that the usage was so limited as to preclude a separate stamp from being printed for it.

59 pages
435.2 MB

Fish and Game Stamps of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe

1963 CC SG and 1964 CC Big Game

Information about stamps issued by Indian Reservations in South Dakota was first published in revenue publications in the early 1960s. (Strock) Since then, a relatively small group of state revenue and fish and game collectors have avidly pursued these paper artifacts. As the early tribal stamps feature printed text only, they may not appear especially attractive in comparison to many of the classic pictorial fish and game stamps issued during this period (see Figure 1). Despite this fact, they have held a special interest for many collectors as they link stamp collecting with the study of Native American culture. The choice on the part of tribal governments to adopt the system of stamps and licenses previously developed by the federal and state governments represent an effort on the part of the Indian peoples to assimilate with an American institution of special interest to revenue collectors. Collections that include these interesting stamps serve to document this accomplishment.

16 pages
60.8 MB

Crow Creek Resumes Stamp Program

1989 $30.00 CC Top

In 1989, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe issued the first pictorial Indian Reservation fish and game stamps in the United States. The stamps featured black and white photographs of deer, geese, pheasants and prairie dogs with red serial numbers (see Figure 1). The Tribe issued similar stamps in 1990. Following a three-year hiatus, the Tribe recently resumed their stamp program. Semi-pictorial stamps were issued for the fall seasons of 1994 and pictorial stamps, similar to those issued in 1989 and 1990, are being issued in 1995.

9 pages
32.7 MB

Blog Posts

The First Fish and Game Stamp

RW1 Small Die Proof

This series tells the story of the the first U.S. fish and game stamp, the 1934-35 federal waterfowl stamp designed by Jay N. "Ding" Darling. Darling's stamp is also used to provide an overview for the collecting possibilities for federal waterfowl stamps.

We will discuss die proofs, plate number singles and plate number blocks, errors, collecting stamps used stamps off and on license (the latter demonstrating their usage), form 3333, artist signed stamps and their variations and limited edition prints.

31 pages
320.8 MB

California Hunting & Fishing Licenses (1907 – 1919)

1914 CA Fishing License Alien

The pictorial California hunting and fishing licenses are extremely popular with collectors. The licenses owe their appeal to the beautiful chromolithography created by very talented San Fransisco lithographers. This series of posts explains how a specific sequence of events in California resulted in the development of the lithographic arts leading up through the time the licenses were produced.

In addition to being men of great talent, many of the lithographers in San Fransisco were men of unusual courage, grit and determination – for they (or their fathers) were part of the California Gold Rush. The San Fransisco Earthquake and Fire additionally challenged these men and they responded raising their craft to unprecedented levels.

The Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915 presented another challenge – and another opportunity. The survivors and the victorious raised the bar for the lithographic arts yet again. This is their story.

65 pages
1.17 GB

My Favorite Federal Duck Stamp

RW4 5 6 7 8 9 small die proofs - Version 4

Like many people in my generation, I started to collect stamps as a young boy. I was guided by my father, a collector of many things and one of the first duck stamp dealers on the West Coast. When I was 11 years old my parents gave me a copy of the 1941-42 federal waterfowl stamp, better known by its Scott Catalog number as RW8.

For me, it was love at first sight and the stamp, featuring Ed Kalmbach's artwork of a family of Ruddy ducks, has remained my favorite federal stamp to this day. I have built a specialized collection of this stamp and in this series of posts I have selected items from it to illustrate one method of collecting – choosing a specific stamp that speaks to you and build a specialized collection over time.

We will explore the stamp production process in depth and when we get to the limited edition prints section, we will learn about etching and lithography in detail. This frame of reference will be helpful as we discuss other stamps and prints in future posts.

40 pages
586.7 MB

John Olin, Ding Darling, Maynard Reece & King Buck: The Making of an Icon


This is the story of how one of the most iconic images in our hobby came into being, the 1959-60 federal waterfowl stamp featuring Maynard Reece's artwork of King Buck. I have found that as collectors, we often take some of the things we collect for granted.

This is not a criticism per se, as there are many reasons for collecting and one of the foremost is the therapeutic benefits benefit of simply allowing ourselves to enjoy something we find aesthetically pleasing, without having to give it a great deal of thought.

For those who yearn for more, the information is frequently scattered or lacking altogether. One of the purposes of this website is to provided knowledge that will allow those who so desire to develop a greater appreciation for the items we collect. Many may find that knowing a little history and background can make our hobby more rewarding.

Such is the case with this famous image for, you see, many different things had to happen in many different peoples lives (and one famous dog) at precisely the right time for this image to occur. Was it serendipity or fate? You decide.

67 pages
460 MB

Morton Dean Joyce: Fish and Game Hall of Famer

167831 Morton Dean Joyce

Morton Dean Joyce is known for being the greatest revenue stamp collector of all time. When one thinks of Joyce they usually think of his wonderful general U.S. governmental revenue collection and especially his private die match and medicine stamps – truly collections for the ages.

Not so well known is that Morton, or Mort as he was known to his friends, had a tremendous state revenue collection and aggressively pursued fish and game stamps. If it were not for Mort, many of the greatest fish and game rarities in our hobby would not exist today.

In this series of posts we explore Mort's wide ranging philatelic interests and take a close look at his contributions to the hobby of fish and game stamps.

86 pages
1.3 GB

Walter A. Weber: Winner of the First Federal Duck Stamp Contest


This series of posts looks at the life of Walter Alois Weber, a very talented artist who holds the distinction of becoming the first person to design more than one federal waterfowl stamp. In the process, Walter was the winner of the first ever federal duck stamp contest, held in 1949.

Although fish and game collectors know him for the two federal stamps – and that will be our primary focus in this series of posts – Walter is probably better remembered by a much larger segment of the population for his illustrations that were featured in The National Geographic Magazine for three decades starting in 1939 and for the images of his paintings that appeared on some 250 stamps printed and distributed by the National Wildlife Federation.

55 pages
547.3 MB

Ken Pruess Remembered

unnamed-2 Ken Pruess Fishing

It is with a heavy heart that I had to report the passing of a friend and fellow collector, Ken Pruess, on Sunday, December 11, 2016. Ken was a long time revenue stamp collector, author, exhibitor and APS accredited judge. With regard to fish and game stamps, I would like to say that he was one of the legendary pioneer collectors. However, his low key approach to collecting and his personal modesty prevented him from becoming a household name in the hobby.

In the past, I have avoided talking too much about Ken or giving him a lot of credit for the important work he has done. Knowing Ken the way I did, I did not feel that he would appreciate it. He was a humble man and it was not his style. Now that he is gone, I would like everyone to know just how much Ken did for our hobby.

This series of posts explains how much Ken did for the hobby, as well as how much he helped myself and other fish and game collectors and exhibitors. For the first time, the extent of his tremendous fish and game collection is revealed.

Parts 1-3
50 pages
1.27 GB

Parts 4-5
51 pages
579.7 MB

From Girlie Pulps to Trout Stamps


This is perhaps the most popular series of blog posts I have written to date. It tells the fascinating story of Worth B. Carnahan. Worth was an artist, illustrator, magazine editor and publisher. He participated in the origins of two pop culture mainstays, girlie pulps and comic books, whose images today invoke two very different connotations.

We see how the development of both industries was directly linked and, in so doing, reveal the remarkable background of an artist who would later design some of the most popular stamps in the fish and game hobby.

116 pages
391.4 MB

The Dean of Minnesota’s Wildlife Artists

s-l1600 The Dean of Minnesota's Wildlife

This series of posts takes a look at the career of Les Kouba, one of the more memorable artists from a state which has heavily influenced the wildlife art scene since the late 1930s. Les was not a stereotypical artist. They say that the artist's mind generally makes for a poor businessmen; such was not the case with Les Kouba.

In addition, Les was always affable or extroverted; one of those characters whose persona was larger than life. He loved interacting with all kinds of people and made a habit of painting in public areas. On these occasions, large crowds would invariably gather to observe their local folk hero doing what he did best.

What Les Kouba did best was to paint in a way that was entertaining. Over the years, as with other successful entertainers, his fans multiplied. Les Kouba grew to become a huge celebrity in and around the state of Minnesota, where he was variously referred to as "The Dean of Minnesota's Wildlife Artists, "The Norman Rockwell of Wildlife Art" and "The Mickey Mantle of Wildlife Art".

108 pages
1.46 GB

The Kansas Upland Game Bird Stamps


In this series of posts, it is first necessary to modify our frame of reference before we begin looking at the Kansas upland game bird stamps, themselves. Over the years much has been written by myself and others about the predecessor to this series, the Kansas quail stamps. However, relatively little information is available for collectors about the upland series.

There are a couple of good reasons for this. First, the much revered Kansas quail series is of far greater importance to our hobby. This is owing, in large part, to the fact that historically they were believed to have been the first fish and game stamps issued by a state government in the U.S.

The bi-colored quail stamps were printed for 25 years and issued for 24 (more on this later) and the series includes numerous constant varieties which have captivated philatelists ever since. Second, there is scant information available to the philatelic researcher and writer to work with when it comes to the upland stamps. A thorough internet search was of very little help.

The upland stamps were issued over a much shorter period (1961 – 1973) and they lack the constant varieties. Therefore, it may be tempting to conclude they are relatively uninteresting and their primary philatelic significance is that the series serves to complete the quail stamp story.

Nonetheless, as we move through this series of posts we will find that embedded within the upland game series are four printing errors – ranging from one that is relatively minor (but still quite interesting) to one of the most dramatic errors in the fish and game hobby.

39 pages
321 MB

1913 Hunting & Fishing Licenses in Historical Context


I have decided to try something new today and am looking forward to your feedback. This was a challenging project from an organizational standpoint, however, I feel there may be a considerable upside here and, if readers agree, I am willing to produce similar narratives in the future.

This post will focus attention on pre-stamp hunting and fishing licenses. This is a fascinating area of our hobby that can be overlooked by those who view it simply as “collateral” to the fish and game stamps, themselves. It seems, to some extent, to be a frame of reference thing, as many advanced collectors and exhibitors tend to view it as an integral part of the story and pursue it accordingly. While others (often longtime license collectors) specialize in the area almost exclusively and can view the stamps as collateral or even as a by-product of the licenses.

The latter is a valid point. This is not akin to the chicken and the egg, for in this case we clearly know what came first. If we were talking television, early state licenses would be All in the Family and the federal and state stamps would be Maude and The Jeffersons.

Regardless of your take on this, I don’t think I have ever met anyone that cannot appreciate a license from the pre-stamp period to some extent – and it is usually an instantaneous gut reaction. There is just something about them that has universal appeal and I believe I know what it is. If I am right, it is not rocket science. Hopefully we can expand on it today and create some more interest.

81 pages
54.5 MB

The Maryland Big Game Stamps

1960-61 Maryland Firearms Rouletted Big Game Complete Sheet

As I sit here in my home, sheltered in place for the 5th consecutive week, I have become acutely aware of just how fortunate I am to have a hobby like stamp collecting to help serve as a diversion – both now and in the months and years ahead.

If we allow it, our hobbies have an uncommon ability to provide nourishment for our souls. They can be genuinely therapeutic. In a time when so many things may seem uncertain and out of our control, we can choose to spend more time with our collections. We can appreciate the beauty and history of the artifacts, organize them in any way we wish – and then reorganize them in a different way.

Now, we can also choose to spend more time talking on the phone, texting or emailing with fellow collectors (Zoom, anyone?) – as so many of us are in the same boat, with extra time on our hands – and choose to spend more time enjoying and researching our various interests online.

A few weeks ago, when I was trying to decide on which series to post about next, I wanted to pick something that would be of service to my fellow collectors; something special, something that would provide for a long, wonderful diversion or escape – something that included truly delicious philatelic eye candy.

Truth be told, I had been waiting to share this particular series of posts for a time further in the future. Perhaps when the website is more completely built-out and it is generating a lot more traffic – when I believed they would provide enjoyment for a greater number of people.

Then something occurred to me a week or so ago. As I observed the world around us changing so rapidly and the effect it was having on all of our lives, I realized – there may never be a better time than the present.

164 pages
77.7 MB

Collecting Used Federal Duck Stamps


In the last post, we saw one approach to collecting federal duck stamps, in mint graded condition. Thanks again, to Bob Budesa for sharing his fabulous collection of jumbo stamps with all of us. Today we begin a new “show and tell series” that focuses on the opposite end of the duck stamp spectrum – used stamps, signed by hunters.

By searching for used stamps with small, unobtrusive signatures, you can still experience an exciting thrill of the hunt adventure that is quite challenging and yet surprisingly affordable. The vast majority of these stamps can be acquired for $5 to $15 on Ebay or from just about any dealer in U.S. stamps. There are hundreds of thousands of used federal duck stamps out there and some (admittedly small, depending on the time period) percentage of them can be found with very small signatures.

As we will see, these used stamps can still be very pleasing to the eye – if not downright impressive. Often, when a hunter took such care to neatly sign his / her name, they carried the stamp without it being affixed to their license. Therefore, in addition to an unobtrusive signature, the stamps may also retain their full original gum. Collectors who choose this path truly get a lot of “bang for their buck.”

Michael Jaffe and I have joined together to present this series which features some of the very best examples from our combined collections of these little gems. We will see used singles, plate number singles, stamps used on license by themselves and also used in combination with various state and local fish and game stamps.

For those who are not already familiar with all of the possibilities for hours upon hours of escapism and great fun in 2020 (and beyond), this series may be an eye-opener and, perhaps, even the start of something new!

153 pages
79.6 MB


A License and Stamp System for Waterfowl Conservation in the 20th Century U.S.

Eight Frame International Large Gold Medal Version

RW1 LArge Die Proof (WC)

The PURPOSE of this exhibit is to show how licenses and stamps played a vital role in waterfowl conservation in the United States during the 20th century. Our goal is to tell the definitive story by placing individual items of social, historical and philatelic importance into their appropriate context, one that has never before been fully developed. The story traces the early stages in development of the license and stamp system employed by five levels of government, whose joint responsibility it was to preserve waterfowl resources for future generations. To this end it was necessary to invent and refine an effective regulatory system as applied to harvesting this resource. Stamps perfected the system, allowing government agencies to obtain funding from the segment of society who could decimate waterfowl populations and who also stood to benefit the most from waterfowl conservation - the hunters. The IMPORTANCE of this exhibit is rooted in this fact: The system that was developed and perfected in the U.S. during the 20th century became the model that was subsequently adopted by nations worldwide. Their number continues to grow.

128 pages
200.7 MB