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The Maryland Big Game Stamps – Part Six

Today we will look at the Maryland big game stamps that were issued during the series’ sixth season. This was John Taylor’s third major design revision during this time period and we find that several complementary features, including an eye-catching composition and a bold use of colors, combine to elevate the 1965-66 stamps for firearms and archers to the apex of John Taylor’s early period craft.

Before we see the big game stamps, we shall take a look at some of the other early fish and game stamps that are frequently in the conversation for the best overall design. This will provide us with a fitting frame of reference with which to fairly evaluate John’s achievement.




There are many things that stimulate collectors to choose a particular field in philately. With regard to fish and game stamps, many people are interested in collecting stamps from the states in which they were born and/or currently live. Many focus in a certain kind of animal, bird or fish, for example: deer, ducks or trout. This is especially true of sportsmen who, often by way of purchasing stamps to fish or hunt, subsequently become stamp collectors too.

Others are drawn to the social or political history of the stamps and the reason they were issued. Frequently, I find that these people have a strong interest in wildlife conservation. Others are drawn to the relative rarity of a particular stamp or series and may be seeking seeking a “thrill of the hunt” adventure.

Finally, there is one thing almost all stamp collectors agree on – it does not hurt if the things they are spending their time and money on are pleasing to the eye. Fortunately, with fish and game stamps it is often possible to check off many of the above boxes at the same time.

As the early utilitarian (for the most part non-pictorial) stamps evolved into the multicolor works of art that we see today, state and local governments sometimes issued stamps and series that present a charming “rustic” aesthetic and allure. Many people enjoy these stamps because they represent a simpler time. A good analogy would be classic black and white films vs the high tech “blockbusters” we started to see en masse toward the end of the 20th century.

With the case of the Marion County Duck and Fishing stamps, they are pleasing because they were printed on a different (often pastel) color of paper each year. Therefore, when a number of them are mounted together on a page, it is often to good effect. With other F&G stamps (such as Indiana Trout and Montana Bow And Arrow), we start to see good, basic artwork supplied by staff artists not unlike John Taylor, only they were printed in monochrome – black ink on white paper (see Figures 1 and 2).



Figure 1. 1951 Indiana Trout Stamp.



Figure 2. 1958-59 Montana Bow and Arrow Stamp.



When good basic art was printed in black ink on a different color of paper every year, as in the case of the Virginia Big Game and Elk Stamps, minor classics were created (see Figures 3).



Figure 3. 1943-44 Virginia Resident Elk Stamp.



Even better was when stamps were printed in a color (other than black) on white or colored paper. These included the early Iowa Trout Stamps, early Michigan Trout, Bear and Cisco Netting Stamps, the Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamps and the Tennessee Big Game and Trout Stamps. The  1965-66 Iowa Trout is a real “humdinger” – green ink on gold foil-coated paper (see Figures 4-9).



Figure 4. 1965-66 Iowa Trout Stamp (Click to enlarge).



Figure 5. 1961 Michigan Bear Stamp. Note top and left selvage is cropped.



Figure 6. 1964 Michigan Cisco Netting Stamp.



Figure 7. 1958 Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp.



Figure 8. 1955-56 Tennessee Big Game Stamp.



Figure 9. 1960-61 Trout Tennessee Stamp.



All of the stamps shown above feature well executed designs. However, the adroit use of color allows those in Figures 3-9 to be more effective in catching the eye. As a result, the consensus among collectors is that they rank among the best in the fish and game hobby. The last two were created by Worth B. Carnahan and, as we shall soon see, at least one of John Taylor’s new designs also makes the cut.



The 1965-66 Big Game Stamps

Vanderford was the first to describe the 1965-66 Big Game Stamps, in his listings published in the SRN in 1969. Van reported the firearms stamp was printed in black and red colored inks on white paper and the archers stamp was printed in black and green on green paper. He also informed: “New design, standing buck whitetailed deer. Perf 11 3/4. Black serial number.”

The 1965-66 big game stamp designs were the result of a six year effort on the part of John Taylor. As a young artist, a certain amount of trial and error had understandably been involved. For starters, he rectified the confusing “Void after…” dates found on the previous year’s stamps – the date was now printed at the very bottom of the stamp. It was clear and was easy to read.

Second, he was not happy when the serial numbers were printed across the middle of his design the previous year (I imagined the big buck was staring at me from between the branches of a tree and thought it was cool – but that’s just me). The new designs included a vertical line along the right side, attached and perpendicular to the red banner at the bottom, so the serial number could be printed in an unobtrusive manner.

Third, as it regards the archers stamp, John must have decided that superimposing the bow and arrow over the buck (as he did in the design used in both 1960-61 and 1961-62) would obscure his new artwork to deleterious effect. His original “leaping deer” art had the buck facing away from the viewer and the string crossed over the back of the animal’s face and neck. His new art had the deer facing forward and to the left – the string of the bow may have crossed in front of the animal’s face.

The year and fee tablet combine with the white-tailed buck vignette and serial number (all in black) to create a triangular effect and this effect is accentuated with the addition of the bow and arrow behind the buck on the archers stamp. The juxtaposition of this effect with the solid triangular design element at the upper left corner is both complimentary and it helps to draw the viewer in.

However, it is the bold use of color for the both the triangle and the banner that first serves to attract the eye and then competes the job of drawing the viewer in – to focus on the mesmeric buck. The banner serves double duty, acting as a pedestal upon which to display John’s art. In summary, the design is compelling – a masterwork, really, from the early fish and game stamp period.



Stamps for Firearms Only

I now have two unused pieces to share: a single and a complete pane from the Boward Family find (see Figures 10 and 11). It is interesting to note that while originally an avid hunter, trapper and fisherman, by the time Maryland started to issue their big game and trout stamps in the 1960s Eugene Boward was focussed on trout fishing.

For this reason, he usually bought a complete pane of trout stamps and maybe a block of four of the big game stamps. 1965-66 was the first season he bought a complete pane of big game stamps – it must have caught his eye in a big way.



Figure 10. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Firearms.



Figure 11. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Firearms, complete pane from the Boward Family find.



Next we have two singles that were signed by hunters. The first hunter used the red triangle in the upper left corner to serve as a guide when neatly signing his name in the white space below. I have seen several other used examples signed in a similar way. The second was signed neatly across the bottom by Herbert D. Howard (see Part Four) and, once again, he carried the unaffixed stamp along with his state-wide resident hunting license and matching back tag with him while hunting throughout the season – without getting caught (see Figures 12-15).



Figure 12. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Firearms, used.



Figure 13. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Firearms, signed by Herbert D. Howard. Note this stamp has full original gum.


Figure 14. Howard’s Resident State-Wide Hunting License, number 56897.


Figure 15. Matching number back tag. Note it has been trimmed along the top and bottom.



Next we Have a used single that was overprinted “DEER” (see Figure 16).



Figure 16. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Firearms, used – overprinted “DEER”.



Stamps for Archers Only

The 1965-66 season saw the trend continue where more total archers stamps were sold than the year before (10,246) – but even fewer to collectors. My sense is that it was becoming increasingly more difficult for out-of-state collectors to find a county clerk willing to sell them the stamps.

It may very well be that the Maryland Inland Game and Fish Commission sent out a memo actively discouraging this practice. Keep in mind, relatively few stamps were being printed for archers only. They would not want to run out and have to reprint the stamps at the end of the season, as in 1960 (see Part Two).

The extreme irony in this situation is that numerous stamp collectors have told me they feel that by placing the bow and arrow behind the buck – it made the 1965-66 Maryland Big Stamp for Archers  the best designed fish and game stamp from the classic period (prior to multicolor stamps).

I now have three unused pieces to share: two unused singles with consecutive serial numbers and a block of four from the Boward Family find. The singles were originally purchased by E.L. Vanderford and the first one (stamp number 11449) was used to illustrate both his listings in the SRN and the Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps. Van traded the second (number 11450) to Mrs. Robert Powell and subsequently sold it to Sylvia Tompkins, following Mrs. Powell’s death (see figures 17-20).



Figure 17. Vanderford’s Big Game Stamps for Archers listings, which appeared in the SRN in January, 1969.



Figure 18. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Archers. Ex Vanderford.



Figure 19. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Archers. Ex Vanderford, Powell and Tompkins.



Figure 20. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Archers, block of four from the Boward Family find.



It is interesting to note that while Eugene Boward purchased a complete pane of the $2.00 firearms stamps (Figure 11), he only purchased a block of four of the $3.00 archers stamp. This despite the fact he lived in Maryland and could probably have obtained as many of these stamps as he wanted from private vendors – the $1.00 opportunity cost loomed large, yet again.

Next we have two used singles, one off license and one used on the back of a 1965-66 Maryland Non-Resident Hunting License (see Figures 21 and 22).



Figure 21. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Archers, used.



Figure 22. 1965-66 Maryland Big Game Stamp for Archers, used on a non-resident hunting license.



To end Part Six, here is a page from my second exhibit. It features another of my favorite pieces – obtained from the same Baltimore hunter as the one at the end of Part Five: both 1965-66 big game stamps used in combination on the back of a state-wide hunting license with matching back tag.

This time he arranged the two stamps diagonally, then signed the two stamps diagonally in the spaces below the red and green triangles – before the license agent overprinted the entire piece “ANTLERLESS DEER – WASHINGTON COUNTY”. The stamps, signatures and overprint are almost perfectly aligned – enjoy! (see Figure 23).



Figure 23. A page from my second exhibit featuring the piece described above.




Continue to Part Seven



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