Today we will look at the Maryland Big Game Stamps that were issued in the series’ second season, 1961-62. We will see a number of used stamps, both on and off license, with various overprints and go into more depth about the reasons for applying these overprints. Then, a special treat is in store as we will see several examples of our fish and game hobby’s most famous error. So let’s relax and continue to immerse ourselves in these fascinating stamps.
The 1961-62 Big Game Stamps
As first reported by Applegate and then verified by Vanderford, the 1961-62 big game stamps were “[The] same in all respects as 1960-61 except for color and date.” As would be the case for the remainder of the stamps in the series, there was only one printing (for both firearms and archers).
The $2.00 firearms stamp was violet and black on white paper; the $3.00 archers stamp was orange and black on white paper. As was the first printing for 1960-61 (Type I), the 1961-62 stamps were perforated 12.5 and distributed to county clerks in sheets of ten (2 x 5) with selvage on all four sides.
The 1961 Maryland Hunter’s Guide was more comprehensive and better organized as it pertained to deer hunting than it was in 1960. Page 8 laid out the various seasons: the time and duration of the special early bow and arrow season varied depending on the county, with the earliest date being October 16 and the latest November 14; the special antlerless deer season lasted three days, November 11-13 in St. Mary’s, Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester Counties and the regular deer season took place from December 2-9, except Sunday (see Figures 1-3).
Going into this project, I knew it would make for a more interesting story if I could provide the name of the artist for the Maryland Big Game Stamps. However, this information was proving to be elusive. When I noticed the illustration on the cover of the 1961 hunter’s guide was signed with the initials “JWT”, the same as in 1960, I began to think these might be the initials of a staff artist and that this same person may have also designed the stamps.
This led to hours of plugging “JWT” into google and various newspaper archives, combined with every combination of “Maryland”, “artist”, “deer”, “big game”, etc. that I could think of – but to no avail.
Stamps for Firearms Only
To start with, I have three pieces to share: an unused single, a top single with sheet number and a nearly complete sheet of ten (some of the side selvage is missing). Both the sheet number single and the sheet were obtained in the official’s collection. Note that for both, the top edges show no evidence of having been gummed (see Figures 4-6).
Next we have three used stamps; one that is rubber stamped with the issue date of “DEC 1 1961”, one used on the back of a state-wide hunting license that was issued on July 3 and one used on a Talbot County back tag (see Figures 7-9).
“DEER” Overprints Explained
As we saw in Part Two, after a permit was obtained for the special antlerless deer season in a specific county, the hunter’s big game stamp, license or back tag was overprinted “ANTERLESS DEER – XXXX COUNTY” (the example shown in Part Two, Figure 12 was for “SOMERSET” county).
Next we have two used singles, one overprinted “ANTLERLESS DEER – … (the county name is not visible)” and one used on a back tag overprinted “ANTLERLESS DEER – WICOMICO COUNTY”. Both overprints are rubber-stamped in red ink (see Figure 10 and 11).
According to Paul Hanyok, 1961 was the first year harvested deer were required to be “checked in” at a designated Deer Checking Station. One or more of these stations was set up in every county throughout the state (see Figures 12 and 13).
Paul explains: “Wildlife Department Biologists were the officials checking in the deer. They would also examine deer jaws, etc. for biological, information. After the deer were checked in, the hunter’s stamp would be overprinted “DEER” so it could not be reused – as only one deer was allowed to be harvested per season.”
Next we have two used stamps, both overprinted “DEER” with a rubber stamp. One is in red ink and one is in black (see Figures 14 and 15). In the case of the second example, an additional partial overprint is visible in the upper right corner. If you look closely, you can make out the letters “SOM” – as in “SOMERSET COUNTY” – in red.
Therefore, it is assumed this hunter obtained a special antlerless deer permit for Somerset County; the bright blue rubber-stamped date indicates he purchased the stamp early, on November 1 and the antlerless deer season in Somerset County was November 11-14 (see Figure 3). Then, at some point in the year, he was successful in harvesting a deer and the “DEER” overprint was applied.
The Bicolor Invert
Printing errors add spice to a stamp collector’s life, they make our hobby more interesting and the really cool ones are just plain fun to look at. Relative to postage stamps, the numbers of fish and game stamps printed are very low. For this reason, our hobby has relatively few bona fide errors.
On the other hand, due to a diminished amount of control and oversight at the state and local levels, a fair amount of printer’s waste has entered the collector market. We shall come back to this shortly.
As far as legitimate fish and game errors go, a couple of the more spectacular ones are shown here. The first is a recent discovery, included in a deceased man’s possessions that ended up in a garage sale in Nashville (for more on this inspirational story, see Garage Sale Gold). It is a block of four of the 1938 Tennessee shell tax stamp – required to be placed on all boxes of ammunition – with the upper right image missing (see Figure 16).
The second is a major federal waterfowl or “duck” stamp error. It occurred on the 1967-68 stamp featuring a vignette created by the venerable wildlife artist Les Kouba. In this case, excess paper from the lower left corner of a pane of 30 was folded over during the printing process. This prevented about half of the design from being printed on the actual stamp and created a startling white space (see Figure 17).
While these kinds of errors are definitely dramatic and fun to behold, they do not represent the ultimate in eye candy for philatelists. This ideal is reserved for what is known as the bicolor invert. Such an error occurs when a stamp is printed in two colors, making it necessary for the sheets of stamps to be passed through the printing press twice.
If everything goes correctly, both colors line up and create an exquisite finished product. Once in a while, one of the colors does not exactly line up, creating a shift and, on rare occasion, one or more of the sheets is placed upside down the second time through – creating an inverted color error.
The most famous of all bicolor inverts happened when one sheet of 100 air mail stamps was put through upside down in 1918. As the vignette featured the Curtiss “Jenny” biplane – it has since become known to philatelists around the world as the as the “Inverted Jenny” (see Figure 18).
Before meeting with the Maryland official in 1992, he told me about some of the highlights in his collection over the phone. Most of them, such as the complete sheets and panes, were easy to envision. However, he told me something about a couple of the sheets that seemed rather hard to picture over the phone. He explained to me that when the shipment of firearms stamps arrived from the printer in 1961-62, that two of the sheets were printed “with the deer upside down”. Further, as the only stamp collector in the office – he was able to buy both sheets for his own collection.
This seemed rather fantastic and hard to believe, as no other examples of a bicolor invert had ever been recorded in the fish and game hobby. I remember meeting with at a diner in his hometown and after we chatted for a while he started opening the tubes. When he pulled the rolled up sheets of the 1961-62 firearms stamps out of the second tube and laid them on the table in front of me, the deer really were upside down!
After buying the collection, I broke up one of the sheets so I could sell and trade examples to my friends and clients. I kept the top sheet number single (see figure 19) and the remaining sheet for myself. The complete sheet of inverted big game stamps would later become the highlight of my second exhibit, U.S. Fish and Game Stamps: 1960 – 1979.
A Second Major Error – or Printers Waste?
What, on the surface (no pun intended), appears to be a second major error has also been recorded on the 1961-62 firearms stamp. In this case, the design for the archers stamp was used to print at least one sheet of the firearms stamps. The lettering, the fee ($2.00) and the colors are all correct – but the design has the bow and arrow superimposed over the deer (see Figure 20).
About 15 years ago, a dealer on the east coast purchased a large multiple (consisting of eight or nine stamps) from someone who represented them to him as genuine errors. He eventually sold me a total of five stamps and I was pretty excited about them. However, after thinking long and hard about it while working on this project – I have become somewhat skeptical.
In the case of the inverted stamps, it is easy to imagine how a small number of sheets could be mishandled (dropped on the floor?) and put through the printer upside down the second time around. And if quality control was quickly flipping through thousands of sheets, it would be difficult to spot.
In this case, we have a bow and arrow on a firearms stamp. On only one sheet. I now believe this may possibly be printers waste. In other words, a printing error that was discovered early on – before leaving the printers shop – and pulled from the order. In this particular case, the more I think about it, the entire order would have to have been reprinted.
After the printer or an employee has pulled the “faulty” stamps, they sometimes find their way into the collector market. This often occurs many years after the stamps were printed. For many dealers and collectors, they have a hard time distinguishing between true errors and printers waste. For me, it is not so difficult – I follow the money.
If the federal, state or local wildlife agency received payment for the misprinted stamps – they are a legitimate error. If, on the other hand, the agency did not get the money and it went to the printer or his employees (often referred to as “out the back door”) – they are printers waste. Simple, really.
It should be noted that not all printers waste is created equal. Many pieces of printer’s waste have value and the greater the demand the greater the value. Over the years I have come to understand that the value of printer’s waste is determined, in large part, by it’s “coolness factor”.
An extreme example would be the 1934-35 federal duck stamp printer’s waste (see Figure 21). Pretty darn cool – and, yes, these sell for big $ (see The Bill Webster Sale At Siegel’s – Part Three).
While the Maryland Big Game Stamps certainly do not garner the same attention as the federal waterfowl stamps within the fish and game hobby – they are still one of the most popular series ever. We may never know whether the stamp shown in Figure 20 is a legitimate error or printers waste. However, I think we can all agree – it is pretty cool.
Stamps for Archers Only
For the 1961-62 archers stamps, I have four pieces to share: first, we have an unused single, a top single with sheet number and a complete sheet from the official’s collection (see Figures 22-24).
Next we have a combination usage with both 1961-62 stamps (firearms and archers) used on a Maryland State-Wide Hunter back tag (see Figure 25).
To conclude part three of our series on the Maryland Big Game Stamps, I will show two pages from my second exhibit, U.S. Fish & Game Stamps; 1960 – 1979, which included a couple of the items shown in this post, plus a firearms stamp used on a Talbot County Resident Hunter back tag and the complete pane of bicolor inverts (see Figures 26 and 27).
At this point I would like to add that when I bought the rest of the official’s collection in the late 1990s, I was very surprised to find a third sheet of the inverts. He admitted to originally holding one back – because he “enjoyed looking at it.” Of the 30 inverts in collectors hands today, there are a total of eight pieces: two complete sheets of ten, a block of four, a pair and four singles (including the top sheet number single shown in this post).
With regard to the firearms stamps with the bow and arrow superimposed over the deer (Figure 19), of the original eight or nine stamps – one was lost in the California wildfires of 2017.