Skip to content

The No Fee Fish and Game Stamps of California

Hunting License Validating Stamps


Continuing efforts to increase efficiency and cut costs, in 1960 the DFG explored ways to improve upon their system for issuing hunting and regular sport fishing licenses. The current system required sportsmen to fill out an application each year. A license agent would then copy the applicant’s information onto the actual license before it was issued.

Separate licenses were printed for residents, resident juniors and non-residents. An expiration date and the appropriate fee was printed on each license. Often there was a need for the agent to mail the license to the applicant, especially during busy times of ‘the year.

In the spring of 1960 the DFG commissioned the independent firm of Booze, Allen and Hamilton to conduct an operations analysis. In their report, the firm recommended that the Department adopt a “self-issuing license application” (DFG Intraoffice Correspondence dated July 11, 1960).

They proposed that sportsmen be required to complete an application form which would also serve as a valid license after a license agent affixed a “numbered license stamp to it.” The advantages of the new system were outlined by Harry Anderson, Deputy DFG Director, in a Department letter reproduced in Figure 34.



Figure 34. Advantages of the self-issuing license system were outlined by Deputy DFG Director Harry Anderson.



After much deliberation, the Fish and Game Commission decided to try the new system during the 1962-63 season. According to a letter sent from Director W. T. Shannon to Jamie H. Smith (President of the Commission) on November 13, 1961: “…We desire to make this change on the hunting license first and if successful, extend it to fishing licenses also. Since there are less hunting licenses sold than fishing licenses, and trout stamps are not involved, it will be easier to make the change on the hunting licenses.” News of the self-issuing licenses was published in the March 1962 issue of Outdoor California (see Figure 35).  



Figure 35. News of the self-issuing licenses was carried in the March 1962 issue of Outdoor California.



Only one type of generic hunting license was printed. The licenses were differentiated by separate hunting license validating stamps for residents, resident juniors and non-residents. All the stamps were non-pictorial with the exception of 1970-71.

These stamps were the first required statewide to hunt waterfowl (along with other game birds and mammals) in California. When pictorial duck stamps were issued starting in 1971, both state stamps were required in addition to a federal waterfowl stamp.

The 1962-63 stamps were printed in black and red inks on white, yellow and green paper for the resident, resident junior and non resident classifications respectively. All featured red serial numbers and a line for the license agent to fill in the date of issue. Additional lines were provided for deer, bear and pheasant tag numbers. These four lines previously were printed on the hunting license.

The stamps were self-adhesive which required a protective backing and were issued in booklet panes of five (5 x 1) with a tab at the left. Five panes were stapled together to form a book. The stamps were issued with a rouletted tab at the top but were otherwise imperforate. They measure 26 x 57 mm with the tab attached and 26 x 44 mm without (see Figure 36).



Figure 36. Separate hunting license validation stamps were printed for resident, resident juniors and non-residents. Later printings of the resident stamp feature a noticeably different orange-red serial number.



Most of the unused stamps that exist today have had their protective backing paper removed by E.L. Vanderford or one of his contemporaries. Their reason for doing so was that the backing paper was denser than the paper the stamps were printed on. Therefore, when the stamps were exposed to some combination of heat, humidity or pressure, the gum liquified and migrated upward through the stamp paper. This resulted in a stamp with varying degrees of blotchy gum staining on the surface (see Figures 37 and x).



Figure 37. Pair of 1962-63 hunting license validating stamps for juniors. The dense backing paper has resulted in the gum bleeding upward through the face of the stamps.




The pioneer collectors felt strongly enough about this to use naphtha to dissolve the gum. The solvent, considered risky at the time, is now a known carcinogen. Few 1962-63 stamps exist today with their companion backing paper loose and fewer yet with original gum, still affixed to the backing paper.

Starting with the 1963-64 issues the stamps were die cut, mounted on a protective backing and issued in fold-out booklets containing 25, ten and five stamps for the three classifications respectively (see Figure 38). Once again, we find many unused stamps which have been removed from their backing. Time has proven that not all backing paper was created equal. The paper used for many of the years did not result in gum migration. However, the pioneer collectors did not know that then.



Figure 38. The unused resident stamp has been removed from the backing paper (left). However, the junior stamp which is still affixed to the backing paper with original gum has not bled through. No unused examples of the non-resident stamp have been recorded.



The 1970-71 resident stamps were semi-pictorial, featuring the California Golden Bear in the background. The stamps were issued to commemorate the centennial of the DFG, which traces its origins to the creation of the State Board of Fish Commissioners in 1870. All die cut stamps issued through 1980-81 measure approximately 25 x 44 mm (see Figure 27). For descriptive information on resident hunting license validating stamps from specific years, see Table V.



Figure 39. The 1970-71 resident stamp featured the California Golden Bear in the background.



Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Leave a Comment

Scroll To Top
Verified by ExactMetrics