Conservation stamps make for good hunting

Jan 27, 2003, 11 AM

By Rachel Supinger

Revenue stamps, seals and other non-postage items that look like stamps, broadly referred to as cinderellas, have been enthusiastically sought by stamp collectors since the beginnings of the hobby.

One very popular specialty within the stamp collecting community is wildlife conservation and hunting-permit stamps.

The most well-known, at least among United States collectors, is the federal duck stamp.

The first U.S. migratory bird hunting-permit stamp is shown in Figure 1.

The federal duck stamp program was initiated on March 16, 1934, when Congress passed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act.

The act required waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older to buy and carry a federal duck stamp.

The hunters must affix the stamp to their state hunting license and sign the stamp across its face to validate it for hunting.

Proceeds from the sale of the federal stamps goes to protect, preserve and restore waterfowl habitat, which by the 1930s had been severely depleted over the years as millions of acres of marshland were drained and filled to accommodate the ever-burgeoning population.

U.S. federal duck stamps usually picture various waterfowl in their natural habitats. Each stamp is a masterful work of art.

Until 1949, the federal government commissioned a professional artist to produce a design for the duck stamp.

Since that time, an annual competition has been held in which wildlife artists submit their designs and vie for the opportunity to have their art immortalized on a duck stamp.

Slightly less well known is the fact that the states also issue migratory bird hunting stamps. In most states, the state stamp or a stamp fee is required for waterfowl hunting.

States and localities began to produce waterfowl hunting stamps shortly after the federal government did, primarily to generate revenue for waterfowl habitat conservation and restoration efforts.

The earliest of the state duck stamps were printed in text only.

State duck stamps with pictures first made their appearance in 1971. The decision to make pictorial duck stamps resulted from the increasing demand by stamp collectors for fish and game permit stamps.

California's first duck stamp pictures two pintails in flight.

The same year, Iowa initiated its own pictorial duck stamp program, issuing its first pictorial stamp in 1972.

The pictorial waterfowl stamp programs proved so successful in raising funds for conservation programs that all 50 states eventually adopted a stamp program. In 2002, 44 states were still issuing waterfowl stamps, although some were not required for hunting.

Ohio's duck stamp for 1986 is shown in Figure 2. It has a face value of $5.75. The stamp illustrated has an attached tab with the artist's name, Lynn Kaatz.

The stamp pictures a canvasback duck resting on the water.

Used stamps, signed by the hunter, are collectible, but a considerable premium is placed on mint stamps.

On occasion, the waterfowl hunting season has been ready to begin before the stamps were ready from the printer.

Temporary non-pictorial stamps were issued for use by hunters until the regular stamps were received.

These temporary stamps can be an elusive component of a state duck stamp collection.

In the late 1980s, tribal governments were encouraged to formalize their hunting and fishing regulations, and in 1989, the first pictorial waterfowl stamps were issued by the tribal government of the Crow Creek Sioux of South Dakota.

Separate stamps were printed for residents and nonresidents. Only 200 of each type were made available.

Other tribes have since adopted pictorial hunting-stamp programs, and the stamps are printed and sold in small quantities. Most of the tribes do not offer the stamps for sale to collectors until after the hunting season is over.

Some of the states, and some tribes, issue other types of hunting-permit stamps as well.

Stamps are, or have been, issued for quail and pheasant in a few states. Many states require a special stamp for wild-turkey hunting. These stamps are called conservation stamps by collectors.

A quail stamp issued by Kansas in 1943 is shown in Figure 3.

This stamp, crude by modern standards, is a bicolor design that remained constant over many years, with only the colors used changing from year to year.

The 1943-44 season stamp shown is blue and brown, picturing a bobwhite quail superimposed on a map of Kansas.

The design for this 50¢ quail stamp is the same that was used for the state's first quail-hunting stamp in 1937.

The design remained consistent through 1961-62. The final set of stamps was available only to collectors.

The Kansas quail stamp issued for the 1937-38 season is the first hunting or fishing stamps issued by a state.

Most state hunting and fishing stamps include a serial number.

Figure 4 shows the stamp issued to wild-turkey hunters in Florida for the 1986-87 hunting season. It includes a serial number on the stamp and the attached tab that can be seen at the top.

A serial number can also be seen on the stamp shown in Figure 5 from Montana.

The $4 conservation stamp was issued in 1978, and it authorized the carrier to hunt birds in Montana. The stamp pictures grouse.

Nonspecific game-bird stamps such as these were issued by many states.

Idaho, for example, issued a beautiful series of Upland Game Permit stamps from 1987 to 1998, when it was discontinued.

Iowa has a Habitat series of conservation stamps issued for game-bird hunting. The stamp series began in 1979 and continues to the present.

Kansas discontinued its 50¢ quail stamps with the 1961-62 season, when a new law required hunters to carry a $1 Upland Game Permit stamp to hunt quail as well as pheasant and prairie chicken.

Larger animals have seen their share of wildlife conservation stamps. A deer is pictured on the 1981 Pennsylvania $5 conservation stamp shown in Figure 6.

In some states, permit stamps have been required on hunting licenses for bowhunting or muzzleloading.

Washington state required a stamp on hunting licenses for archery and muzzleloading validation from 1971 to 1981.

The hunting of big game has required stamp validation in many states over the years.

Some of these permits have been text only, but there are a considerable number of highly collectible pictorial conservation stamps.

The stamp shown in Figure 7 from the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep was issued for conservation. It does not permit the carrier to hunt wild sheep.

Some states have required stamps to validate fishing licenses. Among these are types that specify various fees based on residency, age and other considerations, or that validate for a certain type of fish, most commonly trout.

Of course, conservation stamps of all kinds are not only issued in the United States.

Shown in Figure 8 are duck stamps issued by (top to bottom) Argentina, Australia and Russia.

Many other countries, regions and territories issue hunting and fishing permit stamps.

Regions within foreign countries also issue permit and conservation stamps, including a wonderful array from the Canadian provinces.

For a challenging twist on your usual postal pursuits, try creating a collection of wildlife permit and conservation stamps.

This collection will keep you hunting and fishing – with no guns, bows, hooks or ammunition required.

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