Since 1934, hunters of migratory waterfowl have been required to purchase a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly known as a duck stamp, at the beginning of each hunting season. These revenue stamps must be signed by the hunter and affixed to his or her hunting license.

From the beginning, though, the program was aimed at more than just hunters. Conservationists and wildlife-art lovers were also its audience, and the revenues generated by sales of the stamps were earmarked specifically for the purchase of wetlands and other wild spaces used by migratory birds. Thanks to these three interest groups, the stamps have been a resounding success. More than $700 million has been raised by the sales of these stamps, resulting in the acquisition of some 5.2-million acres for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The first head of the Duck Stamp Program, a conservationist and Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist named Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, drew the first duck stamp. His pencil sketch depicted a pair of mallards coming in for a landing, with waving reeds in the background. Tinted blue, the stamp cost a dollar, racked up sales of 635,001, and was valid through June 30, 1935.

Frank Benson’s 1935 stamp, which was good through June 30 of 1936, also cost a dollar. His trio of canvasbacks was given a maroon hue. Canadian geese, greater scaups, northern pintails, and green-winged teals filled out the rest of the 1930s, while the 1940s were sprinkled with black ducks, ruddy ducks, wood ducks, buffleheads, and two types of geese. Stamp sales crested the 1-million mark in 1938, and 2 million was reached in 1946.

All this time, the stamps still cost $1, and artists were selected by invitation. But in 1950, the price of a duck stamp was raised to $2. That number would hold until 1959, when the price was raised to $3 and the first multi-colored stamp was issued. Based on a tempera drawing by Maynard Reece, it featured a Labrador retriever with a mallard in its mouth next to the words "RETRIEVERS SAVE GAME."

But the biggest change of 1950 was the way in which duck-stamp artists were selected. That year, a competition was held and 65 artists entered. The winner was Walter Weber, whose black-and-white gouache drawing of a pair of trumpeter swans flying over a lake, with mountains in the background, was printed in purple.

In 1971, states got into the pictorial-stamp act, beginning with California. As with the federal program, the goal was to raise money for wetlands. Paul Johnson created the first...

For serious collectors, mint-condition stamps that are unsigned and have their original gum backing bring the highest prices. That said, some people prefer to collect stamps that have been affixed to licenses or signed by the hunters who originally purchased them. In these cases, the collector is not only getting a collectible stamp, but a piece of cultural history, too.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

1847USA

1847USA

Bob Allen's beautiful and well organized catalog of US stamps from 1847 to 1970 is a fantastic resource for all US … [read review or visit site]

The Stamp Collecting Round-up

The Stamp Collecting Round-up

Don Schilling's long-running, in-depth blog on stamp collecting and postal operations. Schilling stays up on all th… [read review or visit site]

National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum

If you're into postal history or collectibles, check out the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. This extensive s… [read review or visit site]

R. A. Siegel Auction Galleries

R. A. Siegel Auction Galleries

This auction house site offers an extensive online database of US stamp information. Includes PDF catalogs of past … [read review or visit site]

Post Office in Paradise

Post Office in Paradise

Post Office in Paradise showcases Hawaiian postal history from the years before Hawaii became a part of the United … [read review or visit site]

Private Die Proprietary Stamps

Private Die Proprietary Stamps

Bob Hohertz's impressive database of U.S. Private Die Proprietary stamps from the Civil War and Spanish American Wa… [read review or visit site]

Alphabetilately

Alphabetilately

First shown in 2008 to celebrate the Smithsonian National Postal Museum's 15th anniversary, Alphabetilately is esse… [read review or visit site]

National Carousel Association

National Carousel Association

Since 1973, the National Carousel Association has been dedicated to preserving and restoring carousels and carousel… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Federal Junior Duck Stamp #3Dr Jim Stamps Old Us Hunting Scott Rw2 $1 Dept Of Agriculture Duck No Gum NrDr Jim Stamps Old Us Hunting Scott Rw1 $1 Dept Of Agriculture Duck No Gum NrDr Jim Stamps Old Us Scott Rw69 $15 Dept Of Interior Duck Block Of 4 Og Nh NrU.s. 2000 Sc#rw67 Hunting Permit Stamp Mottled Duck $15 Sheet Of 20 Mnh Slealed82 Mint & Used Us Duck Stamps Rw1 - Rw78 Complete Collection + Juniors Minus Rw2U.s. Mint Enver Hinged Duck Stamp Scott# Rw-16 Cat Value 70.00 See Details Shown1975 Us Stamp Sc# Rw42 Federal Duck Plate Block Mnh $20 Face Value /high Cat ValU.s. Mint Never Hinged Duck Stamp Scott# Rw-33 Cat Value 110.00 See Details 1994 Us Stamp Sc# Rw61 Federal Duck Plate Block Mnh $60 Face Value /high Cat Val(6) 1981 To 1996 Federal Duck Stamps - Rw48 To Rw63 - Mint Full Gum Nh Duck Stamps Used 21 Each1944 Us Sc# Rw11 $1 Federal Duck Stamp Mint Never Hinged Mnh Og - Cat Value $130U.s. Mint Never Hinged Duck Stamp Scott# Rw-12 Cat Value 110.00 See Details 30 Us Duck Hunting Stamps Federal & State, Several On Licenses Mint & Used1934 Minnesota Resident Small Game License Mc Leod Co + Federal Duck StampDr Jim Stamps Old Us Scott Rw67 $15 Dept Of Interior Duck Block Of 4 Og Nh NrU.s. Mint Never Hinged Duck Stamp Scott# Rw-28 Cat Value 110.00 See Details 1934-35 Migratory Duck Hunting Stamps Estate Find Owner Died In 1995Jds2 Federal Junior Duck Stamp 1994-95 Mnh - Artist SignedLot 1957-1958-1959 Federal Duck Stamps Rw24-rw25-rw26 Ex-mint No HingeU.s. Mint Never Hinged Duck Stamp Scott#rw-34 Cat Value 110.00 See Details BelowNevada Nv1 Waterfowl Duck Stamp 1979 Mnh - Artist Signed * Artist DeceasedWtdstamps - #rw73 - Us Federal Duck Stamp - Mint Og Nh $30Rw1 Mint 1934 $1.00 Duck StampDrbobstamps Us Duck Plate Block Collection Mint Og NhDr Jim Stamps Old Us Hunting Scott Rw67a $15 Dept Of Interior Duck Sticker NrRw79a - 2012 Federal Duck Stamp - Mint Nh Noblespirit~ No Reserve~excellent Us Waterfoul/duck Stamp CollectionVintage Michigan 1976 Duck Stamp,artist Signed,sheet Of 10,1st Issue Duck,mint! (5) Florida State Duck Stamps - Mint - Nh - 1998 To 2002 1961 Rw28 Federal Duck Stamp -perfect Mint Front & Back Ognh-unused-unsignedDr Jim Stamps Old Us Scott Rw70 $15 Dept Of Interior Duck Block Of 4 Og Nh Nr1935-36 Migratory Duck Hunting Stamps Estate Find Owner Died In 1995Wtdstamps - #rw70 - Us Federal Duck Stamp - Mint Og Nh $285 Us Duck Stamps Rw21 Rw22 Rw23 Rw24 Rw25 Mint VfU.s. Mint Never Hinged Duck Stamp Scott# Rw-29 Cat Value 125.00 See Details Dr Jim Stamps Old Us Scott Rw51 $7.50 Dept Of Interior Duck Plate Block Og Nh NrDr Jim Stamps Old Us Scott Rw50 $7.50 Dept Of Interior Duck Plate Block Og Nh NrU.s. Mint Hinged Duck Stamp Scott# Rw-17 Cat Value 95.00 See Details Below ShownU.s. Mint Never Hinged Duck Stamp Scott# Rw-15 Cat Value 60.00 See Details ShownRw1 1934 Federal Duck Stamp Unsigned No Gum No Fault $150 Bcv1979 Florida State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp - Fl #1 - Duck StampOlder Used Duck Stamps (18 Different) Including Rw-3,4,5,7,8,9......(12) Idahoa State Duck Stamps - Mint - Nh - 1987 To 1998 1979 Tennessee State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp - Tn #1 - Resident Duck Stamp(3) Illinois State Duck Stamps - Mint - Nh - 2004 To 2006 (12) Louisiana State Duck Stamps - Mint - Nh - 1989 To 1994 Us Sc # Rw1-rw57 Duck Stamp Collection Album Used (dd013)Rw3 Federal Duck Stamp 1936 Uncancelled Usa # Rw 47-48-49-51 Ducks Mnh Cat 70 UsWtdstamps - #rw73 - Us Federal Duck Stamp - Mint Og Nh $30Dr Jim Stamps Old Us Hunting Scott Rw66a $15 Dept Of Interior Duck Sticker NrDr Jim Stamps Old Us Scott Rw49 $7.50 Dept Of Interior Duck Plate Block Og Nh Nr1942 Federal Duck Stamp "baldpates", Scott #rw9 Mint Og Nh W/plate # (l3)De-4 State Delaware Duck Stamp And Print Year 1983 SignedBuffalo Stamps, Scott #rw57 1990 Duck Stamp Plate Single, Mnh/og & Vf, Cv = $25(11) Iowa State Duck Stamps - Mint - Nh - 1995 To 2005 (11) Indiana State Duck Stamps - Mint - Nh - 1996 To 2006 Rw74 (rw 74) 2007 Federal Duck Stamp Ognh 55%off $50bcv -ebay Low Store