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”)

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]

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]

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]

Alphabetilately

Alphabetilately

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



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Us, Excellent Duck Stamp Collection Hinged On White Ace PagesUs, Csa, Ducks &, Excellent Accumulation Of Old Stamps In Glassines & OthersUs, Ducks, Fish & Wildlife, Others, Excellent Stamps & Others In Stock SheetsMassachusetts Duck Stamp Print - 1976 Scott# Ma3 - Canadian Goose DecoyBuffalo Stamps: Scott Rw1, 1934 Duck Stamp, Mint Nh/og & Vf, Cv = $690Noblespirit No Reserve {th1} Incredible $4,571 Us Mint Duck Stamp Coll From Rw1Nystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw29 Mint Og Nh $110Nystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw1 Mint Og H $375Us Federal Duck Stamp Collection Of 44, Used With SignaturesRw1 Federal Duck Stamp On 1934 Colorado Hunting LicenseUs Usa Duck Stamp Rw4 1937 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp** Mnh Rare OfferNystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw2 Mint With Gum H $375Noblespirit No Reserve (th1) Fantastic Us Rw1 Duck Stamp Vf Used = $150 CvNystamps Old Us Bob Duck Stamp Collection Album PageFirst Nevada Duck Stamp Print By Larry Hayden-1979 W/ StampsUs Usa Duck Stamp Rw26 1959 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp** Mnh Rare OfferCkstamps: Us Federal Duck Stamps Collection Scott#rw1 $1 Mint Part Gum FaultRare Sheet Of 10 ~ 1983 Pennsylvania State Duck Stamps (mnh) ~ Ned Smith ArtistNystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw37 Mint Og Nh $70Nystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw65 Mint Og Nh $45Nystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw3 Mint With Gum H $175Nystamps Us Plate Block Duck Stamp # Rw10 Mint Og Nh $500 P# 4Usa Duck Stamp Rw8 1941 ** Mnh Rare OfferUs Usa Duck Stamp Rw3 1936 Canada Geese $1 Brown Black **mnh Rare OfferNoblespirit No Reserve (th1) Outstanding Us Rw2 Duck Stamp Mh = $350 Cv, VfNystamps Us Plate Block Duck Stamp # Rw16 Mint Dg Nh $400 P# 6Nystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw5 Mint With Gum H $200 CreaseCkstamps: Us State Duck Stamps Collection Scott#2624-2629 Mint Nh OgNoblespirit No Reserve (th1) Excellent Us Rw11 Duck Stamp Mnh = $130 Cv, F/vfFederal Duck Stamp, 2016-2017, Trumpeter Swans, MintNystamps Many Mint Nh Us Bob State Duck Stamp & Block Collection $336 FaceUsa Duck Stamp Rw5 1938 ** Mnh Rare OfferNoblespirit No Reserve (th1) Excellent Us Rw1 Duck Stamp Mh Ng = $350 CvUs Usa Duck Stamp Rw30 1963 Pse Certificate ** Mnh Rare OfferUs Duck Stamp Rw9 1942 Baldpates Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp** Mnh Rare OfferNystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw4 Mint Og Lh $150Us Usa Duck Stamp Rw28 1961 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp** Mnh Rare OfferNoblespirit No Reserve (th1) Outstanding Us Rw59 Duck Stamp Blk Of 4 Mnh=$125cvSheet Of 10 1985 Pennsylvania State Duck Stamps (mnh) ~ Ned Smith Art Rw 1 Us Fed Duck Stamp Migratory Bird Hunting License 1934.Nystamps Us Plate Block Duck Stamp # Rw13 Mint Og Nh $200 P# 4Nystamps G Old Us Bob Duck Stamp Collection Album Page Face $180 Retail $950Us Usa Duck Stamp Rw11 1944 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp** Mnh Rare OfferUsa Duck Stamp Rw6 1939 ** Mnh Rare OfferUs Usa Duck Stamp Rw29 1962 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp** Mnh Rare OfferUs Duck Stamp Rw10 1943 Wood Ducks Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp**mnh Rare OfferNystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw74 Mint Og Nh $23Us Usa Duck Stamp Rw15 1948 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp** Mnh Rare OfferNystamps Us Plate Block Duck Stamp # Rw18 Mint Og Nh $575 P# 6Nystamps Us Plate Block Duck Stamp # Rw17 Mint Dg Nh $575 P# 6Us Usa Duck Stamp Rw21 1954 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp** Mnh Rare OfferRw4 Federal Duck Stamp On 1937 Washington State Hunting License2016-2017 Federal Migratory Waterfowl Duck Stamp Trumpeter Swan Us Fish WildlifeCkstamps: Us Federal Duck Stamps Collection Scott#rw61 $15 Mint Nh Og2016-2017 Federal Duck StampLot Of 15 Used Duck Stamps, L@@k!Buffalo Stamps: Scott Rw3, 1936 Duck Stamp, Mint Nh/og & Vf, Cv = $295Usa Nice Group Of 9 Used Duck Stamps. High Cv $317.00. Low Start.Godfathersstamps: Scott #rw-8 Thru Rw-45 F/vf Used Duck Stamp Coll.high ValueNoblespirit No Reserve (th1) Desirable Us Rw14 Duck Stamp Mnh Vf = $55 Cv