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    

1935 Us Duck. $1 Sc Rw2 . Never Hinged. Cat $750U.s. #rw10-15 Mint Nh - 1943-48 $1 Ducks ($510)1938 Us Duck. $1 Sc Rw5 . Never Hinged. Cat $425Rw1 1934 Federal Migratory Duck Stamp Unused1949 Us Duck. $2 Sc Rw16 . Never Hinged. Cat $70U.s. #rw18 Choice Mint Nh - 1951 $2 Gadwall Ducks ($90)Ckstamps: Us Duck Stamp Collection Scott#rw74a Mint NhNystamps S Old Us Bob Duck Stamp Collection Scott Album Page1987 Federal Duck Stamp Print Framed Signed U.s.older Mix Lot With Unusual B.o.b., State Revenues, Labels, State Ducks+++!Us Postage Stamps Lot Unused Sheets Malcolm X Baseball Daffy Duck Christmas Etc2014-15 Canvasback Duck Stamp Mint Plate Block W/bonus Cert Of AppreciationNystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw67 Mint Og Nh $351965 Federal Duck Stamp Print By Ron Jenkins 1st Edition - No FlawsScott # Rw4 , Us 1937, Duck $1. Never Hinged. Cat: $350.Noblespirit~no Reserve~my/540~ Exciting Us Duck Stamp Fdc Collection!Nystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw8 Mint Og $110Ckstamps: Us Duck Stamp Collection Scott#rw70a Mint NhSouth Carolina Duck Stamp 1981 Sc-1mnh $5.50 Wood Ducks, Artist - Lee LeblancRw29 1962 Federal Duck Stamp Vfognh A/s Morris 50% Off $250cv Or Offer?1987 State Duck Stamps, 41 Stamps, Face Value $192.90, In Fleetwood AlbumUnited States Duck Stamp Rw75b Signed Only 10,000 Were Issued M Nh OgCkstamps: Us Duck Stamp Collection Scott#rw73a Mint Nh1985 Oregon Waterfowl Duck Stamp & Artist Signed Le Print Matted & FramedScott # Rw72 Mnh Vf 2005 Federal Duck Stamp, Ur Corner Plate Number SingleScott # Rw71 Mnh Xf 2004 Federal Duck Stamp, Ll Corner Plate Number SingleScott # Rw73a Mnh Vf 2006 Self Stick Federal Duck StampSouth Carolina Duck Hunter Stamp 1988 Sc-8mnh $5.50 Boykin Spaniel, Jim Killen1988 State Duck Stamps, 43 Stamps, Face Value $198.45, In Fleetwood AlbumCkstamps: Us Duck Stamp Collection Scott#rw72a Mint NhScott # Rw1 Unused No Gum 1934 First Federal Duck Stamp, CreasesSouth Carolina Duck Stamp 1982 Sc-2mnh $5.50 Mallards, Artist - Bob BinksRw45 Federal Duck Stamp 1978 Mnh ... A/s Rw72 (rw 72) 2005 Federal Duck Stamp Ognh 65%off $50cv @ebay Low Free S/h Rw78 2011-2012 Federal Duck Stamp Mnh With Og - Fine Lot Of 4 Migratory Bird Hunting And Conservation Stamps Duck Stamp Vintage State Duck, Conservation, Surcharge Stamps+; '57 Minn.a1,'48 Ks Quail,vanf52+++Jds17 2009 Federal Junior Duck Stamp Ognh Lily Spang @ebay Low- Free S/hOddlots: Us Pane Of 50 ~ Scott #2141a M, Never Hinged, 22 Duck Stamp Rw5 1938 No Hinge No Gum Excellent Color, Clean Close Out2006 Duck Souvenir Sheet (rw73b) With Cert Of Appreciation $160The Federal Duck Stamp Print Signed Neal R. AndersonScott # Rw33 Mlh Vf 1966 Federal Duck StampRw73a (rw73 A) 2006 Federal Duck Stamp Ognh 65%off $50cv @ebay Low Free S/h Rw80a 2013-2014 Federal Duck Stamp Mint - Fine Ckstamps: Us Duck Stamp Collection Scott#rw71a Mint NhRw65a (rw65 A) 1998 Federal Duck Stamp Ognh 65%off $50cv @ebay Low Free S/hNystamps Us Duck Stamp # Rw20 Mint With Gum $90Scott # Rw63 Mnh Vf 1996 Federal Duck Stamp 1995 - 1996 Federal Duck Stamp Scott # Rw62 Mnh1988 - 1989 $10.00 Duck Stamp Mnh #rw55 1991 $15 Duck Stamp Mnh #rw58Us Scott # Rw46 1979 Federal Duck Stamp Full Sheet Og, Nh, Xf $225 Face Value1967 Federal Duck Stamp By Les Kouba / Leslie Kouba - 1st And Only EditionDuck Stamps 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Mnh Rw60, Mint Plate Block Of 4 Vf Nh -canvasback DucksUs Rw46-55 Lot Of 10 Federal Duck Hunting Stamps All Mint Never Hinged1987 & 1988 America's State Duck Stamp Collection Complete In Embossed BinderRw65 1998 Federal Duck Stamp Ognh 65%off $50cv @ebay Store Low Free S/h1994 - 1995 Us Federal Migratory Waterfowl Duck Stamp Rw61 Mnh