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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: U.S. 1946-50 Migratory Waterfowl Stamps with Plate Number on Reverse of Selvedge (Scott #RW13-17var.)

The fact that knowledge is power applies to many aspects of life, and it especially holds true when it comes to the market for collectibles, including stamps. One of the most exciting aspects of the hobby is that every once in a while, one may find scarce varieties priced as normal stamps.

Beginning in 1946, the U.S. Department of the Interior issued Migratory Waterfowl Hunting Permit Stamps, otherwise known as Duck Stamps,
with messages on the back (gum side) of the stamps instructing hunters to sign them on the front. From 1946 to 1950 (for Scott #RW13-17), "PL. 47510" (Plate #47510) was printed on the back of the selvedge attached to one stamp in each sheet (Position 24 on the upper right pane).

The Duck stamps of this period were issued in sheets of 4 panes, each of which contained 28 stamps. Hence, for each of these five issues, only one out of every 112 stamps was attached to the selvedge bearing the plate number printed on the gum side. Until recently, these stamps were ignored by the vast majority of duck stamp collectors, who now collect them as plate blocks of six and plate number singles. Album publishers also ignored the varieties. I've discussed these stamps with several dealers who specialize in duck stamps, and the consensus among them is that perhaps 2%-4% of the initial quantity remain, at most. The Scott U.S. Specialized Catalog describes and prices the plate blocks of these stamps in a note following RW12.

I've listed the five stamps, along with the Scott '11 values for Plate Blocks of 6, the quantities issued for each stamp and the positional variety, and the estimated range of quantities remaining below:

  • 1946 $1 Redhead Ducks (RW13) - 2,816,041 issued; $550.00 ; 25,143 vars. issued; Est. 500-1,000 remain;
  • 1947 $1 Snow Geese (RW14) - 1,722,677 issued; $550.00 ; 15,381 vars. issued; Est. 300-600 remain;
  • 1948 $1 Buffleheads (RW15) - 2,127,603 issued; $550.00 ; 18,996 vars. issued; Est. 375-750 remain;
  • 1949 $2 Goldeneye Ducks (RW16) - 1,954,734 issued; $550.00 ; 17,453 vars. issued; Est. 350-700 remain;
  • 1950 $2 Trumpeter Swans (RW17) - 1,903,644 issued; $1,500.00 ; 16,997 vars. issued; Est. 350-700 remain;
I believe these positional varieties to be an excellent investment if purchased at their current catalog values, and advise collectors to keep a lookout for the varieties priced as the normal stamps by dealers who are ignorant of them.

The Duck Stamp collecting community is interesting because it represents an atypical crossover market which includes collectors of general U.S. stamps and U.S. Revenues, along with collectors of Duck hunting memorabilia and Wildlife art. Because the sales of the stamps protect wildlife habitats, it may be considered a "green" collectible, and Duck stamp collecting is actively promoted by the Fish and Wildlife Service. There are currently about 8,000 to 10,000 "serious" Duck stamp collectors in the U.S., and many others who buy them to them to fill spaces in their general U.S. albums.

I wish to thank Bob Dumaine, President of Sam Houston Philatelics, for providing much of the information used in this article.

Those interested in learning more about investing in stamps are encouraged to read the Philatelic Investment Guide ($5), available on Kindle, and accessible from any computer.

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