2092 - 1984 20c Preserving Wetlands
US #2092 was issued for the 50th anniversary of the act.  

On March 16, 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, creating America’s popular Duck Stamps.

310033 - First Day Cover
US #2092 – Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover

Overhunting and a severe drought led to a rapid decrease in migratory birds in the early 1900s. The loss of nesting grounds in the north, resting areas along the migratory path, and wintering places in the south all contributed to the decline in the migratory bird population.

RW1 - 1934 $1.00 Federal Duck Stamp - Mallards
US #RW1 was the first Duck stamp, and was designed by Jay Darling.

President Herbert Hoover signed the Migratory Bird Conservation Act in 1929. This created a commission to evaluate the establishment of new waterfowl refuges, but didn’t grant funds to buy and preserve these wetlands.

1950 $2.00 Federal Duck Stamp - Trumpeter Swans
US #RW17 was the first Duck stamp design selected by a public contest.

Famous cartoonist and conservationist Jay N. Darling soon grew concerned over the decreased bird habitats and potential extinction of several species. He began to incorporate the ideas of wildlife conservation into some of his cartoons. He gained attention for the cause and was made chief of the Biological Service – a forerunner to the Fish and Wildlife Service. In this role, he developed the idea of issuing Duck Stamps to raise money for the purchase of wetlands.

1959 $3.00 Federal Duck Stamp - Dog & Mallard
US #RW26 was the first multi-colored Duck stamp, issued in 1959.

Darling then petitioned Congress to create legislation authorizing the creation of these stamps to fund waterfowl protection. As a result, they passed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, which President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law on March 16, 1934.

1970 $3.00 Federal Duck Stamp - Ross' Geese
US #RW37 was the first Duck stamp printed by intaglio and offset.

The act authorized the issuance of an annual stamp, which outdoorsmen age 16 and up were required to have in order to hunt migratory birds. The funds raised by the sale of these “Duck” stamps were then placed in the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.

1984 $7.50 Federal Duck Stamp - Wigeon
US #RW51 commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Duck stamp program.

As an artist and driving force behind their creation, Darling took it upon himself to create the first design – a $1.00 stamp that pictured two mallards preparing to land. The stamp was issued on July 1, 1934. That first year alone, sales of the stamp raised $635,000 for wetland conservation.

1991 $15.00 Federal Duck Stamp - King Eiders
US #RW58 was the first Duck stamp painted by a female artist, Nancy Howe.

The beauty and novelty of this new stamp immediately appealed to stamp collectors, and the desire to own one became widespread. The government was unyielding, however. The stamp was for hunters only, not for collectors. It had to be attached to a license, signed, and kept intact for one year. But the collectors would not give up, and fifteen days before the first stamps expired, they were placed on sale for stamp enthusiasts.

1998 $15 Federal Duck Stamp - Barrow's Goldeneye s/a
US #RW65A – Since 1998, Duck stamps have also been issued in self-adhesive dollar-bill-size panes so they could fit securely in the cash drawers of Walmart’s sporting goods departments.

For the next several years, the artwork for Duck Stamps was commissioned. But that changed in 1949 when designer Bob Hines (creator of the 1946-47 issue) suggested the idea for a contest, which has proven quite popular.

US #RW85 – 2018 was the first year that both the pane and the single stamp were self-adhesive.
RW75th - 2008 Federal Duck 75th Anniversary
Item #RW75th –The 75th anniversary sheet reproduces the first stamp and the 2008 stamp.

When originally purchased, ninety-eight cents of each dollar spent on the license went to wetland conservation. Since the program’s start, more than $1 billion has been used to purchase or lease over 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat. This land is now protected through the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. These areas benefit migrating waterfowl such as geese and ducks, but mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians living in the wetlands also flourish because of this program.

Bird hunters are not the only ones who purchase Duck Stamps. Bird watchers and other nature lovers gain free annual admission to the refuges when they buy a stamp from a sporting goods store or a post office. Conservationists know that a large portion of the purchase price goes to investing in America’s wetlands.  Collectors buy these stamps because of the high-quality artwork pictured.

Click here to read the act.

Click here for more Duck stamps.

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  1. Along with the National Parks system, duck stamps were one of the USA’s best ideas. Duck stamps were my introduction to stamp collecting and are still among my favorites.

  2. Great story. Kind of makes you wonder though why the government is always so slow to realize that stamp collectors are its best friends. We pay face value for stamps of any kind, and then don’t expect the government to do anything else with that stamp, like deliver mail it’s attached to. Subtract the production cost, and the rest of what we pay is pure profit.

  3. Wasn’t the sherriff’s husband in the movie “Fargo” competing for the design for that year’s Duck Stamp?

  4. I live between the Delavan and Battle Creek Wildlife Refuges in Northern
    California. I enjoy watching the birds enjoy a safe landing and feeding area. I love the Duck Stamps in my collection.

  5. The San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is in California’s Central Valley near the city of Los Banos. It protects over 7,000 acres of riparian woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands. It protects numerous native birds and other native species (including the critically endangered San Joaquin bush rabbit), migratory birds, and native plant species. It is not particularly scenic, but the plants and animals don’t care. This is an example of what can be accomplished if there is a will to do so.

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