Federal Duck Stamps

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 15, 2010 · 46 comments

in Blog

Mallards, by J.N. Darling (1934-1935)

When my dad wasn’t working as a federal game warden, he pursued a manly hobby. He collects U.S. Federal Duck Stamps. I remember as a boy my dad would bring out his stamp albums around duck season (a busy time for a game warden) so he could add the newest stamp to the collection. He has every stamp ever issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service, going all the way back to 1935.

As a young boy, I would flip through the pages, look at the beautiful images of migratory waterfowl, and think “These things are manly.”

The History of the Duck Stamp

The Duck Stamp program started back in 1934, and the stamps still serve as the license to hunt migratory waterfowl. Working with the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commissions an artist to create a pictorial scene featuring one of North America’s many migratory waterfowls.The first Duck Stamp cost $1. Today, they’re priced at $15.

The Fish and Wildlife Service uses revenue from Duck Stamps to purchase or lease waterfowl habitat. During it’s nearly 80 year history, the Duck Stamp Program has generated over $750 million, which has been used to protect over 5.3 million acres of waterfowl habitat. Thanks to the Duck Stamp program, generations of hunters and outdoorsmen have pristine locales all over the U.S. to hunt, fish, hike, and camp

Even if you don’t hunt, you can still benefit from purchasing Duck Stamps. Stamp holders get free access to National Wildlife Refuges the entire year. America’s refuges provide excellent hunting, fishing, and hiking opportunities year round.That’s a pretty good deal for $15.

Finally, if you’re interested in wildlife and nature conservation, buying a Duck Stamp is an easy and effective way to contribute to the cause. Plus, you get a really handsome and manly looking stamp for your contribution.

You can purchase Duck Stamps at most places that sell hunting and fishing licenses and at select Post Offices.

Below, I’ve included a few of my favorite Duck Stamps that the Fish and Wildlife Service have issued over the years. If you’d like to see all of them, check out the official site.

Green Winged Teal, by Lynn B. Hunt (1939-1940)

Buffleheads, by Maynard Reece (1948-1949)

Harlequin Ducks, by John H. Dick (1952-1953)

Mallard, by Maynard Reece (1959-1960)

Mallards, by E.A. Morris (1961-1962)

Emperor Geese, by Arthur M. Cook (1972-1973)

Mallards, by Richard Plasschaert (1980-1981)

Readhead Ducks, by Arthur G. Andersen (1987-1988)

Black-bellied Whistling Duck, by James Hautman (1990-1991)

Canada Goose, by Robert Hautman (1997-1998)

Greater Scaups, by James Hautman (1999-2000)

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jim the Puritan March 16, 2010 at 3:00 am

Very cool!!

Thanks for sharing.

2 Tim N. March 16, 2010 at 4:48 am

> As a young boy, I would flip through the pages, look at the beautiful images
> of migratory waterfowl, and think “These things are manly.”

Excuse me? Duck stamps?

Sorry, but enough is enough. For the record, this was the article that caused me to stop reading this site.

I’m not trying to be overly critical here, but … duck stamps?

– Tim.

3 Tyler Logan March 16, 2010 at 5:00 am

I have to agree with Tim N. here. Why duck stamps? It doesn’t have anything to do with the art of manliness in my opinion. Plus, anyone outside of America (link me) can’t relate.

4 Kevin Palm March 16, 2010 at 6:56 am

Wow, did you two even READ the article?? You seriously can’t see how duck stamps relate to manliness? They’re more than just pretty pictures of waterfowl (although the artwork in Brett’s examples is pretty awesome), they are hunting licenses as well as a way to contribute to conservation, both manly aspects IMHO!

5 David March 16, 2010 at 7:02 am

Perhaps we need to collect “International Extreme Cage Fighter Duck Stamps of Asskickery” to make some folks happy…

For me, I can see the point. Tying the artwork in with the hunting, the career of your dad and the environment is pretty manly. And the point of the article that it’s possible to do something that you love and find satisfaction in the small details that may (to some) seem even peripheral is great.

So yeah – manly.

6 Ender W March 16, 2010 at 7:06 am

Yeah. Gonna go with the above. Stamp collecting may be a rewarding hobby for some (not me) but I don’t think there’s anything that makes it particularly manly. Not at all to demean your father, but in actuality I’d say that stamp collecting in general is one of the more useless (and hence unmanly) hobbies. You spend hours and searching for a tiny piece of artwork, generally made by someone completely unknown with rather questionable artistic merit, which you then place in a book (which may or may not have the exact same piece of art in black and white) and then . . . bring out the book once a year? At least if you’re collecting full size artwork you a) can have it hanging on your wall to enjoy all year round and b) have obtained something which will (hopefully) be of an enriching nature to those who take the time to look at it.

Just imagine what you could do if you spent the time you spent collecting stamps on a more . . . productive hobby, like Blacksmithing. How much cool and useful stuff you could make. Or, hell, even practicing archery. You could be developing a skill that could a) save your life if you are stranded in the wilderness, or at least help you bring home some food every once in awhile.

Honestly, to me, stamp collecting would really be one of the least manly hobbies. It’s antisocial, unproductive, and not extraordinarily enriching. Bowling (another of the ‘least manly hobbies’ in my book) at least has a social aspect.

In summary, just because a hobby has been practiced by men throughout history does -not- make it manly.

7 Whippet March 16, 2010 at 7:36 am

The comments from Tim N and Tyler Logan proves this site still has a *lot* of work ahead of it to educate and cultivate some of the ogres around here. My fellow (real) men, have faith, they will eventually see the light too.

Collecting stamps (especially those with a worthwhile cause) is very, very admirable and manly. Thank you for sharing your interesting article. Even though we may not all share this passion it is nonetheless very interesting.

These sort of interests, and the men who pursue them, are shining beacons for the rest of us.

Thank you.

PS: And please don’t leave us Tim N and Tyler Logan. Soon there might be an interesting article on beer drinking, farting and watching football, just for you!

8 Lindsay March 16, 2010 at 7:45 am

It’s not going to make me stop reading the site, and anything dad does is manly and cool, but still.. Teehee, stamp collecting.

9 Beau T. Bradley March 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

Not all hobbies need be fast and exciting. One thing that seems forgotten all to often in this day and age are things that make you slow down, focus, and think. Yes you may be working hard to just find some piece of paper, but just the act tracking it down can prove rewarding.

Plus, I think some of you are missing the point of this article. His dad bought one, count them one, stamp a year. He didn’t collect stamps, he collected a specific kind of stamps that related in a very real way to his career as a game warden. For Brett (and I imagine Brett’s father) these stamps were a little more than just some piece of paper.

10 Alex March 16, 2010 at 8:29 am

I’m not sure why the misconception of stamp collecting as anti-social persists. Since I have renewed my interest in the hobby after loving it as a kid, I have met tons of people at various exhibitions or auctions from all walks of life. Thousands of people come out for the larger exhibitions. Plus as far as hobbies go, you can spend as little ($0) or as much as you would like.

11 Brian Burnham March 16, 2010 at 8:30 am

I am of the opinion that the various collecting hobbies, stamps, coins, baseball cards, model cars, etc. are in the realm of neither manly or unmannly by themselves. I think it depends on the way the man goes about the hobby. Collecting can be about many things, aesthetic pleasure, a desire to organize and complete some thing in an otherwise chaotic world, passion for a particular subject or period in history, the thrill of the chase in searching for that one missing piece, or plain greed as you try to amass valuable things. Some of these motives are manly some are not.

I however do have to say that this article was a rare miss for AoM. While it is a cool story it is a bit of a stretch to draw lessons from it that apply to manliness in general in a way that most of us out here in internet land can readily understand. What I realy liked about the article is that it is a window into the life of the man behind AoM, giving us a glimpse, though a small one, of something that shaped how he became who he is. To be fair Brett churns out hundreds of wonderful articles every year that help thousands of men. I think he has earned the right to do the occasional human interest piece.

12 Jordan March 16, 2010 at 8:35 am

Some of you need to chill out. A few points:

-Men can have downtime too. Not everything a man does needs to be contributing to his ‘purpose’, nor does it have to be constructive. It can be merely relaxing. This can mean different things for different men. Stamp collecting for some, golf for others, Monday night football for others yet.

-Stop treating this site like a rule book. We don’t have to start collecting duck stamps because AoM posted an article about it. Think a little deeper and try to realize why this article was posted: 1. It allowed a man to reflect positively on a hobby that his father enjoys. 3. It allows other men to post comments on the same topic. Very nostalgic and a positive exercise for everyone. 3. It gave some inspiration to others who might be searching for a hobby (stamp collecting or otherwise). 4. It shows off some great illustrations on the stamps. Beautiful artwork! 5. It reminds those who don’t hunt that many hunters are extremely involved in conservation of marshlands and preservation of wildlife (not just killing stuff for sport). Educational.

I could go on. My point is to challenge you to think a little deeper about the purpose behind some of the posts on AoM. First time poster, long time reader.

13 Erasmus March 16, 2010 at 9:00 am

Brett, thanks a ton for this article. As a kid, I remember going with my Dad or Grandpa to get our duck stamps and HIP cards for the season. I don’t get to do much hunting anymore, so this article was a welcome reminder of all the great times I’ve had with the truly manly men in my life and the important lessons that they taught me while in the blind.

PS: I’m glad to see that ol’ King Buck made it as one of your favorite stamps.

14 Whippet March 16, 2010 at 9:21 am

A short story might put this into perspective.

A good friend of mine collects not only stamps but envelopes too, primarily for the postal marks. Many collectors specialize in collecting stamps from certain countries or in some cases only during a certain historical period. My friend’s focus was on letters and envelopes during WW2. The US Army apparently used to set up temporary mail stations as they advance the front-line, each with its own unique postal marks. A collector of these type of stamps and marks therefore needs to study and understand the deployment of war and troops and companies during the war and different campaigns. In some cases he was able to track the movement and deployment of a specific company as they progress up Italy and those through France into Germany.
Such a collector usually has an in-depth knowledge of battles and history, which requires research and reading. This friend of mine has a keen insight into an interesting phase of history only due to his interest in war-time stamps and postal marks.

Is this what you would call useless? A waste of time? Un-manly?
Sometimes it requires just a little bit of knowledge to make an informed judgment in life.

15 Mike at The Big Stick March 16, 2010 at 9:56 am

I’ve been ‘collecting’ these stamps for nearly 20 years. I ‘collect’ them when I get my hunting license every year and attach the Federal Duck Stamp on the back so I can hunt waterfowl. My dresser-top valet contains one from every year I’ve hunted ducks and geese. A great collectible and, as several commenters mentioned, a great way to support conservation. I know several non-hunters who buy the stamps as an easy way to give money to wildlife-friendly govt agencies.

I wrote about the Duck Stamp program awhile back at my own blog.


16 Terry March 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

I’ve collected both State and Federal duck stamps since I was old enough to be required to buy them. As my dad, brothers and I would routinely pack in gun, decoys and gear while wading over a mile through flooded timber, I respectfully submit that no one has a right to say fellows who go through that to pursue a sport and also happen to collect artifacts of that same sport are un-manly. You simply have no idea what you’re talking about so please don’t embarrass yourself by speaking out of ignorance.

Having said that, I’m greatly upset by the upcoming price increase in the duck stamp to $25 and ultimately $35. This is only going to drive people away from the sport. It’s one thing for a dad to go down and buy his sons duck stamps when they’re $15. But how is a guy going to fork over, in my case $100, so his boys can go hunting with
him? I’ll stop with the rant as I’m going off topic. As much as I like the stamp and what it’s done for waterfowl, I’m affraid this increase is going to prevent many young men from ever being able to enjoy the sport.

17 Jeff J. March 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

Tim- If you’re going to stop reading a blog because you didn’t like one, count it one, article, then you sir are a whiny little bitch. Man up. The world doesn’t revolve around you.

Tyler- You’re site looks like it’s for douchebags. It’s just a really, really bad wanna-be version of Maxim Magazine. I can see why you wouldn’t like a post like this.

Ender- You’re a douche because you agree with the above douches.

I’ve been collecting duck stamps for years because I hunt. You know, shoot guns, kill wild game, and then eat them. Manly stuff. Something I’m sure the above wieners have never done.

Unlike normal stamp collecting, it’s not something you obsess about. Like Brett’s dad, the only time you pull out your collection is just once a year to add the new stamp. You don’t live and breath duck stamps. It’s just fun to look over the artwork of waterfowl and a lot of the stamps bring back memories of hunts I’ve done before, so that’s nice too.

To sum it up, duck stamps are awesome. Glad to see the site point this fact out.

18 Mike March 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

Thanks for posting this, Brett. Brought back a lot of memories of hunting with my dad, grandpa, and brother. I learned a lot about being a man freezing my butt off in a blind. Going to buy the duck stamp was what kicked off our manly hunting ritual.

Does anybody know if you can buy the artwork on the stamps in full sized paintings?

19 David March 16, 2010 at 11:05 am

Never knew about duck stamps because I’ve never hunted before. The artwork sure is handsome.

20 BRZ March 16, 2010 at 11:06 am

@ Jeff, hilarious.

@ Brett,
Enjoyed the article. Collections of thimbles or tiny spoons are not manly. Collections of hunting or fishing paraphernalia are manly.
I collect old road maps and antique speed shop decals and would consider both of those to be rather manly.

21 Grumpy Old Man March 16, 2010 at 11:15 am

First time commenter, long time reader here.

This was a great little piece. I haven’t hunted in years because of my bad knee, but I remember having to pickup a duck stamp. I never kept them though. This article makes me wish that I had. I didn’t appreciate the artwork on it at the time.

And Brett, pay no heed to the naysayers. You keep doing what you do. I really appreciate all the work you do and frequently pass along your stuff to my sons and grandsons. Maybe this article might inspire my grandsons to get out and hunt instead of playing Super Nintendo or whatever the thing the kids play with these days.

22 Mike L. March 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

Collecting things like duck stamps is more than just a hobby, it’s about reminiscing on times growing up with your Dad. Learning to be a man.

If becoming a duck hunter while learning to become a man isn’t “manly,” I don’t know what is.


23 Bill J. March 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

I’m a state game warden and I’ve been collecting duck stamps since I was a boy. Reading the comments, it seems the older gentlemen have more appreciation for the artwork and the history behind the Federal Duck Stamp Program than the younger men.

It probably has to do with the fact that fewer young men today hunt compared to men 30-40 years ago. It seemed like every boy went hunting back then. They’d even cancel school for a week in many towns when deer season started. That’s how prevalent hunting was.

So, I can see how an article highlighting the manly history of duck stamps wouldn’t go over well with younger men, but I’m glad it was highlighted.

Even if you don’t hunt, I encourage you to go out and buy a federal duck stamp. It’s one of the most successful wildlife conservation programs ever created. If you care about the environment, spending $25 on a stamp will do more then recycling or “buying green” ever could. You’re actually helping the purchase of land to be protected habitat.

24 Bill J. March 16, 2010 at 11:37 am


Part of the problem in the price increase is that fewer people hunt today than in the past. In order to make up for that, the FWS has to raise the price. I think you’re right though. The price increase is only going to prevent more people from being introduced to hunting, which is sad, because hunters and fishers fund most of the wildlife conservation in this country.

25 David Cox March 16, 2010 at 11:56 am

Go watch Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Charade, and tell me stamp collecting can’t be manly.

26 John March 16, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Manliness isn’t always about beer, NASCAR, and cage fighting. In fact, some would argue that those interests are more animal than manly.

This article isn’t just about duck stamps, it’s about finding a passion, building relationships with a father, appreciating art and creativity, increasing knowledge, and enjoying and protecting the natural resources we inherited from generations before. These are manly interests. Thanks for the article.

27 Mark in Canada March 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I have no issue with this posting – for a variety of reasons, it certainly seems manly to me – and in any event, being manly is about a variety of things. IMHO

28 Matt March 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Huh, I had no idea these things existed. Used to collect stamps when I was younger with my grandpa, too. Interesting!

29 Brett McKay March 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm


You’ve fallen into a misconception of this site. Too many readers wish to pigeonhole AoM as always doing articles that are serious/inspiring and apply to manliness in general. But that was never my intent with the site. I started it to talk about all things manly, both the fun and the serious, and that’s what we’ve done all along. Thus, I do not feel any need to “earn” the right to do a piece like this. Pieces like have been part and parcel of what we’ve always done here, which is simply to talk both about manliness and simply about manly stuff.

30 Juice March 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm

What is it about this site that makes people seem to hate it some much? Yeah stamp collecting isn’t high on my list of things to do, but that doesn’t mean this wasn’t a valid post and that the whole site should be written off.

You do realize that through out the ages manly men of all sorts have written poems, made art, collected things, a whole bunch of other things you might call “soft”. Manly men do “soft” things. You are confusing manliness with machismo.

Collecting of all sorts is great fun and I don’t see how it could ever be Unmanly.

31 Brian Burnham March 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm

@ Brett

I meant “earned the right” only as a figure of speach. After all it’s your blog you can do what you want with it. I was trying to say that anyone who thinks that AoM doesn’t do inspiring articles and such hasn’t been paying attention. Though I suppose to some extant I have sort of pigeon-holed AoM as the inspiring bette-man articles are what I like the most, though as I go back through the archives I can better see how this article fits in. Thanks for the wake up call. Having my misconceptions corrected is an important part of personal growth.

32 Andreww Hodgson March 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Works of Art that anyone can buy . Part of Rockwell America but all the more interesting and fascinating for that. Give thanks for the mind that had the idea. The permit could have been a smeared rubber stamp on a gritty buff card .
Well Done TAOM!

33 BuckeyeMark March 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm

one of the problems with those who didn’t like the article is I suspect they have never been duck hunting. to hold a duck stamp from ten years is ago is to remember that sudden cold snap that pushed the birds in, having to bust ice to put out decoys and how a perfect call snapped a group of greenheads around, they backed and dropped their landing gear, and we rose and fired ….

a wet labrador. a warm shotgun. hot coffee. good friends. a duck stamp affixed to the back of a hunting license (and signed across the front as required) was your ticket to all of the above.

I don’t save my licenses but I always snip the stamp out and deposit it in my keeps drawer. I don’t want to use the p-i-t-y word for those who don’t understand but it does seem awfully appropriate doesn’t it?

34 Tape March 16, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Awesome! My uncle has finished in the top 10 of the Federal Duck Stamp competition 4 times since the mid-90s (I think in the top 5 twice), and has won the Wisconsin duck stamp twice, as well as the Wisconsin inland trout stamp and Great Lakes trout/salmon stamp.

I’ve always loved the stamps, and everything they represent is pretty damn manly if you ask me: hunting/fishing, general outdoorsman-liness, and the conservation of nature. Any man should feel good to participate in these activities.

35 Andy B March 16, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Appreciating art, of any kind: Manly
Having the patience to collect things over time, especially of value: Manly
Hunting (while not my bag): Manly
Being a conservationist: Manly
Writing about something meaningful to you, and ruffling a few feathers: Manly

Keep up the great work Brett!

36 Dan March 16, 2010 at 11:46 pm

I have an odd collection as well: university drinkware. Just as the duck stamps aren’t about the stamps but instead hunting and the outdoors, I’d like to think the cups are about travel and soaking up the optimistic vibes from the campuses. I’d have never seen the amazing towns of Missoula, Flagstaff, Iowa City, Laramie, Knoxville, Asheville, etc. otherwise.

37 John Mills Jr. March 17, 2010 at 1:50 am

I sell Federal Duck Stamps at the Sporting Goods store where I work. I am only 23, but I have had a great many of my customers, from their 30′s to their 60′s, tell me with great pride how far back their, and in some cases their father’s, collection goes.
Great article.

38 Cosy Amar March 17, 2010 at 2:30 am

I was introduced to philately (stamps collecting) by my teacher at the age of 10. I am now 70, and have been collecting stamps all these years. I am on the EXCO of my national philatelic society, and have attended local and international exhibition in different parts of the world. I am currently also the auction committee chairman, and we organise an auction every month.

Like any other hobby, unless you are part of it, you will never know the joy(s) the hobby can bring you.

Philately is known as “The Hobby of Kings and King of the Hobbies”!

The duck stamps are very beautiful indeed, and I am sure many a thematic collector would find them very interesting. In fact I would like to seek permission to reproduce the article for my local club newsletter as well as the journal…

Stamps these days are an investment, and the rarer stamps only go UP in value…

39 Cosy Amar March 17, 2010 at 3:56 am


The most famous rare and expensive stamp is the 1856 British Guiana, 1 cent, ‘Black on Magenta’. purchased in 1922 by millionaire Arthur Hind of Utica, New York, for 7,343 British pounds. Around that time, rumors circulated that because Hind was obsessed with the stamp, he had bought a second one-cent Black on Magenta and destroyed it so that his remaining one- cent Black on Magenta would remain as the only one in the world.

Some may not consider collecting stamps a manly activity, but would you consider buying an expensive item and destroying it as an act of a MAN!

40 Tyler Logan March 17, 2010 at 5:08 am

Saying it has nothing to do with manliness is an opinion. One I’m free to express. I didn’t say it was bad, or worthless – I said it didn’t correspond to the site in my eyes.


Grow up.


I’m glad you like my site.

41 Whippet March 17, 2010 at 7:50 am

@Tyler Logan

This exalted audience of gentlemen will judge by simply reading our respective posts who the one is that should, in your eloquent words, “grow up”.

42 Tyler Logan March 18, 2010 at 4:24 am


Thanks, but no-one needs to judge. This isn’t a competition, I’m not challenging your manliness – stop acting like it. Instead, realise that people have different opinions than you and have the right to express them with respect. You’re not a man or a gentleman until you learn that quality.

43 Whippet March 18, 2010 at 6:26 am

@Tyler Logan,

What you seem to forget in your equation of “freedom of opinion” is that it goes hand-in-hand with the right to criticize opinion. And like it or not, you shall be judged by that. (As in “grow up”. Is that really the best you can do?)
The problem with “freedom of opinion” and one that you highlight so brightly in your posts is that knowledge of subject matter is clearly not a qualification for opinion.

Therefore, best advice is to open a book or two, gain some knowledge, or try to learn a little about the issue or subject matter at hand before exercising your right of opinion.

You’re not a man or a gentleman until you learn that quality.

44 Red & Black Redneck March 23, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Great post. The duck stamps can also lead to the collecting of the artwork (specifically etchings) created by the artists such as Richard Bishop, Frank Benson, Ding Darling, J.D. Knap, Roland Clark and Lynn Bogue Hunt. I have etchings from many of these men hanging in my office and they serve to remind me of well spent time with my uncle, grandfather, dad, friends and dogs!

45 Iowa personal injury lawyer March 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Thanks for the history of the stamp, its all very interesting. You’ve created a unique collection, thanks for sharing your favorites.

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