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Federal Proofs Sell for $25,000

On July 1, 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service marked the beginning of a new era in duck stamps with the release of the first self adhesive Federal Duck Stamp. This past December, the USFWS auctioned a philatelic rarity, the Federal Duck Stamp Design Proof of the new self-adhesive format.

The winning bid of $25,000 for this historic treasure was received from "a collector in the northeast," who only recently heard the results upon arrival from an extended trip abroad. Fortunately for that lucky collector, this was the only bid.

Designed and executed by The Bureau of Engraving and Printing as a testing device in October 1996, the printers produced only two sets of three different design imperforate proofs. These richly colored design proofs, or stamp essays, used the actual 1996-97 Federal Duck Stamp engraving plates to check the integrity of the self-adhesive paper under the extreme pressure of the intaglio printing process. The 1997-98 dates were used on the proofs in anticipation of an earlier release. Using the same paper stock that was eventually selected for the 1998-99 self-adhesive duck stamp, each then was cut by hand to simulate the die-cut process and to demonstrate the quality of the "peel and stick" feature.

Only one set was available for auction. The other set was bestowed to the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum during the Federal Duck Stamp First Day of Sale and Signing Ceremony on July 1, 1998. The funds collected from the auction will be deposited in the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to buy and restore wetlands for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Presented in a blue portfolio adorned with the gold embossed emblem of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the three proofs are accompanied by a special dossier tracing the changing design and production evolution.

For more information about the Federal Duck Stamp Program, call (202)208-4354, or visit the Fish and Wildlife Service homepage at www.fws.gov on the Internet. Click on "Duck Stamp" and scroll to the information category of your choice.

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