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1998 State Ducks; Winners and Losers

by Bob Dumaine

At the conclusion of each year, it has become a tradition for me to review the past year's state duck stamps. In the case of the "raspberry" awards, remember that I am not an artist, and criticizing is a lot easier than doing the work.

In 1998, 44 states issued stamps, with Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia being dropouts.

Tennessee is planning to re-establish their issue in a new format, definitely a good move from the 1970's computer card process they were using. (See related story, page 3.) Missouri and Nebraska are great duck states, and should cut through the bureaucratic debris and rebuild their stamp programs. The other three are not missed.

Pintails and mallards graced six stamps each in 1998, trailed by Canada geese on five, with the balance being scattered on a variety of species. Dogs appeared on four stamps, and a lighthouse on only one. Robert Steiner topped the list of artists with five designs, and other past federal winners Joe Hautman and Maynard Reece had one design each.

The first "award" which I will call The Welcome Back Award, goes to Maynard Reece, for his Idaho stamp. Five-time federal winner Reece has not done a state stamp since 1993, and his re-entry into the state duck field reinforces the stature of state programs. His art style is classic, and his Idaho design of Canada geese is vintage Reece.

Kansas' stamp gets my Ho-Hum Award for 1998 as the most boring. The design is the same as the 1997 stamp, with the color changed from blue to light green. Very imaginative; I bet they have the most economical program of any state, their biggest expense is the cost of new ink.

The Longest Title on a Stamp goes to Mississippi. In fact, it was so long, they had to abbreviate the name to "Miss." I feel a bit like Andy Rooney here, but you would think they would be proud enough of their state to advertise it by using large letters. Why not abbreviate "the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks?" The answer must be the DWF&P made the stamp, so they get to abbreviate whatever suits their fancy. Runner-up awards go to New Hampshire and North Carolina, who also choose to abbreviate their stateís names.

Additionally, both Mississippi and North Carolina elected to feature prominent buildings on their stamps, almost replacing the waterfowl as the main theme. While obviously of some historic significance, they add nothing to the wildlife or conservation theme. Perhaps they should consider producing a Chamber of Commerce Stamp featuring local hotspots, tourist traps, and watering holes, and leave the duck stamps alone.

Georgiaís stamp is certainly attractive, and merits my 1998 Photogenic Award. Notice the black lab staring squarely at the camera or artist, and the ring-necked ducks landing directly behind him. Iíve hunted with a lot of dogs, but Iíve yet to see one that would rather look at me than a flock of ducks landing five feet away. Maybe heís on his break, snoozing, or plain just doesnít want to chase any ducks today.

The award for the Most Abusive, Unnecessary and Senseless Se-tenant goes to California for their vertical pair of $10.50 each stamps. The only purpose of the design appears to be the extraction of another $10.50 from collectors, a favorite gimmick of the stampís publisher.

Since hunters need only one stamp, the double stamp is a not-so-subtle way of having innocent, non-hunting collectors subsidize the stateís program. And the best part is that California hunters killing California ducks pay only half the fee collectorís are paying, who donít kill anything. Annoying, to say the least.

Florida garners the Accounting Award for the biggest piece of paper with the smallest stamp. It seems these folks are more interested in statistics than art, as the record keeping area is about 150% larger than the stamp image.

Oregonís stamp was not received until the middle of January, although the check accompanying our order was cashed in September. The title of customer service department is obviously an oxymoron.

Two states ran neck and neck for the best Non-Duck, Duck Stamp Award. Hawaii, a beautiful state with poor taste in stamps, features a wild turkey and New York's stamp depicts a family of osprey.

It was difficult selecting my Least-Favorite Stamp this year. Many of the above stamps were contenders, but after considerable reflection I feel the award should go to Kansas for their repetition of a lackluster design. Bad enough to use it in the first place, but then to do it again; ugh. I expect we will see it again next year, so this will be the final time they will merit mention for their unimaginative label. I do approve of the concept of using the same vignette for multiple years for economy purposes, but I feel this design lacks strength and definition.

The first runner-up for my Favorite Design goes to Washington and Robert Steiner for his Barrow's goldeneyes. And now, for my best of the year, that painting which just jumps out of the frame, the one that makes you want to be there, the one that makes you want to be a duck, and the one that best uses light, perspective, and color.

For 1998, my Favorite Design on a State Duck Stamp goes to Alaska, with Steiner's Barrow's goldeneyes. This makes a repeat win for Alaska, also my first choice in 1997.

Steiner has obviously perfected his ability to paint these ducks since he won the federal contest with this species. Congratulations to Bob Steiner for his great artwork!

Remember that these opinions are my own, and certainly not intended to offend anyone. Rather, I offer what I feel are suggestions, some perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, but intended to help improve waterfowl stamp issuing programs.

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