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Remarques Gain in Collectability

From the December 2, 2002 issue.

The 1952 federal duck stamp picturing Harlequin ducks could be the most understated of all species depicted on a federal duck stamp. The first 25 duck stamps all were one color and rarely reflect the actual beauty of the waterfowl. This is particularly true of this ultramarine $2 stamp shown in Figure 1, giving the impression that these birds are rather ordinary in appearance. Quite the opposite is true; the Harlequins are dressed to the nines!

To help display these ducks in their natural beauty, a popular duck stamp sideline evolved. The idea was to add original art to the stamp, then to be called a remarque (pronounced "RE-mark"). Long popular with duck stamp prints, it has recently caught on with the actual stamps as well.

When possible, the art is added by the stampís artist. However, when the stamp artist is deceased or unwilling, another artist may be commissioned. The remarque makes the stamp unique, since duplication is virtually impossible.

The small area available to place the artwork presents a challenge that some artists decline to accept. Drawing such detail is time-consuming and leaves little room for error. As a result, high-quality examples are difficult to obtain.

In the case of our Harlequins, Ken Michaelsen has added a color remarque as a tribute to the stampís artist, John Dick, now deceased. (Michaelsen is himself the artist of the 1979 federal duck stamp.) His remarque, pictured in Figure 1, shows the hidden beauty of this species and, in my opinion, adds to the stampís appeal.

After all-monochrome federal stamps from 1934 to 1958, the very popular 1959 $3 stamp, portraying champion black Labrador retriever King Buck, was the first multicolored design. Figure 2 shows another Michaelsen remarque, with additional color and excitement.

It was not until 1965 that multicolor stamps reflected duck species. Even then, they do not correctly depict the species.

Figure 3 shows the first stamp remarque I ever saw, on the 1975 $5 federal stamp by James Fisher. The sketch of a Labrador retriever holding a duck is highly detailed.

Figure 4 shows a remarque by Arthur Anderson on his 1987 $10 duck stamp.

The remarque features a golden retriever holding a redhead against a lake scene, which he has blended into the stamp design. In addition, Anderson added an extra drake to the face of the stamp, almost indistinguishable from the printed ducks (the added duck is indicated by the arrow).

Remarque fees range from $60 to $150 or more, depending on the detail and time required and the artist himself.
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  • Remarques Gain in Collectability

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