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Scott values for federal ducks stable, states volatile
|Each year in this column, I review Scott catalog value changes for United States federal and state duck stamps.
I feel this is a beneficial exercise that gives readers a feel for what is happening in the marketplace.
All values discussed in this column, both for mint, never-hinged and used stamps, come from the 2002 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, which was published in October 2001.
Note that the Scott U.S. specialized catalog values stamps in the grade of very fine.
To begin, the value for an entire set of used (hunter-signed) federal duck stamps, Scott RW1-68, is $1,310, about even with the value in the 2001 Scott U.S. specialized catalog.
A set of mint, never-hinged stamps jumps from $5,886 in 2001 to $6,096 in 2002.
A set of plate blocks of six continues its upward trek, rising from $51,870 to $55,637.
Nice increases overall, with more desirable stamps reflecting higher values.
The major increases in plate-block values are for the 1934 $1 Mallards (Scott RW1), which moves to $12,500 from $11,500, and for the $1 Canvasbacks of 1935 (Scott RW2), with a healthy jump to $10,000 from $8,750.
A plate block of six $1 Canvasbacks is pictured nearby.
Duck stamps issued from 1936 through 1942 (RW3-9) also post modest gains, as do stamps issued from 1950-59 (RW17-26).
As for mint singles, the $1 Pintail Drake (RW5), a much-sought-after stamp, jumps from $350 to $400.
The $1 Green-winged Teal (RW6) and the $1 Baldpates (RW9) each post a $25 gain, to $225. The $3 Labrador Carrying Mallard Drake (RW26), which continues to be in high demand, nudges up $5, to $100.
Half of the modern $15 duck stamps that are no longer for sale from the Stamp Fulfillment Services center (those duck stamps issued during 1991-98, RW58-65) each moved up to $24 from $22.50.
However, increases for these stamps are inconsistent.
For example, the first $15 duck, the King Eiders (RW58), remained unchanged, at $22.50, as did the $15 Canvasbacks, RW60.
But the $15 Spectacled Eider (RW59) increased to $24, as did the $15 Red-breasted Mergansers, $15 Mallards and $15 Surf Scoters, RW61-63, respectively.
My experience is that all the off-sale $15 stamps are equally difficult to acquire. Therefore, they all should be valued at $24 each.
Because of their high face values, collectors and dealers simply did not save sufficient quantities of these stamps.
Beginning with the 1998 $15 Barrow's Goldeneye stamps (RW65 and RW65A), each annual issue comprises two distinct federal duck stamps: water-activated (in panes of 30 for RW65-66 and panes of 20 for RW67-68) and self-adhesive (pane of one for RW65A-68A).
In time, I believe the water-activated stamps will be scarcer than their self-stick counterparts.
The reason remains very straightforward: with the exception of philatelic windows in larger cities, the lick-and-stick stamps generally were not made available to post offices.
A collector wandering into a post office to buy a modern duck stamp typically has one choice - a self-stick pane of one.
Sadly, I've received reports stating that many postal clerks are not aware that water-activated duck stamps still exist.
Eagle-eyed bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., have conducted studies that show a sharp decrease in sales of lick-and-stick duck stamps, and they therefore proclaim them to be unpopular.
It's a convenient self-fulfilling prophecy, but the fact is that collectors prefer traditional lick-and-stick stamps, which are significantly less expensive to produce than self-stick stamps.
As I reported in this column during 1997-98, self-stick duck stamps were created to increase convenience for retail outlets such as Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart and others.
A self-stick pane of one stamp is the size of a $1 bill. It bears a computer-scannable UPC for the price in the selvage, and it fits snugly into a cash drawer - a much more convenient format than a stack of water-activated panes that can be difficult to store in a cash register.
In the new Scott U.S. specialized catalog, values for state waterfowl stamps bounce around, with some issues gaining, some losing and most remaining stable.
One of the most notably under-valued states is Wyoming, I think, with many of the 1984-91 stamps valued below dealer buy prices.
Except for 1985, spaces for stamps from these years were not included in the original Scott state and federal duck stamp album.
After these stamps went off sale, many dealers and collectors found their inventories quickly exhausted.
The relationship between the Scott catalog value for a given state duck stamp and its availability in the stamp marketplace can be puzzling.
Some stamps have low catalog values but are nearly impossible to find, while others have higher values but are readily available from most dealers.
One example of an undervalued item is the 1994 $3.30 duck stamp from Utah (Scott 9), which pictures a mallard and Chesapeake Bay retriever.
The 2002 Scott U.S. specialized catalog values a mint single at $12, but most dealers would sell one for $50-$75.
Some of these variations are due to the timing of the analysis of marketplace data by the Scott editors, as well as by the publication schedule of the catalog.
In the case of the Utah stamp, the art print featuring it was immensely popular with collectors. Demand shot up, and loose stamps suddenly were absorbed from the market.
In other cases, quantities of state stamps have been discovered as forgotten caches, causing values to decrease.
One spectacular case involved Michigan's 1976 $2.10 Wood Duck, Scott 1.
In 1990, dealers were asking $35 per mint stamp. However, a huge quantity found in a dumpster in Michigan surfaced, dropping the value for a mint single to $5.
Basically, state duck collecting is still in its infancy compared to the collecting of postage stamps.
Values remain quite volatile, with many having risen, fallen and risen again.
Eventually, some state stamps prove to be very scarce, and others become very abundant. Collectors often are fickle, and dealers and speculators follow their lead.
During the down phase of pictorial state duck stamps in the early 1990s, many collections were sold. Dealers cut back their purchases of new stamps for inventory.
Today, there is a true shortage of state stamps that were removed from sale within a year or two after they were issued.
If you want to gain some quick knowledge regarding those state duck stamps that might become scarce, check the buy lists of various dealers.
Such lists generally can tell you volumes about stamps that might be hard to come by in the future.
The California Department of Fish and Game is holding a final sale of expired duck and upland game bird stamps until June 30, 2002.
Stamps from 1981-2001, with a face value of more than $2 million, will be destroyed after this date.
A department announcement states that "this change will benefit collectors, as they will no longer have to compete with [the] CDFG in selling these [stamps], and the limited availability will inherently increase their value."
In future years, California duck and upland game bird stamps will be offered for sale only through the June 30 expiration date.
A complete list featuring photos, along with order forms for all stamps and items offered for sale, is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov.
You may also purchase from the California Department of Fish and Game, License and Revenue Branch, 3211 S. St., Sacramento, CA 95816, phone 916-227-2261.