Duck stamps and prints.

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dec 8, 2003
They say there’s no such thing as stupid questions, just stupid people. Well I’m really going to let my ignorance hang out there on this one.

Can anybody give me a quick education on duck stamps and prints? I have framed a few of these lately and they have sparked my interest.

These prints are all about the same small size. Were these painted exclusively for the stamp or are there bigger versions? I have “First Flight” by Larry Dyke on my wall and some guy claims that is on a stamp. I have my doubts.

Who sales them?

Why do these vary WILDLY in price for similar years and edition sizes?

This is an open-ended thread so feel free to take this discussion anywhere related to this topic. Thanks friends.

Carry On.
Just a quick primer based on what I know about "Duck Prints"...I'm sure there are more knowledgeable folks out there, but here goes.

The Federal government and all the states have published duck prints although I have heard that some states have discontinued the process. The Federal government and N.C. in particular hold competitions each year to select the image that appears on the print and the stamp which are identical. These competitions are based on original art works in various medias (oils. watercolors, etc.)...all of which must feature wildfowl, hence the name. The winning picture is then reproduced as limited edition, numbered prints signed by the artist with identical stamps and sold to collectors. In previous years, the stamps themselves had to be bought by hunters as part of the licensing process. In many states, the hunting stamp process has been computerized making the actual stamp just a collector's item.
Normally, the prints are sold and are available for about two years and then the remainder are destroyed thus, theoretically, increasing the value of those sold.

You are right, the price of these prints, particularly on the resale market, can vary widely. Some are much more collectible than others...for example, the 1989 N.C. duck print which shows the Hatteras lighthouse in the background. is my impression that the popularity of collecting duck prints has waned somewhat in recent years. However, I sell about 50 N.C., a couple of VA, and 15 Federal duck prints per year to folks who have been collecting the same numbered print for years. I frame most of them also. The Federal print/stamp has been produced since the 1930's (I think)...N.C. since 1983. Winning one of these competitions is big business for a group of artists.

Now you know what I know!

I have dealt in duck stamps and prints for all of my framing career up until recently. The prints are made from the winning original that is entered in state and national competitions for the image to be displayed on the coming year's duck stamp. The national duck stamp competition was started many years ago back in the 30's, I think, and was won by an artist by the name of "Ding" Darling. (THAT's a hard name to forget!!) Since then the competition has grown to be one of the most prestigious competitions for the wildlife artist. The judging is about the most strict and ranks up there with the national duck decoy competition held on the East coast each year.

The national prints are distributed to all the state and local Ducks Unlimited chapters to be auctioned and sold as part of their annual fundraiser. You can also buy the prints at most of the larger wildlife art shows, particularly those that are attended by the winning artist. The state winners are also distributed to the DU chapters and sold by galleries and also by the winning artist directly sometimes.

Most times the print is matted and framed with the accompanying stamp encapsulated in Mylar and mounted in an opening directly below the print opening. That has been the traditional method of mounting although I have seen the stamps mounted in openings at the lower left corner also.

The price of these prints is governed by the secondary art demand for the prints as is any quality print that has reached the "sold out" level from the distributor. Supply and demand dictates the secondary market price for these prints although the older the print is and the lower the edition size of the print, the more valuable it may become. The newer prints are issued in such large quantities that the value becomes more of a status symbol by owning one of a popular artist than the actual collectibility of the print.

If you want to see flawless anatomy of a migratory bird in print, take a close look at any of the newer Duck Stamp prints. The artist will spend countless hours studying the flight patterns, exterior anatomy, and sometimes the nesting habits and terrain of their home to make everything as accurate as possible.

I have been priviledged to meet and become friends with such competition winners as the Hauptmann brothers, Owen Gromme when he was alive and painting, Maynard Reece, one of the pioneers of the wildlife print concept, and Bruce Miller. You can meet many of these prominent artists at such shows as the Michigan Wildlife Federation Wildlife Art Show in Southfield, MI each year or the same show in the Twin Cities, MN.

So there is about as many different places to get these prints as there are prints themselves? An D.U. might be a good place to start?
A word about framing duck prints. As Framerguy said...the normal method of framing includes the stamp mounted in a separate cutout encased in mylar or a stamp protector (I use Showgard) centered below the opening for the print itself. On those occasions when the customer has both the mint stamp and one signed by the artist I do two side-by-side cutouts again centered under the print with appropriate distance between them. As far as size is concerned, all the state prints and the Federal are the same least the ones from the six states I've framed and the Federal were. This allowed me to "standardize" the framing presentation for my repeat customers that allows them to have a nice display on their walls. However, beware of DU sponsor prints...they look "about" the same size as the duck prints, come with stamps, etc, but, often, the size will vary. Measure to be sure.

BTW...Nice explanation Framerguy!
I use Sport'Art as my primary source of duck prints. N.C. publishes the print themselves, but Sport'Art distributes them. That said, I get the VA print from a very nice DU member operating officially out of his home in Williamsburg, VA. Good prices on prints in the secondary market can often be found on Ebay.
Be careful when buying for collectors, you might end up collecting for them. We did quite well with them until the DU got involed and matted and sold them with the banquet tickets for $35 and then sold do-it-yourself frames.

South Dakota over the years had a waterfowl which ran for several years, stopped and started again, added a pheasant stamp as well.

The Federal stamp is the biggie and went up in price from selling at $100 in the late 70's to probably $200 today. They also put out Special editions w/wo stamps etc.

I also collected the National parks print for 10 years. The Canada Duck stamp was appealing because of it's painterly quality compared to the exact detail of the US.

South Dakota Artist ---Wilson, first name escapes me, won the Federal stamp and became a millionaire over night. He told us once that all of the decisions he had to make almost caused him a nervous breakdown.

Complete sets of just stamps, used or new can bring a good price. We knew a lady who put her husbands in the trash after his death. We've always hoped some garbage collector found them and made a few thousand $$$.

We still have a few, we frame them as donations to the DU auctions.

I'm sure if you do a search on Federal DU prints you will find values etc. Here it is.
The South Dakota artist is John Wilson. He is a quiet man who really prefers to stay out of the limelite, so I can understand his comments about a nervous breakdown. He has a studio in downtown Watertown and can be seen at the annual wildlife art show at the Watertown event center in September. I used to frame a lot of DU prints and stamps but the have really slowed down along with most wildlife art.

As several others have posted, Duck Stamp prints have gone south along with wildlife art in general. I'm sure this will come back, but question whether it will be as strong and hypped as it was in the mid 1980's.

Thanks for the link to the Brookman's guide, JPete, but it's important to remember that this is a pricing guide to the stamps and not the Stamp Prints.

Gene Scott's recommendation on using Showgard Stamp mounts is right on.....Size 36 to be exact for most all Federal and State stamps. After inserting, the mount can be trimmed to size. An opening of 2 x 2-5/8 inch worked very well. In the image below, you note that we found an asymetrical presentation typically was more dynamic then postioning a single mint stamp in the center under the print...


If the customer preferred both a signed (by the artist) and mint stamp then we'd center the two with about 3/4 inch of matting between them.

We certainly don't frame as many of these as we used to. :(

Originally posted by Gene Scott:
I use Sport'Art as my primary source of duck prints. N.C. publishes the print themselves, but Sport'Art distributes them.
Gene -- Does Sport'en Art distribute the prints wholesale to frameshops? I haven't been able to find contact information for them -- do you have info you could share?

Interestinly, I just had a customer come in and want to sell her collection. DO not know what she has but can find out if anyone is interested.
I also know of another shop here in NC that has a pretty good collection of all the years prints and stamps were done. So there again, if interested I will get info for you. I am not at the shop wright now with that info.
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