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APS Affiliate #210

Second Major Duck Error Found on RW70!

By Bob Dumaine

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Just a few weeks ago two panes of RW70 were discovered imperforate, the first such discovery in seventy years!  NOW, a second MAJOR ERROR has come to light.  Twelve examples with the Back Inscription Omitted were found in a small Kentucky town by a collector/hunter!   This is the first time two major errors have been detected on the same issue to my knowledge.  The printer of this issue was the Ashton Potter Company of Williamsville, New York.   Although experienced printers, this was their rookie effort at printing a federal duck stamp.


The error was discovered in November of 2003 when buying a stamp for hunting.  The buyer had specifically asked the local Postmaster to obtain some “lick and stick” traditional type stamps, as he prefers this type to hunt and collect.  When he purchased his stamp, he noticed the omitted writing, and returned the next day to find only twelve stamps remained, since the Postmaster was selling these to get rid of the balance on hand.  In June 2004, he re-contacted SHDC and sold the lot!


There are only three other issues with certified similar errors, namely RW29, 35 and 57.  Only one or two examples of RW29 and RW35 have been certified, but several hundred of RW57.  Although on the reverse of the stamp, it is a Major Error, an omission in the printing process.  On issues printed after RW20, the writing is on top of the gum, so examples must have full original gum to be authentic.



by Bob Dumaine

News Release, May 26, 2004


Click on the thumbnails to see an enlargement of the pictures.

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Prior to mid-April 2004, the only known imperforate Federal Duck Stamp was RW1, the 1934 stamp, issued 70 years earlier. Perhaps the 1934 issue was printer’s waste, so possibly RW70 is the very first uncontested imperforate federal duck stamp.

The P.S.E. has certified three different items from the initial find as “genuine imperforate.” Pairs have sold from $3,500 to $7,000, with plate blocks about double that amount. The entire pane was sold within days of receipt.

It is believed two panes of twenty stamps each exist, of which an entire pane plus a plate block from the second was purchased by myself. The location of the discovery was not made known to me, as I bought the item through a third party, and the owner and his location remain anonymous. 

The 2003 stamp was printed by the Ashton Potter Company of Buffalo, New York, their first attempt at a duck stamp. Historically, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced the first 68 years, and American Bank Note Company the 69th year.

The timing of this error’s appearance seems to imply they were discovered during the inventory/return phase for unsold 2003 stamps. After the close of duck hunting season, Post Offices reduce their accountable paper inventory as soon as possible. Only major Post Offices, distribution centers, or private distribution firms had large quantities on hand.

The 2003 water activated duck stamp had quality issues from its date of release on July 1, 2003. Well-centered examples were, and remain very difficult to locate, with about half a dozen color variations known. Superb examples of the water-activated stamp are extremely elusive, and command a high value premium.

To place the rarity of this duck stamp error in perspective, approximately one million of the water activated duck stamps are now printed, with a little over 100,000 actually sold. Typically, several hundred million postage-type commemoratives and definitive stamps are printed per issue. Errors are rare on these issues, so consider the much lower probability of finding an error on the miniscule quantity of the federal duck stamp.

Remember, the PSA type duck stamps are the preferred stamp today. They are the size of a dollar bill and fit perfectly into cash drawers. The PSA type and is also bar coded for recording easy sale and inventory. Approximately 1.5 million of these stamps are sold annually, but thus far zero major errors have been reported.

The federal duck stamp was long a source or pride for the BEP, and rightfully so. With the recent production of the duck stamp being contracted out to private security printers, the once heavily engraved stamps are skeletons of past issues. Lower production costs are the obvious culprits of the changing quality.

Perhaps the “low bidder getting the job” is not the best choice for a stamp program with such a long history of excellence.


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