mid-April 2004, the only known imperforate Federal Duck Stamp was RW1, the 1934 stamp,
issued 70 years earlier. Perhaps the 1934 issue was printers 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 errors 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
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.