The Art of
"You've got to stop and smell the roses!"
by Tom DeLuca
What wise advice this is, especially for duck stamp collectors! Yet, how many of us truly
take the time (or make the time) to enjoy and appreciate our collections? Not enough I'm
This appreciation aspect of collecting is what all the research, definition,
acquisition and collecting is all about. It is the process by which we enjoy the
"fruits" of our labor. When was the last time you pulled your collection out,
just to page through and admire it?
If there is anything at all you'll do after reading this article, promise me this: you
will set aside one precious solitary undisturbed hour sometime soon, and you will pull
your federal duck stamp collection out. Slowly and methodically, starting from the
beginning, whether it contains six or all 66 -- look at, absorb, study, magnify, enjoy and
smile at each and every stamp you own. There is so much you haven't seen!!
After all, the federal ducks are without question the best series of U.S. stamps ever
designed and created. Each and every stamp was painted by a top-notch wildlife artist,
then meticulously engraved to scale by a master craftsman, and after several generations
of being saved and cherished, was ultimately purchased by you for your collection.
How can you not appreciate them? The real "dividends" they pay can't be
measured in terms of dollars but more in terms of sense -- a sense of accomplishment, a
sense of satisfaction, a sense of beauty, a sense of wonder, a sense of history.
On the mono-color issues, note how well each detail is engraved and how the artistic
series of bold and soft lines, dots, and dashes merge into a delicate completion of
As you progress through the
series, notice the increased complexity of design and background. You will see the
expansion of the bird's size and detail and the trend of the duck blending with the
habitat. Enjoy the intricate patterns and designs in the frames and borders of each stamp
and how the lettering and typography changes through the years.
As you reach
the mid-1960's and the early multi-color issues, note how they are actually separate color
engraved fields that are mapped out on the design. As the years pass by and printing
techniques improved, you quickly start to see the blending of colors, engraving and added
offset color with some fine inter-weaving of the engravings at times. You note under
magnification how the registration of these colors can vary greatly, and how they affect
the image and presentation.
Compare the prominence and size of the birds
and backgrounds in the 1980s issues with those of the 1940s or 1950s and you will realize
more fully the growth and evolution of this wonderful series of stamps.
As you closely
examine the 1987 or 1988 issues you step into the next and current method of production
that allows the color, softness, and detail of these stamps to match the original artwork
and yet also retain the engraved primary color aspect of its formidable predecessors.
Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder - and it is only with individual
attention and time coupled with close inspection and detailed study that you, the
beholder, can see the beauty of what you have collected. Every time you pull out your
collection from this moment on, you will see something new, something different, something
you've never seen before.
It is this level of duck stamp appreciation, that maximizes your pleasure,
and propels you into the highest realm of what I refer to as the "Art of
From Duck Tracks, First Quarter 1999, Vol. 7, No. 1