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WASHINGTON MINIATURE SHEETS
By Michael Jaffe
When Washington issued its first duck stamp in 1986, it issued two different formats - a sheet of 30 with a plate number in the margins of each of the four corners and a booklet of 25 single stamps. The booklet stamp was different than any other state issued stamps at the time. The stamp and perforations were identical to the sheet stamps except there were large margins of selvedge on all four sides giving the appearance of what stamp collectors call miniature sheets. License vendors received books of 25 stamps separated by a carbonless duplicate. Printed on the left side of the selvedge was a place to write down the hunters license number. Printed on the right selvedge was a space for the date sold and a box to check if the stamp was being purchased for collecting purposes.
The 1986 waterfowl stamp was the first of state and was required for waterfowl hunting, (Washington hunters were already used to purchasing extra stamps since upland game bird stamps were first sold in 1971). To educate hunters of this new requirement, there was a great deal of statewide publicity. This publicity spilled over into the philatelic marketplace and stamp collectors and other interested parties sought these stamps at sporting goods stores. Sporting goods stores were happy to oblige collectors (license vendors charge an additional 50 for issuing these stamps. A hunter or collector would pay $5.50 per stamp) and would check the appropriate collector box prior to tearing the stamp out of the booklet, leaving the top selvedge still in the book. When the book was completely filled, the agent would send the book of carbons to the Department of Fish & Game headquarters in Olympia with appropriate payment. (At the end of the season, agents had to either pay for or return remaining stamps).
Sales of stamps to collectors were consistent throughout the year. It seemed that many people in the state who had never purchased a stamp for any purpose other than to mail a letter were buying the first Washington waterfowl stamp. What these buyers did not realize was that the stamp lost any appreciation potential when it was torn out of the book. After all, the stamp cannot be called a miniature sheet if the top selvedge is missing. I estimate that between 3000 and 3200 complete mini sheets of the 1986 stamp were sold and that over 1000 stamps exist without the top selvedge.
Astute collectors believed that this stamp should be collected in its complete form, however when they wrote to the state, they were informed that only complete books, less the carbons, would be sold. If they wanted a single stamp, they had to purchase one from the sheet of 30. Although some collectors went to the expense of purchasing a complete book, most purchased a single stamp from a dealer who specialized in duck stamps.
The two formats remained consistent for several years. In 1991, the state received their entire supply of collector and agent stamps printed with the $5.00 face value. On the first day of sale, July 1, Governor Gardner signed into law a bill increasing license fees 20%, including the Washington duck stamp. As is the case with most Washington laws, this one did not take effect for 15 days. Hunters and collectors who purchased their stamps prior to the 15th could buy them for $5.00 each, after the 15th, the price would be $6.00. Although it was known that the bill was in the legislature, it was unknown if the Governor would sign it. Stamps had to be printed well in advance of the signing date, thus the $5.00 face value.
Since the new waterfowl stamp price was to be $6.00, Don Kraege, Waterfowl program manager had a couple of decisions to make. Should a new stamp be printed with the $6.00 face value or should the $5.00 stamps remain in place, but sell for $6.00. In a conversation I had with Kraege, I brought up the point that collectors wouldn't have a problem with either decision, but problems would occur with licensed agents in sporting goods stores if employees or customers became confused about the price. A decision was made to print new stamps immediately. Agents who had already received an early order of stamps were asked to return those when the reprinted stamps were delivered.
The next decision to be made was whether to destroy the $5.00 stamps (which would make them rather scarce, as they would have been available for only 15 days) or to keep them on sale. Kraege eventually decided to make both $5.00 and $6.00 stamps available to collectors. The charge would be $6.00 for either stamp.
I've run a new issue service selling state duck stamps for years. One of the stamps that created the most problems for my staff was the Washington Mini sheet. The two large staples that hold the book together at the top are extremely difficult to remove without causing damage to the selvedge on the top stamps, and as a result, I and my staff had more than one broken fingernail trying to take them apart. Dozens of the $5.00 1991 books had just been broken down for one of our shipments. When Kraege informed me that the stamps would be reprinted (both collector and agent), I asked if it would be possible to get a box of some stamps (40 books) prior to the stapling process. After Kraege called the printer, I was informed that the answer was yes, so the order was placed. The stamps had serial numbers #130,001-131,000. The majority of these stamps were shipped to new issue customers.
A new policy began in August 1991, which allowed collectors to purchase individual miniature sheets from the state. Prior to this only full books could be purchased.
In 1992 the check off box for collectors on the right side selvedge of the miniature sheet was eliminated. One thousand miniature sheets were produced without being stapled into the book. These serial numbers were #30,001-31,000. However due to printing problems, 150 of these stamps had to be destroyed.
During late 1992, Kraege received calls from other duck stamp dealers who inquired about purchasing these "no staple hole" varieties. After consultation, it was decided that 2000 stamps would be left unbound for 1993.
The 1993 stamps no longer had serial numbers on the front, they were now on the back. Miniature sheets without staple holes had serial numbers #30,001-32,000. Susanne Timm, who filled the Washington State duck stamp orders reports that a total of 1064 of these stamps were sold by the destruction date of June 30, 1994.
The number of miniature stamps ordered in 1994 remained the same as 1993 (2000). Serial numbers are #30,001-32,000. Upon inspection, a few of the stamps were found to be damaged. These damaged stamps are estimated to number about 100-150.
Although not verified, I was told that similar quantities (2000) were issued of the 1995 to 1998 stamps.
The no staple hole variety is not on the order form supplied by the state and can only be ordered in quantities of 25 or more. If you would like to obtain any of these stamps we can supply them to you.
Time will tell whether these no staple hole mini sheets will increase in popularity and value. Since these stamps are not on the official state order blank, most collectors are not aware of them. Many collectors who normally don't collect booklet stamps prefer the clean look of the no hole miniature sheet and would probably purchase one if given the choice. I recommend purchasing one each of all the Washington miniature sheets.