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A print of the 1959 Federal Duck Stamp by Maynard Reece, estimated at $2,000-$3,000 at Ahlers & Ogletree.

Large collection of historic federal duck stamp art comes to Ahlers & Ogletree July 17

ATLANTA, GA – The July 17 sale of Historical Documents, Books, and Americana at the Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery includes a collection of duck stamp prints deaccessioned from the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, GA. Offered in 70 lots, the artist prints are framed alongside a version of the actual stamp. The collection covers the first half century of the Federal Duck Stamp Program that was begun in 1934 under President Franklin Roosevelt.

The federal government levied a $1 tax on the hunting of waterfowl. Each hunter was required to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp annually, with the proceeds used to purchase wetlands for waterfowl habitat. The cartoonist and Pulitzer Prize winner and conservationist Jay Norwood ‘Ding’ Darling (1879-1962), a Hoover Republican, was appointed to head up the project and oversee the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act in 1934.

Largely responsible for establishing the network of nationwide game refuges, Darling was called ‘the best friend ducks ever had.’

A print of the first stamp created by Ding Darling has a guide of $4,000-$6,000. Signed and titled in pencil A Design for the first Federal Duck Stamp, 1934, the drypoint etching on paper has an Abercrombie and Fitch, New York label on the frame.

Darling’s image of two mallards landing on a marsh pond was followed by contributions in subsequent years from other noted American wildlife artists.

A print of the 1935 stamp by Frank Benson (1862-1951) is guided at $1,500-$3,000 while a 1936 etching of the stamp design provided by Richard E. Bishop (1887-1975) is expected to make $400-$800.

A decade later, the duck stamp contest was opened to the public: it remains the only art competition of its kind sponsored by the US Government. Iowa artist Maynard Reece (American 1920-2020) won the competition five times, winning in 1948, 1951, 1959, 1969 and 1971. There are prints of all of his designs in the sale, with a scarce first edition print of the 1959 entry, a retriever with a mallard in its mouth, guided at $2,000-$3,000.

The 1963 design was provided by Edward J. Bierly (1920-2004). A print of the etching on paper that is signed and titled in pencil is estimated at $300-$500 and will be followed to the auction block by the original and possibly unique printing plate for the stamp itself that has expectations of $400-$800.

duck stamp