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J.N. "Ding" Darling with a sheet of the first Federal Duck Stamps (1934). USFWS/Smithsonian Institute
 
USFWS/Smithsonian Institute
 

What are Duck Stamps?
Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps,” are pictorial stamps produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are not valid for postage. Originally created in 1934 as federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl, Federal Duck Stamps have a much larger purpose today.

The first Federal Duck Stamp (1934-1935).  The artist is J.N. "Ding " Darling
First Federal Duck Stamp.
Design by J.N. "Ding" Darling

Early Duck Stamp Contest
USFWS/William Schmidt
The Second Federal Duck Stamp Contest (1951)

Federal Duck Stamps are vital tools for wetland conservation. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sale of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Understandably, the Federal Duck Stamp has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated and is a highly effective way to conserve America’s natural resources.


Besides serving as a hunting license and a conservation tool, a current Federal Duck Stamp also serves as an entrance pass for national wildlife refuges where admission is charged. Duck Stamps and products that bear stamp images are also popular collector items.

In 1989, the first Junior Duck Stamps were produced. Junior Duck Stamps are now the capstone of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Junior Duck Stamp environmental education program, teaching students across the nation “conservation through the arts.” Revenue generated by the sales of Junior Duck Stamps funds environmental education programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and several territories.

Today, many states issue their own duck stamps. In some states, the stamps are purely a collector’s item, but in others, the stamps have a similar role in hunting and conservation as Federal Duck Stamps.

For information regarding the authorizing legislation behind Duck Stamps, please see our "stamp law" page.

Download our brochure, The Federal Duck Stamp Story, for a brief history of both Federal and Junior Duck Stamps. Note: this is a PDF document. You will need to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software to view this document.

How do Duck Stamps benefit wildlife?

Since 1934, sales of Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $800 million, which has been used to purchase or lease over 6 million acres of wetlands habitat in the United States. These lands are protected in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Refuge System.

Waterfowl are not the only wildlife to benefit from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps. Numerous other bird, mammal, fish, reptile and amphibian species that rely on wetlands have prospered. Further, an estimated one-third of the nation's endangered and threatened species find food or shelter in refuges established using Federal Duck Stamp funds.

People, too, have benefited from the Federal Duck Stamp. Hunters have places to enjoy their sport and other outdoor enthusiasts have places to hike, watch birds, photograph and explore. Moreover, these protected wetlands help purify water supplies, store flood water, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, and provide spawning areas for fish important to sport and commercial fishermen.

Why should I buy duck stamps?

There are many reasons to buy Duck Stamps. Hunters over the age of 16 must purchase a Federal Duck Stamp each year if they want to hunt migratory waterfowl. Birders and other visitors to national wildlife refuges buy a $15 Federal Duck Stamp each year to gain free admission to refuges. Conservationists buy Duck Stamps because they know that the stamps are, dollar for dollar, one of the best investments one can make in the future of America’s wetlands. Collectors buy Federal and Junior Duck Stamps because the beautiful stamps can gain value over the years and are an important part of America’s outdoor culture. Finally, educators, conservationists, hunters, parents and students buy $5 Junior Duck Stamps to support conservation education programs.

Where can I buy Duck Stamps and Duck Stamp products?

Both Federal Duck Stamps ($15) and Junior Duck Stamps ($5) are sold in many post offices across the country. You can also buy both stamps on the internet, and at many national wildlife refuges, sporting goods and outdoor stores. Visit our “Stamps” page to learn where you can purchase Federal and Junior Duck Stamps.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Duck Stamp Office does not sell Duck Stamp products, but it does allow licensed vendors to make and sell products bearing the images of Federal and Junior Duck Stamps. Please see our “Products” page for a current list of vendors.
How are Duck Stamps made?

Each year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsors a stamp-design contest (usually held in the fall), with wildlife artists from across the nation submitting their work for judging by a panel of artists and wildlife experts. The winning art is used on the following year's stamp. Wildlife artists consider it a great honor to be selected as the winner of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest.

After the winning design has been selected, the Federal Duck Stamp Office designs and produce a stamp that meets the needs and expectations of the public.

A similar process is used for Junior Duck Stamps. Annually, thousands of students across the country enter artwork in their state's Junior Duck Stamp contest. Students from kindergarten to high school compete in one of four age brackets (K-3rd, 4th-6th, 7th-9th and 10th-12th) for a chance to win prizes. From the first place winners in each age bracket, state judges select one Best of Show to represent their state in the national contest. Each April, judges for the National Junior Duck Stamp Contest select a winner from the Best of Show entries to become the following year's Junior Duck Stamp.

Every year on July 1, the new Federal Duck Stamp and Junior Duck Stamp go on sale to the public at a First Day of Sale Ceremony. After the First Day of Sale, the stamps can be purchased at all national duck stamp retailers.

How can I participate in the Duck Stamp Contest?

Whether you are an artist or an interested citizen, you can participate in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. Anyone 18 or older can enter for a chance to see their artwork on a Federal Duck Stamp. Even if you do not enter, you can still participate by attending the contest and viewing the judging. The Federal Duck Stamp Contest is usually held in September or October. The exact dates and location vary. Call the Federal Duck Stamp Office at 703-358-1784 for current contest information.

Junior Duck Stamp Contest

You can also participate in the Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Any student in kindergarten through high school can enter. Teachers, parents, students or anyone interested can attend the state and national contest judging. Contact your state coordinator for information on state contests. The National Junior Duck Stamp Contest is usually held at the end of April. Call the Federal Duck Stamp Office at 703-358-2405 for current contest information.

Where can I view Duck Stamps?

You can see every Federal Duck Stamp and every Junior Duck Stamp, along with artist and production information, through our web image galleries.

Also, you can see a number of Federal Duck Stamps and Duck Stamp-related artifacts at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.
In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service transferred its complete set of duck stamps to the Smithsonian. Included in the collection is a complete set of die proofs. At transfer, the official collection consisted of 21 panes of 28 stamps each, dating from the first issue through 1954-1955. Under a current agreement between the Service and the Smithsonian, a sheet, a pane, and die proof of each issue is added to the collection annually.

Who can answer my questions about Duck Stamps?

For questions about buying current Federal and Junior Duck Stamps and Duck Stamp products or about the Federal or Junior Duck Stamp contests, please contact the Federal Duck Stamp Office.

If you have questions about historical Federal Duck Stamps/products or would like to know what an old Duck Stamp is worth, please contact a stamp dealer (search "Duck Stamp dealers" on the Internet) or an organization such as the National Duck Stamp Collector's Society.

 

Last updated: March 8, 2013
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