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Coveted Duck Stamps Sell Out Fast at U.S. Show


Duck stamps are a hot commodity. So hot that duck stamp collectors are upset about how fast a limited issue of a new souvenir stamp vanished this past week at the largest stamp show in U.S. history here in Washington. They squawked that small collectors are getting a fowl deal. NPR's Libby Lewis has more.

LIBBY LEWIS reporting:

Forget Congressman William Jefferson's freezer or the fate of Karl Rove. The real scandal de jour in Washington, D.C. is in the federal duck stamp program. At least it is to hundreds of small collectors who hope to get their hands on a limited issue of this year's souvenir stamp. This year's image of a Ross's Goose debuted at the Washington 2006 International Philatelic Exhibition. But many collectors came away empty-handed and grousing about big-time dealers cornering the market, about profit and greed.

Mr. RUSSELL SHERMAN (Stamp Collector, Chicago): They messed things up and there's a lot of explaining to do. This is a black eye publicity-wise.

LEWIS: That's Russell Sherman of Chicago, an empty-handed collector. The souvenir sheets vanished about two hours after they went on sale at the show, while hundreds of people were still in lines that snaked around the convention center. The problem isn't just that there weren't enough of the souvenir sheets to go around, it's the after-market, the chance to resell the sheets that irk some collectors like Dennis Gelson(ph). He's a duck stamp collector from State College, Pennsylvania.

Mr. DENNIS GELSON (Duck Stamp Collector, State College, Pa.): Before the sales, the sheets went on sale, there were people on the floor already posting buy ads. The sheets sold for $25 and they started - we started to see ads right away for 40 and then the dealers were starting to bid each other up. Later in the show, we saw a $100, $130. I mean we expect - I expect if you go on eBay in the next few days that you're going to see these things listed in the hundreds of dollars.

LEWIS: Last year's souvenir sheets originally sold for $20.00. Most wound up in the hands of big dealers. They're now retailing for between two to three thousand dollars. That helped fueled this year's run on the sheets. Pat Fisher heads the Federal Duck Stamp Program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ms. PAT FISHER (Federal Duck Stamp Program): I'm new and other people here are new. We can do better and we're going to work to do better.

LEWIS: Fisher wants to make sure this year's chaos doesn't happen again. What she can't change is the fact there's an after-market she has no control over. Foster Miller got his hands on ten of the sheets. He's asking, does he sell today at $100 or wait until tomorrow when the price might go up?

Mr. FOSTER MILLER (Stamp Collector): Are any of us proud for doing it? Well, it's the American way I guess.

LEWIS: Libby Lewis, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Libby Lewis
Libby Lewis is an award-winning reporter on the National Desk whose pieces on issues of law, society, criminal justice, the military and social policy can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day, Weekend Edition Saturday, and other NPR shows.