In 2005, the USPS decided to offer a limited number of artist signed Duck stamps. The first mini-pane with a single Duck stamp and signed by the artist is Scott #RW72B. These mini-panes were a way to raise a few extra dollars for the Migratory Bird program.
This pane had very little publicity and only 1000 copies were signed. This original pane cost $20. It sold out in about 2 weeks. The catalog value is about $2000-$3000 depending on the color of pen used by the artist.
In subsequent years, the USPS issued other artist signed mini-panes, all signed in black ink. Because of the brisk sales in 2005, these later panes were printed in quantities of 10,000. In short, to obtain one of these panes, you had to submit your name and payment to a lottery. The cost of the mini-pane was in the ballpark of $30 which included shipping and handling.
While the 2005 pane is valuable and still in high demand, later years arenít as valuable. The 2006 and 2007 mini-panes sell for about $200 each (RW73B and RW74B). Other years sell for less than $100.
Now, the USPS has announced that it is discontinuing the sale of artist signed mini-panes on an annual basis. They left the door open to doing other ones in the future for special anniversaries. The main reason for discontinuing this program is the drop in demand, which, of course, leads to fewer sales. The USPS did not sell all of the panes from the last few years.
There are folks who will disagree with me, but I think much of this is due to the declining interest in Duck stamps. Donít get me wrong. Iím not saying they are going away. Interest is still strong, but not as strong as it was years ago.
In the 1980s and 1990s, interest was much stronger than it is today. When the 2005 mini-pane was issued, the 1000 copies werenít enough to meet demand. The 2006 and 2007 panes were, as far as I remember, sold out too. But since then, sales have been declining.
This is true of many things philatelic. At one time, collectors didnít collect postal history. Today, postal history is very popular. Like Duck stamps, interest in plate blocks is strong, but not as strong as it used to be. At one time, collectors saved Zip, Mail Early, and Copyright blocks of new issues. When the USPS stopped producing Zip and Mail Early slogans on panes of stamps, that field collapsed.
This again illustrates the point I always try to make. When you collect, you should collect for fun. The stamps you buy today may be ďhotĒ. What if collector interest in that area wanes over time? Itís impossible for anyone to predict with certainty which items will lose favor in time or which items will eventually be ďhotĒ. The profit you get from stamp collecting is the fun you have.