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Q & A
Fishing License Buttons
Question
I have recently started a collection of old "metal button" PA Fishing Licenses. I was wondering if you could tell me what years the buttons were offered and when the switch to paper licenses was made?
Answer
The very first fishing licenses in Pennsylvania were issued in 1919 and were required only for non-residents. Only 50 of the $5 paper permits were sold that year. In 1922, licenses first became required for resident anglers and sold for $1. The very first resident licenses looked more like a printed contract than what we think of licenses today. The licenses were printed on white paper and outlined the holder's responsibilities.

License buttons were introduced in 1923. The buttons were roughly 1 3/4 inches in diameter with a simple metal pin for displaying the button on an outer garment. Initially, the buttons by themselves were not valid as a license - anglers still had to carry the paper certification to be produced if requested by fish warden.

The buttons were produced until 1960, when they simply became too expensive. The Commission produced buttons again in 1974 and 1975, but the prohibitive cost put an end to the return engagement of metal licenses. In 1976, Pennsylvania returned to paper licenses - but with a wrinkle. For the first time, artwork was added. Since it was a bicentennial year, the 1976 licenses featured a large blue Liberty Bell. Starting the next year and continuing through 2007, licenses featured line art of various fish species found in the commonwealth.

In 2007 the Commission introduced an electronic fishing license delivery system named the Pennsylvania Automated Licensing Service (PALS). Instead of license issuing agents filling out licenses by hand, fishing licenses are computer generated and produced by a small printer. PALS retains licensee information, which will simplify future year license purchases. To smooth the transition to the PALS system, traditional paper licenses were sold alongside the new electronic licenses at most license issuing agents during 2007.

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In 1997 a facsimile of the old-time buttons was produced to commemorate the 75th anniversary of residential fishing licenses in the state. Reminiscent of the old licenses, the pin didn't serve as an actual license, but harkened back to the many years when buttons were more than a fashion statement.
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