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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: New Guinea 1931 Airmail Overprint (Scott #C1-13)

 
In 1931, New Guinea issued its first airmail by applying a pictorial overprint to its1925-28 Native Huts issue (Scott #C1-13). A total of 4,020 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $311.70.

While it's often wise to purchase expensive overprinted stamps conditional on obtaining expertization, such caution is unnecessary because in this case  the basic non-overprinted set is actually more expensive.

Papua New Guinea is richly endowed with natural resources, but exploitation has been hampered by the rugged terrain and the high cost of developing infrastructure. Agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for most of the population of about 7 million. Annual GDP growth has increased dramatically over the last 5 years, from 1% in 2005 to about 7% in 2009. Still, the majority of the population is extremely poor, and I do not foresee the development of a significant collecting population within the country for some time.

Most of the collectors of Papua New Guinea are British Commonwealth collectors or Australians, because the country was administered by Australia until 1975 and maintains close ties with that nation. I recommend purchase of the better stamps of Papua, New Guinea, and Papua New Guinea based on the probable growth in interest among Australian collectors and collectors of British Commonwealth.

Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are encouraged to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and provides a useful venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.   





Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Kuwait 1959 Scenes (Scott #140-52)

  In 1959, Kuwait, then a British protectorate, issued an attractive engraved set of thirteen stamps with scenes related to its oil industry (Scott #140-52). 51,658 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices an unused set at $ 54.45 . It is likely that most were used as postage and discarded.


   The set appeals to both collectors of Kuwait and British Commonwealth.

A country of just under 3 million people, Kuwait is the 5th richest country in the world, with proven oil reserves of 104 billion barrels, and annual GDP growth of just under 6%. It is also developing its other major industries, which include shipping, construction, cement, water desalination, construction materials and financial services.

There are a number of scarce and undervalued issues from the Gulf States which I view as bargains. Assuming that these countries can maintain their economic growth, diversify away from their current near-total dependence on oil revenues, and avoid internal political instability or military conflicts with their neighbors, their better stamps should all do well.

Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.  





Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Cuba 1961 Declaration of Havana Souvenir Sheet (Scott # C221a)

 

 
In 1961, Cuba issued a set and souvenir sheet portraying the Cuban revolutionary hero Jose Marti, and commemorating the Declaration of Havana (Scott #221a).  30,000 were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused sheet at $15.00.

 This souvenir sheet should do very well when Cuba rejoins the crassly commercial, capitalist world, perhaps retaining a bit of a socialist safety net to keep the masses complacent. It will also benefit from the long-term stealth bull market in better Latin American sets, which began around twenty years ago after the region's oligarchical dictatorships went out of style.

   I believe it inevitable that Cuba will join the fold of more-or-less free nations, and that tourism and trade will explode as a result. Currently, the average wage of each of the 11 1/2 million people living in this "socialist utopia" is under $20 per month, and GDP per capita is 107th in the world. Annual GDP growth has been high, averaging 4.5% over the last 5 years, but given the levels of corruption and favoritism shown to high ranking Communist Party members, it's an open question whether much of that new wealth has been filtering downward. Eventually, something will have to give. The current market for Cuban stamps, especially of the Pre-Castro Period, is bolstered by interest of stamp collectors within Cuban-American community, currently about 1.6 million strong, and far wealthier than their compatriots on the island. Interest in Cuban stamps is likely to increase, especially given the likely prospect of a replacement of the stale, "gerontocratic" regime within a decade or so.

  The Stamp Specialist  features my buy lists for stamps which I wish to purchase, including some Cuban stamps. Periodically viewing dealers' buy lists is an excellent way to remained informed about the state of the stamp market.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Hungary 1938 Eucharistic Congress Souvenir Sheet (Scott #B94)


 In 1938, Hungary issued a semi-postal souvenir sheet honoring the Eucharistic Congress, which was held that year in Budapest (Scott #B94). 100,000 were issued, and Scott '14  prices the unused souvenir sheet at $50.00.

  The souvenir sheet has obvious appeal as a Religion/Christianity topical, and should also profit from Hungary's future economic growth.

While recent economic reversals in Europe have hurt the stamp market there, I feel that for most of the countries, the situation is unpleasant but short-term. In the meantime, there are opportunities to pick up bargains, and scarce items with topical appeal are worth considering.


After a difficult transition from a centrally-controlled economy to capitalism, Hungary has experienced moderate economic growth until it was impacted by the 2008-09 financial crisis. As a result of the global financial mess, GDP growth has been almost flat over the past five years. As the newest member of the European Union, this nation of 10 million receives nearly a third of all direct investment flowing into Eastern Europe. Agriculture, metallurgy and mining, and tourism are major components of the economy.

  The Stamp Auction Bidders and Consignors Union (SABACU) is a forum for discussing stamp auctions, and represents the interests of stamp auction bidders and consignors in their dealings with stamp auctioneers. All stamp collectors and dealers are welcome to join.   




Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: South Korea 1956 3rd Inauguration of Syngman Rhee Presentation Sheets (Michel Block 98-99, Scott #228Note)


  From 1948 to 1958, South Korea issued presentation sheets featuring the designs of its regular postage stamps. These ungummed, often crudely produced sheets were issued  in very low quantities and given to dignitaries, including friends of the President, as the country was not completely devoid of cronyism. The Michel catalog lists these sheets, but Scott does not, although it mentions them. They frequently sell at auction for between 10% and 20% of Michel, and I consider them grossly undervalued due to the uncertainty about their legitimacy. They were issued during a period of war and the gradual recovery from it, when the country was very poor, and they are as scarce as hen's teeth. Despite the fact that Scott only notes Korean presentation sheets generally and doesn't list them individually, thereby implicitly questioning their legitimacy, they're so scarce and their potential market so large that they represent interesting and low-risk investments.


   In 1955, South Korea issued a set of two presentation sheets celebrating the President Syngman Rhee's 3rd Inauguration (Michel Block 98-99). 1,000 sets were issued, and Michel prices the set at 700.- Euros (about $ 950.-). I recommend purchase of the set if it offered at around $95.- to $190.- (about 10%-20% of Michel CV).

  A nation of about 50 million people, South Korea is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Currently, it is the world's 13th largest economy and eighth largest exporter. It's export-fueled economic growth has led to a miraculous explosion in its GDP, from almost nothing 50 years ago to about $1 trillion today. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 4% over the last 5 years, reflecting a slowdown in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Furthermore, South Korea may be the most rapidly aging nation on earth, as its 65+ population is expected to more than quadruple from 9% in 2005 to 38% in 2050. Obviously, this could pose economic challenges for the country, but it will almost certainly add to its stamp collecting population.

  Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are encouraged to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and provides a useful venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.   





Thursday, September 4, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Kazakhstan 2010 World Football Cup (Scott #620 )

   In 2010, Kazakhstan issued a stamp honoring the World Football Cup competition, held in South Africa that year (Scott # 620 ). 30,000 stamps were issued, and Scott '15 prices the unused stamp at $4.50    .  

The stamp makes an interesting and very low-risk speculation based on its appeal as a Sports/Soccer opical, and as a bet on the economic growth of Kazakhstan and the development of a stamp market there. This recommendation is consistent with my belief that one of the best ways to play the new and newly resurrected countries of Europe and Asia is to focus on popular topicals with low printings. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, with a following of billions of fans, many of whom live in emerging market nations. Philatelic investors who focus on better Soccer topicals will almost certainly score a goal financially.

A nation of 16 million, Kazakhstan is known to many outsiders from the somewhat demeaning film comedy "Borat." It is the 9th largest country in the world, with a territory greater than that of Western Europe, although its population density is less than 15 per square mile. Kazakhstan has plentiful reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium, chromium, lead, zinc, manganese, coal, iron, and gold. It also has a major agricultural sector, and is the seventh largest producer of grain. Annual GDP growth has averaged over 5% over the last 5 years.

   Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.   



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Uruguay 1944 Surcharged Airmails (Scott #C106-12)


  In 1944, Uruguay created a set of surcharged airmails (Scott #C106-12) by surcharging seven stamps from its 1929-43 Pegasus Issue (also recommended). 10,100 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $12.00.

Uruguay has issued a number of undervalued sets which I intend to cover in the future. Demand for the country's stamps is boosted by the tendency of many collectors to focus on Latin America as a region.

   With a population of about 3 1/2 million people, most of whom are of European or mixed descent, Uruguay has a stamp collecting population which will probably approach European levels in the years to come. Uruguay is one of the most economically developed, politically stable and least corrupt countries in Latin America, and is moving away from its dependence on agricultural exports and toward development of commercial technologies, especially software. Annual GDP growth has averaged a little over 3% over the last 5 years. 

"The Stamp Specialist" blog features wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. It includes a buy list for Uruguay. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep current on the vagaries of the stamp market.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Netherlands Indies 1931 1g Java-Australia First Flight (Scott #C13)

   In 1931, the Netherlands Indies issued a 1 Gulden airmail stamp for use on covers flown on the first flight from Java to Australia (Scott #C13). 35,768 were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused stamp at $11.00.

The stamp has multiple appeal among collectors of Netherlands and Colonies, Indonesia, and First Flight Cover collectors.


With about 16.6 million people, the Netherlands is the 16th largest economy in the world, and its annual GDP growth has averaged about 2.5% over the last 5 years. Indonesia is a rapidly developing, though still poor, country of 230 million people, with an annual GDP growth rate hovering around 5%-6%. Like most emerging market nations, it faces challenges which will have to be addressed, including corruption and major inequities in the distribution of income.

 Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are encouraged to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and provides a useful venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.      

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: French Equatorial Africa 1944 Liberation Surcharge (Scott #B12-21)


The important role played by African members of the French Resistance has long been neglected, but it is important to note that some of the first to support the movement were overseas territories in North Africa.

In 1944, French Equatorial Africa overprinted some of its 1941 issues to produce a semi-postal set for which the excess non-postal funds were used to support the French Resistance (Scott #B12-21). Only 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $198.00.

The set strongly appeals to French Colonies collectors, as well as World War II topicalists. Furthermore, since the former colony of French Equatorial Africa was granted independence and divided to form the current nations of Chad, Congo, Gabon, and Central African Republic, the set makes an interesting emerging market play as well.

 Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.   



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: El Salvador 1949 UPU Anniversary (Scott #613,C122-24)

  In 1949, El Salvador issued a compound set of stamps celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Postal Union (Scott #613, C122-24). 25,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $26.55 .

The set represents an inexpensive bet on the economic growth of El Salvador.

Over the last decade or so, a "stealth bull market" has developed for better Latin American material, especially for scarce issues with wide topical appeal. Supplies have been gradually depleted, and many items which formerly retailed for about 20%-30% of Scott are now selling for 60%-80%, and their catalog values have substantially increased as well. Frequently, Michel Values, which are usually much higher than Scott for Latin America, are used by auction houses when listing this material. As the region has cast aside its authoritarian dictatorships and become more democratic, it has experienced healthy economic growth and the concurrent development of a middle class.

El Salvador, a nation of 5.7 million, is a poor though steadily developing economy, which has experienced annual GDP growth averaging just over 1% over the last 5 years. There has been a recent deceleration in economic growth due to the global financial crisis. In addition, there are between 500,000 and 1 million Salvadorans in the U.S., most of whom immigrated during El Salvador's "Dirty War" of 1979-92. Salvadorans in the United States are among the hardest-working immigrants, and send about $800 million back to their families in El Salvador every year. Although Salvadoran Americans currently toil in the lowest-paying sectors of the American economy, they work long hours, save a great deal, and are gradually becoming more prosperous.

While I believe it may take a while for a significant stamp collecting population to develop among Salvadorans, this is mitigated by the fact that many collectors of Latin American stamps collect the region generally, rather than specializing in a particular country.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", featuring my buy lists for stamps which I wish to purchase, including many items from El Salvador .Periodically viewing dealers' buy lists is an excellent way to remained informed about the state of the stamp market.





Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: United Nations -Kosovo 2005 Handicrafts set (Scott #31-34)


   As part of the treaty negotiations ending the 1998-99 Kosovo War, the United Nations set up an interim administration mission (UNMIK) in Kosovo. The UN has since issued stamps for this provisional governing body, and many of the UN-Kosovo sets have topical interest and were issued in small quantities. In my opinion, the better UNMIK sets make far better investments than those issued by any of the three regular UN Offices (New York, Geneva, and Vienna).

   In 2005, UNMIK issued a set of stamps picturing Native Handicrafts (Scott #31-34). 50,000 were issued, and Scott  '14  prices the unused set at $ 18.50. The set has dual appeal to collectors of United Nations and Art Topicalists.

   I continue to like the U.N. as a topic, long-term. The market for U.N.-related topicals should grow over the very long haul as institutions of world government develop in order to take on serious (and possibly existential) problems which can only be coped with globally. Despite the present inadequacy, corruption, and ineffectiveness of the U.N., I view its reform and gradual strengthening as a gradual but irresistible trend.


   Kosovo is now a quasi-independent state with about 1.7 million citizens. Before Independence, it was the poorest part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and in the 1990s its economy suffered from the combined results of political upheaval, the Yugoslav wars, Serbian dismissal of Kosovo employees, and international sanctions on Serbia, of which it was then part. After 1999, it had an economic boom as a result of post-war reconstruction and foreign assistance. In the period from 2003 to 2011, despite declining foreign assistance, growth of GDP averaged over 5% a year. This was despite the global financial crisis of 2009 and the subsequent eurozone crisis. A major deterrent to foreign manufacturing investment in Kosovo was removed in 2011 when the European Council accepted a Convention allowing Kosovo to be accepted as part of its rules for diagonal cumulative origination, allowing the label of Kosovo origination to goods which have been processed there but originated in a country elsewhere in the Convention.

   The Stamp Auction Bidders and Consignors Union (SABACU) is a forum for discussing stamp auctions, and represents the interests of stamp auction bidders and consignors in their dealings with stamp auctioneers. All stamp collectors and dealers are welcome to join.   



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Russia - Offices in China

Russian soldiers in Manchuria, 1900
 In the late 19th Century, Russians aimed for control over the Amur River for navigation, as well as the Chinese all-weather ports of Dairen and Port Arthur in the Liaodong peninsula. The rise of Japan as an Asian power provoked Russia's anxiety, especially in light of expanding Japanese influence in Korea. Following Japan's victory in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895, the Triple Intervention of Russia, Germany and France forced Japan to return the territory won in Liaodong, leading to a de facto Sino-Russian alliance.

 However, local Chinese in Manchuria were incensed at these Russian advances and began to harass Russians and vandalize Russian installations, such as the Chinese Eastern Railway. In June 1900, the Chinese bombarded the town of Blagoveshchensk on the Russian side of the Amur, and in retaliation, the Russians massacred several thousand Chinese and Manchus in that town. The Czar's government used the pretext of Boxer Rebellion to move some 200,000 troops into the area to crush the Boxers, who retaliated by launching a guerrilla war against the Russians, which continued until their defeat by the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War.


 The Russians issued stamps for their post offices in China in 1899. These were Russian stamps overprinted with the word "KITAI" (Russian for "China") in Cyrillic script. The overprint was applied to all types of stamps up to 1916.  Although the post offices had always accepted Chinese currency at par, a Chinese cent being considered equivalent to a kopeck, in 1917 the overprint was changed to clarify the situation, simply consisting of the value in Chinese money and using Latin letters.  A later round of overprints, in 1920, saw little use, since all Russian post offices in China were closed in that year.

   Many of the stamps of the Russian Offices in China are quite inexpensive, but since all have overprints, I recommend purchase of those which are sufficiently valuable to justify the cost of expertization.. While no quantities issued information is available for these stamps, I estimate that fewer than 1,000 of each of those cataloging $ 250+ were issued, and possibly fewer than 200 for the most valuable. I've listed these stamps and their Scott '14 Catalog Values for unused below:
  • 1899-1904 7k Dark Blue, inverted red overprint (Scott #5a; $500.-)
  • 1904-08 10k Dark Blue, red overprint  (Scott #11; $1,450.-)
  • 1904-08 5r Multi-colored, inverted red overprint (Scott #21a; $375.- )
  • 1917 $5 on 5r Multi-colored, inverted surcharge (Scott #68a; $500.- )
  • 1920 5c on 5k Claret, double surcharge (Scott #80b; $250.-)
   I consider all better stamps of the various foreign offices in China to be long-term investments. As with all stamps issued by the colonial powers in China, the Russian Offices stamps have been neglected because the Chinese view them as shameful relics of that period of subjugation, which they are. Until reticence replaces resentment and demand for the Foreign Offices is boosted among Chinese collectors, the stamps' values will probably continue to increase steadily, based mostly on collector demand in Russia.

   Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are encouraged to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and provides a useful venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.     






Sunday, August 10, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Iran 1959 ILO 40th Anniversary (Scott #1136-37)

   In 1959, Iran issued a set of stamps celebrating the 40th anniversary of the International Labor Organization (I.L.O.), an agency of the United Nations (Scott #1136-37). 50,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at just $3.50.

   The set has appeal as a United Nations topical.

I continue to like the U.N. as a topic, long-term. The market for U.N.-related topicals should grow over the very long haul as institutions of world government develop in order to take on serious (and possibly existential) problems which can only be coped with globally. Despite the present inadequacy, corruption, and ineffectiveness of the U.N., I view its reform and gradual strengthening as a gradual but irresistible trend.

    I believe that the I.L.O. set is undervalued due to the unpopularity of Iran's stamps, a consequence of its pariah status. Currently, Iranian stamps of the pre-revolutionary period are primarily of interest to collectors among the Iranians living abroad, a relatively affluent group, of whom there are about 1.3 million.

  Note that a common defect found on many Iranian stamps of the '50s is badly toned, "gloppy" gum. When purchasing #1047, endeavor to select examples with clean gum.

   Stamps of Iran are not widely collected at present, partly for political reasons and partly because of the ubiquity of fakes among the early overprinted issues. Nevertheless, it is an oil-rich nation (ranked second in both oil and natural gas reserves) of 76 million people, and there are signs that many of them are becoming fed up with the corrupt and reactionary theocracy that is isolating Iran from the rest of the world. Furthermore, it is beginning to diversify away from its dependence on oil into other industries, such as biotech, nanotech, and pharmaceuticals, and it has the potential to develop a thriving tourism sector, should it institute reforms and begin to improve its image.

Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.   





Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Brazil 1843 Numerals (Scott #1-3)


 In 1843, Brazil issued its first stamps - a set of three, each of which bore a numeral within an oval ornamental design (Scott #1-3). These stamps later became known as the "Bull's Eyes" because the arrangement of the stamps in the sheet permitted se-tenant pairs which resembled a pair of bull's eyes. 1,148,994 #1, 1,502,142 of #2, and 349,182 of  #3 were issued, and Scott '15 prices them unused and used at $4,500.00/$550.00 for #1, $600.00/$300.00 for #2, and $4,000.00/$1,400.00 for #3.

   Brazil was the second country in the world, after Great Britain, to issue postage stamps valid within the entire country (as opposed to a local issue). The Bull's Eyes are far less famous (and far more scarce) than Great Britain's Penny Black, of which almost 69 million were issued.

  I consider stamps to be a conservative investment in the growth of Brazil's economy, middle class, and stamp collecting community.

 With 191 million people, Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America, and the world's eighth largest. Political and economic reforms have given the country a brighter future than it had in the bad old days of oligarchical dictatorship. The Brazilian economy is diverse, the country is aggressively investing in its future by generously funding technological research and education, and exports are booming. Annual GDP growth has averaged a little over 2.5% over the last 5 years.

 There are a number of undervalued Brazilian issues with low printing quantities, some of which have topical appeal, and recommending them for accumulation seems a no-brainer. Brazil looks destined to become an economic superpower, and even if it mirrors the philatelically anemic U.S. and only one out of a thousand Brazilians become serious stamp collectors, they'll be competing for their nation's better stamps, only to find that the cupboard is bare.

 "The Stamp Specialist" blog features my buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've posted a buy list for Brazil. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep up with the vagaries of the stamp market.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Solomon Islands 1908-11 War Canoe (Scott #8-18)



   I'm initiating coverage of the Solomon Islands by recommending purchase of its 1908-11 War Canoe set (Scott #8-18). While I considered "beginning at the beginning" with the first set (Scott 1-7), which is also very scarce, excellent counterfeits exist of the first set (while they don't of the second), and it isn't expensive enough to make expertization worthwhile. 5,460 of the second War Canoes set were issued, and Scott '14 prices it unused at $ 272.- .

   The islands were a British protectorate until 1976, and early Solomon Islands issues appeal mainly to collectors of British Commonwealth as well as Australian collectors, because Australia has close ties to the Solomons. The later issues that are worth considering are mostly topicals.

  There are just over half a million Solomon Islanders, and the Islands' per-capita GDP of $600 ranks it as a lesser developed nation. More than 75% of its labor force is engaged in subsistence and fishing. The islands are rich in undeveloped mineral resources such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold. Tourism, particularly diving, is an important service industry for Solomon Islands. Growth in that industry is hampered, however, by lack of infrastructure and transportation limitations. Over the last five years, annual GDP growth has averaged about 5%.
  
   I view the set as an inexpensive, conservative bet based on prospects for increased demand among British Commonwealth and Australian collectors.

  Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are encouraged to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and provides a useful venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.     





Thursday, July 31, 2014

Phila-Trivia: Latvia's Map Stamps

  
   The story of Latvia's first stamps shows the adaptability and ingenuity of a new nation following the devastation of the First World War. 

   Latvia was invaded repeatedly by Germany and Russia during World War I. Germany’s defeat and the Russian Revolution weakened both countries, thus enabling Latvia to declare independence, which it did on November 18, 1918, one week after World War I ended. The war had caused a severe paper shortage but there was one source of top-quality paper –  military maps left behind by Germany’s Imperial Army. Latvia’s industrious government printed its first stamps on the backs of these maps.

  To save precious paper, stamps were printed in 12 rows of 19 stamps each for a total of 228 stamps per sheet.  On the reverse, each German military map features a section of Latvia, complete with name, scale and map grid position.

   A total of only 11,956 sheets were printed.  Of those, only about 4,900 were perforated.   4,750 sheets were delivered to Latvia’s government in the period between 1918 and 1919.  The shipment included imperforate gummed sheets (Latvia Sc. #1), and perforated gummed sheets (Latvia Sc. #2). After the Latvia Post began operations, the Bolsheviks invaded the capital city of Riga.  An unknown quantity of Latvian map stamps survived the destruction.

The Stamp Auction Bidders and Consignors Union (SABACU) is a forum for discussing stamp auctions, and represents the interests of stamp auction bidders and consignors in their dealings with stamp auctioneers. All stamp collectors and dealers are welcome to join.   
 


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Fiji 1870-71 First Issues (Scott #1-10)

   I'm initiating coverage of Fiji by beginning with its first issues, the 1870-71 "Newspaper" stamps (Scott #1-5, 6-10). The British colony's first postage service to outlying islands was started by a newspaper, the Fiji Times, whose agents delivered mail to the public. These stamps were crudely printed and rouletted, and all are very scarce, with 600 of each of the 1870 issue and 1,200 of each of the 1871 stamps issued. Scott '14 prices for unused range from  $1,200.-   to  $4,400.-  . The stamps were issued in sheetlets containing all denominations, but I haven't been able to find catalog values or realizations for the strips containing one of each.

   Reprints and forgeries exist of these stamps, so they should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization. They are often found with defects, so attempt to purchase them in F-VF OG condition.

   While I don't expect a significant stamp market to develop in Fiji in the near future, these stamps represent conservative investments in the growth of British Commonwealth collecting.

   Now an independent republic of 850,000 citizens, Fiji is endowed with forest, mineral, and marine resources, It is one of the more developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Natural resources include timber, fish, gold, copper, offshore oil, and hydropower. Sugar exports and a rapidly growing tourist industry – with tourists numbering 430,800 in 2003 and increasing in the subsequent years – are the major sources of foreign exchange. Annual GDP growth has been flat over the last 5 years due to the global financial crisis, though it is beginning to recover.

   The Stamp Auction Bidders and Consignors Union (SABACU) is a forum for discussing stamp auctions, and represents the interests of stamp auction bidders and consignors in their dealings with stamp auctioneers. All stamp collectors and dealers are welcome to join.   
 





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Syria 1938 Nogues Flight Anniversary (Scott #C88, C88a)

 In 1938, Syria issued a stamp and souvenir sheet celebrating the tenth anniversary of pilot Maurice Nogues' first flight from Marseilles to Beirut (Scott #C88, C88a). 30,000 of the stamp and 10,000 of the souvenir sheet were issued, and Scott '14 prices them unused at $ 5.00  and $50.00, respectively.

   The issue has multiple market appeal among collectors of Syria, French Colonies/Possessions, and Transportation/Aerophilately Topicals.

It is unclear how the current turmoil in Syria will be resolved. Nevertheless, there are many scarce issues from the period of French Administration which should do well based on the growth of French Colonies/Area collecting alone. Should the country wind up with a more democratic government and more fully compete in the global marketplace, all of the stamps of Syria with low printings will skyrocket, including many of the modern issues with printings of 50,000 or fewer, which are dirt-cheap.

Before the current civil war, the Syrian Arab Republic, a nation of 22.5 million people, was a middle-income country, with an economy based on agriculture, oil, industry, and tourism. It had low rates of foreign investment, and low levels of industrial and agricultural productivity. Until the recent revolt, the somewhat corrupt and authoritarian government was slowly reforming its centrally planned economy in hopes of attracting new investment in the tourism, natural gas, and service sectors. Average annual GDP growth was a little over 4%, but the extent to which that growth benefited the population as a whole was unclear.

Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.   



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Mexico 1945 Peace Theater Reconstruction (Scott #801-04,C148-52)

In 1945, Mexico issued a compound set of stamps celebration the reconstruction of the Theater of Peace (Scott #801-04,C148-52). 15,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $51.65.

The set has appeal as an Art/Architecture topical.

With a population of about 109 million,  Mexico has a diverse and developing economy, but modernization remains a slow and uneven process. Current challenges include addressing income inequality, crime, corruption, upgrading the infrastructure, and reforming tax and labor laws. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 2% over the last five years, which takes into account a contraction of 6.5% in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Stamps of Mexico are popular among collectors in the U.S. as well as in Mexico, and those who wish to learn more about Mexican stamps should consider joining the Mexico Elmhurst Philatelic Society International (M.E.P.S.I.). MEPSI provides many useful services for collectors of Mexico, including expertizing Mexican stamps.

  "The Stamp Specialist" blog features buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. The buy list for Mexico includes the set recommended in this article. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep current on the vagaries of the stamp market.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Spain 1938 Battle of Lepanto Souvenir Sheets (Scott #B108M-B108N, B108O-B108P)

   In 1938, the Nationalist forces under General Francisco Franco were winning over the Republicans fighting the Spanish Civil War, and several semi-postal souvenir sheets were issued which emphasized the Nationalists' patriotism, and ties to the Catholic Church. Among these were four souvenir sheetsm each containing one stamp, commemorating the Battle of Lepanto, a decisive naval battle in which Spain and other states decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire. 45,000 sets of two perforated sheets and 5,000 sets of two imperforate versions were issued (Scott #B108M-B108N, B108O-B108P), and and Scott '14 prices them unused at $45.- ($77.50 for NH) and $800.- ($1,300.- for NH), respectively.

    The sheets should do well based on the growth of stamp collector demand in Spain, as well as among Religion, Military/Naval, and Ship topicalists. 

    I strongly favor all scarce and undervalued issues of Spain and its colonies. The nation has 46 million people, the 9th largest economy in the world, and the most rapidly aging population in Europe, a trend which favors the growth of stamp collecting. Spain was hit by the global financial crisis and its annual GDP growth has been flat for five years, though the economy is beginning to recover.

   Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are encouraged to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and provides a useful venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.    





Sunday, July 13, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: South Korea 1955 Reconstruction Presentation Sheets (Michel Block 78-80, Scott 212Note))

   From 1948 to 1958, South Korea issued presentation sheets featuring the designs of its regular postage stamps. These ungummed, often crudely produced sheets were issued  in very low quantities and given to dignitaries, including friends of the President, as the country was not completely devoid of cronyism. The Michel catalog lists these sheets, but Scott does not, although it mentions them. They frequently sell at auction for between 10% and 20% of Michel, and I consider them grossly undervalued due to the uncertainty about their legitimacy. They were issued during a period of war and the gradual recovery from it, when the country was very poor, and they are as scarce as hen's teeth.

   In 1955, South Korea issued a set of three presentation sheets picturing symbols of industrial reconstruction (Michel Block 78-80, Scott 212Note). 1,000 sets were issued, and Michel prices it at 1,140.- Euros (about $ 1,500.-). I recommend purchase of the set if it offered at around $150 to $300 (10%-20% of Michel CV).

  A nation of about 50 million people, South Korea is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Currently, it is the world's 13th largest economy and eighth largest exporter. It's export-fueled economic growth has led to a miraculous explosion in its GDP, from almost nothing 50 years ago to about $1 trillion today. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 4% over the last 5 years, reflecting a slowdown in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Furthermore, South Korea may be the most rapidly aging nation on earth, as its 65+ population is expected to more than quadruple from 9% in 2005 to 38% in 2050. Obviously, this could pose economic challenges for the country, but it will almost certainly add to its stamp collecting population.

    Those interested in viewing a list of scarce stamps with printing quantities of 100,000 or fewer may wish to check out the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List, which currently contains over 9,700 entries. Researching quantities issued data is vital to determining in which stamps to invest.





Thursday, July 10, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Portuguese India 1957 Map Issue (Scott #552-59)



   The Indian stamp market continues to warm, although as yet it has not become as white-hot as China's, and there are still some areas which remain neglected.

   One such area is Portuguese India. Both the Portuguese and the French held some territory in India, while the British dominated the rest of it. Both of the lesser colonial powers in India issued stamps which are, for the most part, neglected by Indian collectors, and which have potential multiple market appeal in India, their home countries, and among collectors of European colonies. Interestingly, the Portuguese held out the longest of the three, and issued stamps for their colony until India seized it in 1961, ending the occupation. It isn't the only time that obsolescent imperial visions of grandeur have benefited philatelists.

   In 1957, Portugal issued a set of eight stamps for its colony, picturing a map of its territory in India (Scott #552-59). 50,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $11.75  .

   The set has multiple market appeal to collectors of Portuguese India, Portuguese Colonies, and India, as well as to Map Topicalists, a small but growing cohort.

  Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.    

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Colombia 1954 St. Peter Clavier Souvenir Sheet (Scott #C258a)

  In 1954, Colombia issued a souvenir sheet honoring the 300th Anniversary of St. Peter Clavier's death (Scott #C258a). 10,000 sheets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused sheet at $8.00.

   The sheet has appeal as a Religion topical and an Art/Architecture topical. It is grossly undervalued.

A nation of 45 million people, Colombia has been plagued by decades of serious internal armed conflict, drug trafficking, corruption, and gross inequities of income, but has nevertheless racked up annual GDP growth averaging over 4% over the last 5 years. Moreover, until the global financial fiasco cut its GDP growth to 3% in 2009, it had been steadily accelerating, from 2% in 2003 to 8% in 2008. Recently, the government, armed to the teeth by the U.S., has applied a dual policy of combining military pressure with negotiations to cope with the various guerrilla factions within the country. This seems to have worked to some extent, as the number of insurgents has been halved, and the number of homicides and kidnappings drastically reduced. While some argue that the Colombian government is still utterly corrupt, and has violated human rights and supported paramilitary death squads in order to achieve relative peace, it may be that this is par for the course, given the nation's history. A dialogue between the Colombian government and guerrillas of the FARC-EP began in 2012 with the aim to find a political solution to the armed conflict. The Colombian government and rebel groups met in Cuba, and as of November 2013, the talks have been promising. The Government also began a process of assistance and reparation for victims of conflict.The main challenge that the country faces will be that of sharing more of the wealth with the majority of the population so as to develop more of a middle class and political center. Otherwise, it will devolve into a violent, unstable mess.

"The Stamp Specialist" blog features my buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've posted a buy list for Colombia. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep up with the vagaries of the stamp market.