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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Libya 1962 Tripoli International Fair Souvenir Sheet (Scott #217a)


   In 1962, Libya issued a souvenir sheet in celebration of the Tripoli International Fair (Scott #217a).  20,000 sheets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused sheet at $65.00.

   The sheet represents an inexpensive bet on the future stability and economic growth of Libya.

   A nation of about 6.4 million people, Libya depends mostly upon oil exports, and has reserves in excess of 44 billion barrels of oil and 54 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Since the recent revolution which disposed of
dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libyans voted in  parliamentary elections and drafted a new constitution, but the country has experienced a difficult period of transition, marked by lawlessness, security issues, and regional factionalism. Annual GDP growth has averaged 4% over the last 5 years, and with a little luck, more of that prosperity will be spread among the Libyan people in the future.

  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, April 17, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Honduras 1953 UN Air Officials (Scott #CO60-68)


 







 In 1953, Honduras overprinted 10,000 of the sets of its United Nations Airmail Issue (Scott #C222-30), creating an Airmail Official set (Scott #CO60-68). Scott '14 prices the unused set at $22.20 .

The main reason that this set remains cheap is that Honduras is still a very poor country, and few of its citizens can afford to collect stamps. As far as philatelic investing goes, it qualifies as a "ground floor opportunity" (as described in one of my "general commentary" articles), for which the best strategy is to minimize risk by buying stamps of the country which have worldwide appeal, such as rarities and popular topicals, and then hope for additional increases in value as the country's situation improves. To some extent, Honduran stamp values are sustained by the tendency among stamp collectors to collect Latin America as a region, rather than focusing on individual countries.

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.

Honduras is a nation of about 7 1/2 million people, which has recently undergone a coup d'etat and constitutional crisis which threatened a reversion to dictatorship. The economy, which is largely dependent on agriculture and mining, has continued to grow, but the distribution of wealth remains very polarized, with average wages remaining low. 50% of the population still remains below the poverty line. Annual GDP growth has averaged 3.5% over the last five years, reflecting a 3% contraction in 2010 due to the reverberations of the global financial crisis.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", which will feature wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've just posted a buy list for the Honduras. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep current on the vagaries of the stamp market.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Netherlands 1951 Seagulls (Scott #C13-14)

In 1951, the Netherlands issued a pair of airmail stamps picturing seagulls (Scott #C13-14). 69,400 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $260.00.

These high-value stamps were considered quite costly at the time, especially since the Netherlands, like much of Europe, was still recovering from the depredations of World War II. Most of the sets were probably used as postage on parcels, and then discarded.

I consider the set a conservative investment, based on its appeal to both collectors of Netherlands and Animals/Bird topicalists.

With about 16.6 million people, the Netherlands is the 16th largest economy in the world and is one of the world's 10 leading exporting countries. Foodstuffs form the largest industrial sector. Other major industries include chemicals, metallurgy, machinery, electrical, goods and tourism. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 1% over the last 5 years, reflecting a 4% contraction in 2009, due to the global financial crisis.

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, April 10, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Georgia 2004 Rose Revolution Souvenir Sheet (Scott #343)

   In 2004, the Republic of Georgia celebrated the first anniversary of the Rose Revolution by issuing a souvenir sheet (Scott #343). Only 15,000 were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused sheet at $3.75.

   This issue commemorates an important event in Georgian history, the overthrow of an unpopular and corrupt government which was tied to the old Soviet regime.  In my opinion, it is extremely undervalued.

With a population of about 4.5 million, the Republic of Georgia suffered severe damage to its economy due due to civil strife in the 1990s. With the help of the IMF and World Bank, it has made substantial economic gains since 2000, achieving robust  growth and curtailing inflation. Georgia has a sizable hydroelectric capacity, a factor that has become an increasingly important component of its energy supplies and policies. The country’s topography and abundance of hydro resources give it serious potential to dominate hydroelectric markets in the Caucasus region. Agriculture and tourism have also been principal economic sectors. Annual GDP growth has averaged just under 5% over the past 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, April 6, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Uruguay 1927 Montevideo Philatelic Exhibition (Scott #330-32)


   In 1927, Uruguay issued a set of three imperforate stamps picturing the Montevideo Post Office in celebration of the Montevideo Philatelic Exhibition (Scott #330-32). 20,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $14.25. The sets were issued in sheets of 4, and Scott prices these at a slight premium (#330a-32a; CV = $60.00).

  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 will features wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. It includes a buy list for Uruguay, and 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, April 3, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: New Guinea 1931 Officials (Scott #O12-22)

   In 1931, New Guinea issued a set of Officials by overprinting eleven stamps from its Bird of Paradise series  "OS" for Official Service (Scott #O12-22). Only 4,500 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $266.50 .

   I believe the set to be grossly undervalued because it's been neglected as an obscure back-of-book issue, as is often the case with Officials. 

   While I sometimes recommend obtaining expertization when purchasing overprinted issues, it's not necessary in this case because the Officials set is not sufficiently more costly than the basic stamps to justify faking the overprint.

 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.

 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 averaged an impressive 7% over the last 5 years. 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.

  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.   
 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

General Commentary: Global Warming and the Stamp Market

   There is a popular anecdote known as the boiling frog story, which has the premise that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.This story allegorically applies to the current environmental crisis popularly known as "Global Warming" or "Climate Change." There is no dispute among legitimate climate scientists that, minimally, the crisis threatens to severely degrade the quality of life for humans on the planet.Yet our leaders pay it lip service and take but token action, our corporations either trivialize it or dismiss it, and there is a general  air of complacency or fatalism on the part of the general public

   Over the past 540 million years, there have been five major mass extinctions in which over 50% of animal species died. In the most comprehensive of them, the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event
of 252 million years ago, up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct. While the causes of this extinction is a matter of dispute, one of the suggested mechanisms was the sudden release of methane clathrate from the sea floor, which may occur when the temperature of the oceans rises significantly. This possible result of the global warming trend is the worst case scenario: vast quantities of methane bubbling out of the sea resulting in a rapid average temperature increase of 5 degrees or more and a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.

    There is very little mention of global warming on any of the popular investment TV shows. It does not factor into the stock analysis or projections of economic growth on "Fast Money" or Jim Cramer's "Mad Money." Larry Kudlow, whose show combines the topics of politics and finance, disparages those who are concerned about it as hysterical alarmists, and denies that their concern is backed by scientific research.

   To some extent, this is understandable. Aside from the fact that well-funded lobbyists and astroturf groups representing the fossil fuel and chemical industries are actively promoting denial and inaction, no one really knows how bad the problem will become, or whether humans have the capacity to cooperate effectively to either solve or cope with it. It is as if we were all living on a flat island watching a larger than usual wave forming in the distance, and no one knows how much damage it will do. From an investment perspective, governments mandating massive expenditures on combating the problem by transforming the system of energy consumption from what we've got now to something more sustainable would create opportunities and millions of jobs, but it's questionable whether there exists the vision and will to accomplish this in time.

   In any case, from an investment perspective, including one which focuses on stamps, it's pointless to consider the worst case scenarios (extinction of the human race, or a longer and more horrible repetition of the Dark Ages), because should either of these occur, the best investments will prove to be suicide kits (in the case of extinction) or weapons, biohazard suits, canned food, bomb shelters,  narcotics, and cannibal cookbooks, should a remnant of humanity find itself living in a hot, poisoned wasteland. It's more reasonable to assume that either we'll somehow rise to the challenge in time, or that we'll do so after some damage has been done, and life goes on.


   Nevertheless, since we don't know the magnitude of the consequences of our little experiment, it's worth considering some scenarios which are pretty negative. Here is a world map which shows how the world would look if the planet's icecaps were completely melted. In the Americas, countries which are significantly affected include the U.S., which is left with  diminished East and Gulf Coasts, Brazil, and Argentina. Floridians may look forward to taking scuba lessons.

 In Europe, all of the non-landlocked countries lose significant amounts of territory to the risen seas, with the exceptions of Norway and Iceland. Denmark is gone, and the Low Countries are now very low indeed. We will bid au revoir to Paris, London, and Berlin.

    As for South and East Asia - currently the centers of economic growth in the emerging market countries, well, let's just say that hopes for continued prosperity will be put on hold for a while. India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia will all lose significant amounts of territory.

  In the Pacific, rising sea levels would endow Australia with two sizable lakes, including one on the eastern edge of its Outback. This new bounty may help to compensate for the more frequent incidence of heat waves, droughts, fires, severe storms, and flooding.

http://blog.ecoagriculture.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/CGDEV-Map.png
   Again, this is a pretty dire projection, and it may be more reasonable to assume that there will be some (but not total) loss of the polar icecaps and coastal areas.Yet climate change has other, generally negative, effects as well. Countries in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America stand the greatest chance of diminished agricultural productivity. These include many of the currently "emerging market" countries which were formerly impoverished Third and Fourth World dictatorships, and to that condition, for which few harbor nostalgia, they will return, but with more famine than before.

   There is an ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." We may expect that if humans do not take effective action to avert a climate catastrophe, the situation will become far too diverting for many people to be interested in collecting stamps. We may expect a far more dangerous, unstable world in which the middle class is decimated, peaceful democracies degenerate into murderous police states, and despair fuels recruitment by apocalyptic terrorist groups.

  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, March 27, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Canada 1950 50c Dull Green Official (Scott #O11)


   In 1950, Canada overprinted stamps from its 50c Oil Wells Issue of earlier that year 'O.H.M.S." for official use (Scott #O11). 95,000 were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused stamp at $40.00.

Because the market for modern Canadian high values has been weak of  late, it is possible to find  O11s in VF NH condition offered at 25%-35% of Scott.

 
I believe that the undervaluation of this stamp is due to its having been overlooked as an obscure back-of-book issue. Many were probably used as postage by government offices, and then discarded.

Interest in stamp collecting in Canada is much stronger than it is in the U.S., and I favor better B.N.A. stamps for investment, especially if they had modest printings and have been unjustifiably overlooked thus far.

With a population of about 31 million, Canada is one of the world's wealthiest countries, and one of the world's top ten trading nations. GDP growth has averaged 2.2% over the past five years, which takes into account the 0% growth of 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Canada's population is expected to age significantly over the next decades, thereby bolstering its population of serious collectors. Canadians over 60 are projected to increase from 16.7% of the population in 2000 to 27.9% in 2025, and 30.5% in 2050. Consequently, in the future, many more Canadians will be spending time working on their stamp collections on cold winter days.

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, March 23, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Somalia 1934 Airmail Semi-postals (Scott #CB1-10)


   I'm initiating coverage of Somalia with a scarce set issued by the Italians during their colonial administration, the 1934 Airmail Semi-postals celebrating the 65th birthday of their king, Victor Emmanuel III (Scott #CB1-10). 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $135.- ($370.- for NH).

   Somalia is a poor nation, and I think it unlikely that a significant stamp market will develop there in the near future. From a philatelic investment perspective, it stamps of interest include the better issues of Somalia as an Italian colony, which should steadily increase in value with the growth in demand for Italy and Area, and some of the popular topical sets with printings in the low tens of thousands issued by the Republic.

   A nation of around 10 million, the Federal Republic of Somalia has maintained a healthy informal economy, based mainly on livestock and remittances from Somalis living overseas despite experiencing civil unrest. Due to a dearth of formal government statistics and the recent civil war, it is difficult to gauge the size or growth of the economy. According to the Central Bank of Somalia, the country's GDP per capita is $333. About 43% of the population live on less than one dollar a day. Somalia's economy consists of both traditional and modern production, with a gradual shift in favor of modern industrial techniques taking root. According to the Central Bank of Somalia, about 80% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists, who keep goats, sheep, camels and cattle. The nomads also gather resins and gums to supplement their income. With the advantage of being located near the Arabian Peninsula, Somali traders have increasingly begun to challenge Australia's traditional dominance over the Gulf Arab livestock and meat market, offering quality animals at very low prices. In response, Gulf Arab states have started to make strategic investments in the country, with Saudi Arabia building livestock export infrastructure and the United Arab Emirates purchasing large farmlands. Somalia is also a major world supplier of frankincense and myrrh. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 2.5% over the last five 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.   





Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Peru 1930 Child Welfare Congress (Scott #264-67)

  
  In 1930, Peru issued a set of 4 stamps honoring the 6th Pan-American Congress for Child Welfare (Scott #264-67). 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $37.75.

  Peru has issued a number of grossly undervalued sets like this one. 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 29 million, Peru is an emerging market nation which has experienced significant economic growth over the last 15 years, and annual GDP growth averaging 7.2% over the last 5. Major exports include copper, gold, zinc, textiles, and fish meal. In 2010 Peru's per capita income was about $10,000. Poverty has steadily decreased since 2004, when nearly half the country's population was under the poverty line, although great inequities in income distribution persist. As the trend continues and more Peruvians join the middle class, the country's better stamps should do very well.

   "The Stamp Specialist" blog features wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've posted a buy list for the Peru, and it 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.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Spain 1938 Cathedrals Souvenir Sheets (Scott #B108E, B108Ej)



   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 close ties to the Catholic Church. Among these were two souvenir sheets picturing Spanish cathedrals, a perforated sheet of four and an imperforate version (Scott #B108E and B108Ej). 70,000 of the perforated sheet and 30,000 of the imperforate sheet were issued, and Scott '14 prices them unused at $42.50  and $72.50, respectively.

    The sheets should do well based on the growth of stamp collecting in Spain, as well as among  Art/Architecture and Religion 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 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, March 13, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Republic of China 1962 UNICEF Souvenir Sheet (Scott #1341a)


  In 1962, the Republic of China issued a souvenir sheet commemorating the 15th Anniversary of UNICEF (Scott #1341a). 100,000 sheets were issued, and Scott '14 prices them unused at $16.00.

  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.

   Better stamps and souvenir sheets of the R.O.C. have done well over the last few decades, but the market has been cooler than that for stamps of the People's Republic. I believe that as capitalism and incremental democratization take hold in the P.R.C., relations between the "two Chinas" will gradually improve, as will demand for stamps of the R.O.C.. The process of thawing may have already begun: as of 2008, more than $150 billion was invested in the P.R.C. by Taiwanese companies. About 10% of the Taiwanese labor force works in the P.R.C., often to run their own businesses.

    In the meantime, most of the demand for stamps of Taiwan will originate from collectors in Taiwan itself and among overseas Chinese (of which there are approximately 35 million). Taiwan, a nation of 23 million people, is one of the four "Asian Tigers," and has experienced explosive economic growth and industrialization over the last 5 decades. Annual GDP growth has averaged just under 4% over the last 5 years, but this partly reflects a contraction of 2% in 2009, a result of the global financial mess.

  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, March 9, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Batum - A General Overview


Batum First Stamps - the 1919 Tree Issue
   Batum, or Batumi,  is a seaside city on the Black Sea coast and capital of Adjara, an autonomous republic in southwest Georgia. The city was under Russian rule at the beginning of World War I, but local unrest led to Turkey entering the city in April 1918, followed by the British in December. The British stayed until July of 1920, and issued sixty-five stamps during their occupation of the city.

   Unfortunately, the most valuable stamps of Batum are surcharges on Russian stamps and fakes abound, making it a minefield for collectors. Consequently, there are only fifteen of these stamps which are pricey enough to justify purchasing conditional on obtaining expertization from the Royal Philatelic Society of London (RPSL) or British Philatelic Association (BPA). They're listed below, along quantities issued and Scott '14 values for unused:

1919 10r on 5k Claret (on Russia Sc. #77) - Scott #9; 350 issued; $ 950.-    
1919 10r on 10k on 7k Light Blue (on Russia #117) - #10; 314 issued; $ 975.-
Batum Scott #12
1919 35k on 4k Carmine (on Russia #76) - #11 - 79 issued; $ 1,950.-
1919 35k on 4k Dull Red (on Russia #91) - #12 (the key stamp of Batum) - 46 issued; $6,500.-
1919-20 50r on 10k Dark Blue (on Russia #79) - #25; 400 issued: $ 975.-
1919-20 50r on 2k Green (on Russia #120) - #26; 300 issued; $ 975.-
1919-20 50r on 2k Green (on Russia #74) - #27; 700 issued; $ 975.-
1919-20 50r on 3k Red (on Russia #75) - #28; 691 issued; $ 1,700.-
1919-20 50r on 4k Carmine (on Russia #76) - #29; 750 issued; $ 1,500.-
1919-20 50r on 5k Claret (on Russia #77) - #30; 920 issued; $ 975.-
1919-20 50r on 10k Dark Blue (on Russia #79) - #31; 180 issued; $ 2,250.-
1919-20 50r on 15k Red Brown and Blue (on Russia #81) - #32; 300 issued; $ 700.-
1919-20 50r on 2k Green (on Russia #120) - #47; 400 issued; $ 975.-
1919-20 50r on 3k Red (on Russia #121) - #48; 359 issued; $ 975.-
1919-20 50r on 5k Claret (on Russia #123) - # 49; 120 issued; $ 1,500.-

   While attempting to purchase authentic and valuable stamps of Batum may be a possible source of headaches for some, they have potential multiple market appeal among collectors of British Commonwealth, Russia, and Georgia. Recently, the city began issuing stamps of its own (flashy topicals pandering to the collector market), although as yet, Scott doesn't recognize these issues.

   Batumi (population approximately 180,000) serves as an important port and a commercial center. It is situated in a subtropical zone, rich in agricultural produce such as citrus fruit and tea. While industries of the city include shipbuilding, food processing, and light manufacturing, most of its economy revolves around tourism.

  With a population of about 4.5 million, the Republic of Georgia suffered severe damage to its economy due due to civil strife in the 1990s. With the help of the IMF and World Bank, it has made substantial economic gains since 2000, achieving robust  growth and curtailing inflation. Georgia has a sizable hydroelectric capacity, a factor that has become an increasingly important component of its energy supplies and policies. The country’s topography and abundance of hydro resources give it serious potential to dominate hydroelectric markets in the Caucasus region. Agriculture and tourism have also been principal economic sectors. Annual GDP growth has averaged just under 5% over the past 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.   






Thursday, March 6, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Ecuador 1936 Quito Philatelic Exhibition (Scott #352-57/C43-48)

   In 1936, Ecuador issued a compound set of triangular stamps celebrating the Quito Philatelic Exhibition (Scott #352-57/C43-48). 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $50.50.

   As with many issues of Latin America, the set is grossly undervalued.

   Many who collect Ecuador also collect stamps of South America, Central America, or all of Latin America, so demand tends to be more generalized than usual. This is not to say that there isn't demand originating from collectors focusing on the individual country as well, but rather that the tendency to collect the whole region is an important factor to consider.

   Ecuador, a democratic republic of 13.6 million people, is considered a medium-income country, with about 38% of its population living below the poverty line. Ecuador's natural resources include petroleum, fish, shrimp, timber and gold. In addition, it has a prosperous agricultural sector, producing bananas, flowers, coffee, cacao, sugar, tropical fruits, palm oil, palm hearts, rice, roses, and corn. While Ecuador's economy suffered during the 2008-09 financial crisis, weathering a default and repurchase of its debt at a discount, it seems to be recovering. Annual GDP growth over the last 5 years has averaged about 5%.

  "The Stamp Specialist" blog features wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing, as well as links to other dealers' buy lists.  Viewing such buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep current on the vagaries of the stamp market.



Sunday, March 2, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: French Southern and Antarctic Territories 1968 Human Rights Year (Scott #32)

   Four countries claim territory in the Antarctic and issue stamps for their territories. They are: Australia (Australian Antarctic Territory), Great Britain (British Antarctic Territory), New Zealand (the Ross Dependency), and France (the French Southern and Antarctic Territories). Of these, the French territory, also known as French Antarctic and abbreviated as F.S.A.T. or T.A.A.F., is of most interest to philatelists, because most of the F.S.A.T. stamps were issued in modest quantities and many are beautifully engraved. Most stamps issued for the various Antarctic territories are sold to collectors, as only a few hundred scientists reside in research facilities in the Antarctic.

In 1968, the F.S.A.T. issued a stamp honoring Human Rights Year, which was instituted by the U.N. General Assembly (Scott #32).  39,000 were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused stamp at $60.-  .

  Demand for stamps of the French Antarctic is strong in France and among collectors of French Colonies/Area as well as collectors of Polar Topicals, and the Human Rights Year stamp has additional appeal as a U.N. 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.

  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, February 27, 2014

General Commentary: Cultural Factors Influencing the Popularity of Stamp Collecting

   While economic factors play a crucial role in determining the size of a country's stamp collecting population, a less quantifiable but nevertheless significant set of influences involve its cultural values.

   For over a century after the first postage stamp was issued, the stamp market was centered in Europe (especially Germany), followed by the United States. Japan became the first Asian nation to develop a significant stamp collecting market, largely due to its miraculous economic progress following its defeat in World War II. Over the last 30 years, China has superseded Europe, the U.S., and Japan as the principal philatelic market, and other East Asian nations (the so-called Asian Tigers) have also developed significant markets.

   Clearly, much of this transformation is due to the growth of the middle class in these rapidly developing nations, where once no middle class existed and most of the wealth and power were in the hands of a tiny oligarchical elite. What is less obvious is to what extent culture has played a role in determining the degree and nature of that transformation. Does the growth of a country's middle class always signal a proportionate growth in the number of its stamp collectors, or do other less measurable factors come into play?

   In other words, do countries with similar economic growth but different cultural values develop proportionately similar stamp collecting populations based upon the growth of their middle classes? If not, then how do these values promote or diminish interest in the hobby?

  These are important questions to consider if one is attempting to predict demand for a country's stamps. Before addressing them, I wish to state that I am in no way claiming that any one cultural, religious, or ethnic group is better than any other. Neither am I assuming that cultural values are static, or impervious to economic or other influences.

   The ostensibly cultural determinant is particularly striking when comparing the stamp market of two affluent nations: the U.S. and Germany. As noted in an earlier article, it is very difficult to estimate the number of "serious stamp collectors" in a country. For the most part, only the population of serious collectors  (however broadly characterized) is of interest from a philatelic investment perspective, because non-serious or beginning collectors tend to be less committed to the hobby, and tend to focus on common, inexpensive material. Based completely on experience, a few shreds of evidence, and hearsay, I would guess that there are no more than 250,000 serious philatelists in the U.S. (perhaps .07% of the population) vs. .5 million to 1 million in Germany (.6% to 1.25%).

    Why is this so? However it is defined, the middle class is not 8 to 14 times larger as a proportion of the population in Germany than it is in the U.S.. Why are Germans, on the whole, 8 to 14 times more interested in stamps than Americans?

   As yet, there has been no research done on the sociology of stamp collecting. We have no clue as to whether, in the future, Koreans will be more interested in stamps than Vietnamese, whether Buddhists will be more interested than Muslims, etc..

   In the last three decades, the stamp collecting cohort within the People's Republic of China has become the world's largest. 20 million of the world's 50-60 million stamp collectors are Chinese, and according to at least one article, all of them are "serious" collectors. I think it more likely that between 4 and 6 million Chinese are serious stamp collectors (about .3% - .5% of the population), which raises the question: why are Chinese 4 to 7 times more interested in stamps than Americans?

   While I've found nothing in the way of data suggesting an answer to this question, my instincts tell me that the answer relates to two variables.

   The first is how intellectuals are perceived by society. Since the Pioneer Era, there has existed in the U.S. a strong anti-intellectual tendency, coupled with a belief that intellectuals are odd, weak, or socially awkward, as well as arrogant and elitist. Collecting stamps is considered an esoteric pursuit of introverted intellectuals - a hobby for "geeks", "nerds", "eggheads", etc.. Perhaps countries in which intellectuals are accorded higher status (like Germany and China, for instance) tend to have a higher population of serious stamp collectors.

   The second relates to patriotism. Since most stamp collectors focus on the stamps of their countries, it stands to reason that where there is interest in the history and culture of a country, there will be a greater interest in its stamps. Countries in which the citizens tend to identify with tribal or ethnic groups,  in which most of the population does not identify with the country as a nation, or in which most of the population has become disillusioned, will be less likely to collect. While patriotism is not dead in the U.S., it has certainly declined significantly over the last 50 years.

   Obviously these are just hunches, and the actual factors which influence the popularity of stamp collecting in a particular country are far more subtle and complex.

   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, February 23, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: St. Pierre and Miquelon 1891 35c Violet on Orange (Scott #32)


   The Territorial Collectivity of St. Pierre and Miquelon, the only remnant of the former French colonial empire in North America, is comprised of two small groups of islands off the coast of Newfoundland. From a philatelic investment perspective, it's of interest because its stamps are popular in Canada and among collectors of French Colonies - both growing markets.

   In 1891, the French overprinted French Colonies stamps for the colony, issuing a set
of seventeen stamps (Scott #19-35). All of the high values of the set from the 30 centimes and up are scarce, but the key is the 35c (Scott #32). It is also the only stamp from the set on which it is worth purchasing expertization. 700 were issued, and Scott '14 prices it unused at $525.- .

    Many of the better early stamps of St. Pierre and Miquelon are grossly undervalued, possibly because they're all overprints, necessitating enduring the inconvenience and expense of obtaining certificates. It's a temporary dampening factor, in my opinion, and as the market grows and becomes more sophisticated, it will matter less.

   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.  



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Zululand 1888-93 Victoria (Scott #1-10)


  I'm initiating coverage of Zululand by recommending its first set (Scott #1-10). The set was produced by overprinting stamps from Great Britain's 1887-92 Victoria issue. 3,701 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices it unused at $555.50. If purchased unused, it's not necessary to obtain expertization, since none of the individual stamps within the set are significantly more expensive than the basic British one.

   The British colony of Zululand issued 24 stamps (not including varieties) between 1888-1896, and all are worthy of consideration as investments. In 1897, Zululand was annexed to Natal, which in turn was integrated into the Union of South Africa in 1910.

    The main sources of demand for stamps of Zululand are British Commonwealth collectors and collectors of South Africa and States, both of which I view as growing markets. A recent Price Waterhouse report projects that South Africa will be one of the world's fastest growing economies over the next 40 years.

   As a a middle-income country of about 49 million, South Africa has an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks among the top twenty in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the entire region. South Africa is ranked 25th in the world in terms of GDP. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 2.5% over the past 5 years.

However, the country has a two-tiered economy- one rivaling other developed countries and the other with only the most basic infrastructure, similar to a Third World nation. Unemployment is extremely high and income inequality is approximately equal to Brazil. Also, there is an 18% HIV infection rate among South African adults, among the highest in the world.

  Given the somewhat mixed picture that South Africa presents, I feel that better stamps from the country and its related issuing entities should be viewed mainly as conservative plays on the growth of British Commonwealth collecting. I am hopeful that over time, most of South Africa's worst problems will be ameliorated or solved, but whether that will require years or decades is an open question.

  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.  



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Mexico 1946 Zacatecas Anniversary (Scott #820-24, C163-66)

   In 1946, Mexico issued a compound set of stamps commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the Founding of the City of Zacatecas (Scott #820-24, C163-66). 20,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $68.65.

  Most of the sets were probably used as postage and discarded, so it is likely that no more than 2,000-5,000 remain.

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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Czechoslovakia 1925 Olympic Congress Overprint (B137-39)



  In  1925, Czechoslovakia honored the International Olympic Congress by overprinting three of its 1923 President Masaryk semi-postal stamps (Scott #B137-39).  The additional revenue was divided between a fund for postal clerks and the Olympic Games Committee. 50,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $97.-  ($175.-  for NH).

  Stamps of Czechoslovakia are very popular among collectors in Europe, and I expect that the number of stamp collectors in the new nations that comprised the "former Czechoslovakia" will continue to grow. This set has additional appeal as a Sports/Olympics topical.

  The end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989 was followed by the country's dissolution and division into two successor states- the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia. With among the most developed industrialized economies in Eastern Europe, these republics have a combined population of about 16 million. They have privatized most of its formerly state-owned industries and have maintained annual GDP growth of around 3% over the past 5 years.

  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.