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Friday, September 18, 2009

General Commentary: The Aging Population and the Coming Stamp Market Boom

A 2007 UN Report describes global trends in aging, showing an "unprecedented, pervasive, and enduring" aging of the world population which will have "profound implications on many facets of human life." According to the report, those aged 60 and over comprised 8% of the world population in 1950, and this number increased to 11% in 2007. It is expected to double, to 22%, by 2050.

One of the "profound implications" of global senescence which has not been explored is its probable effect on philately. While no surveys or empirical studies have been done to determine the break-down of the "serious" stamp collecting population by age, it is commonly accepted that people start collecting stamps when they are young, set them aside for several decades, and then return to stamp collecting later in life, when they have the money and time to devote themselves to the hobby as serious collectors.

Consequently, we may expect a doubling of the "serious" stamp collector proportion of the general population in countries which have a substantial middle class. The effect will be less pronounced in less-developed countries. Overall, however, we may expect the global population of serious stamp collectors to swell by tens of millions over the next forty years, and continue to grow as the population continues to age. This will result in a stamp market boom, as a vastly expanded pool of serious stamp collectors competes for a static or diminishing supply of better stamps.

While a "rising tide may lift all boats," in this case, some boats will be lifted higher than others. Clearly, the aging trend should be factored into the equation when analyzing the growth potential of a particular country's better stamps. The UN Report cited above profiles the aging trend with a section that examines how it affects specific countries and areas (at the end of the report). A prudent stampselector might consider targeting issues from countries which have both growing middle classes and rapidly aging populations.

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.    

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