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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stamp Investment Tip: Japanese Occupation of Malaya and States

From time to time, I'll recommend whole categories or related groups of issues for which the same criteria apply. Such is the case for the issues of Japanese-Occupied Malaya and States, including Japanese-Occupied Straits Settlements. These are listed as "N" numbers following the regular issues of these countries.
In December of 1941, the Japanese invaded Malaya, then a British colony, which included its client states: Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, Sungei Ujong, and Trengganu. As the Japanese occupiers did not wish to use the postage stamps of their enemies but had no stamps of their own on hand, they simply handstamped or overprinted stocks of stamps that the British had left behind.

Many of these stamps are scarce to extremely rare, with quantities ranging from under 10 for the rarest to the low thousands for the majority. Michel's Asia Catalogue lists the stamps and printing quantities (when known) following the regular issues of Japan. I've included many of the scarcest in the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List (under British Asia).

These issues I consider among the "bluest of blue chips" in the world of philatelic investing. They are undervalued largely because since they are overprints, fakes exist, and therefore it makes sense to purchase only the better items which are worth getting expertized. Many of the better authentic Japanese Occupation issues were signed by the expert Milo Rowell, although forgeries of his signature exist. Expertization is absolutely necessary for all overprinted Japanese Occupation stamps, and the most recognized certificates for these stamps are issued by the British Philatelic Association and the Royal Philatelic Society of London.

Stamps of Japanese-occupied Malaya fall under 3 collecting areas: British Commonwealth, Japan/Area, and Malaya/Malaysia. As these stamps were stored in a tropical climate, many of them have brownish, toned, "tropicalized" gum. When purchasing unused examples, try to select those which are not toned, or heavily discount for those that are.

With a population of over 28 million, Malaysia is an emerging market nation and the 29th largest economy in the world. It has abundant minerals and petroleum, vast forests, as well as a thriving agricultural sector. Nevertheless, over the last four decades, the Malaysian government has committed the nation to a transition from reliance on mining and agriculture to manufacturing, and is moving to conserve its remaining forests and reforest the overcut areas. The government has recently taken steps to make Malaysia more business-friendly, and the number of Malaysians living in poverty has also decreased. As of 2007, average wages were around $34 per day, up from about $9 per day in 1999. Annual GDP growth has averaged almost 6% over the last five years, although the country is taking a hit in 2010 as a result of 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.    

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