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Thursday, February 11, 2010

General Commentary: Does Absence Make the Heart Grow Fonder? Former Colonies' Ties to Former Colonial Powers and Philatelic Investment

When pondering whether to invest in stamps of a former colonial power, a complicated and unquantifiable yet nevertheless important factor to consider is the sentiment of the former power's so-called "subject peoples." This is especially true in the case of former colonies which are currently prospering or rapidly developing economies, or which are beginning to develop significant stamp collecting populations.

In all cases, the former colonial powers are now First World nations, with highly developed industrialized economies and relatively affluent populations (compared to most of the rest of the world). The initial demand for stamps of these countries' former colonies originates in the home countries themselves, because usually in the first years following independence, the former colonies are too poor to sustain a significant domestic stamp collecting population. As a former colony's economy develops, so too may its stamp collecting population, which will probably focus mainly upon the country's own stamps and ignore the stamps of the former colonial power, especially since resentments toward it may linger. However, if ties to the former colonial power improve, or if its administration of its former colony lasted a long time and it exerted a strong cultural influence on the people, then an interest in the stamps of the former colonial power may develop.

Over time, resentment against the former colonial power usually diminishes. Should the feeling remain strong as a former colony's economy and stamp collecting population develops, then the initial focus will be on the independent country's own stamps, as both the stamps of the colonial period and of the former colonizer will be spurned. Over time, however, interest in stamps of the colonial period, and possibly also in stamps of the former colonizer, may also increase. Of course, hatred of or resentment towards a particular country or regime do not always deter people from collecting its stamps. The vast majority of those who collect German, Japanese, or Italian occupation stamps of World War II do not support Nazism, Japanese Militarism, or Fascism.

The cultural/political factor is very difficult to gauge, yet should be considered because it is a potentially significant source of demand. For instance, as India develops economically and the number of Indian stamp collectors increases, how many of them will collect stamps of Great Britain? Similarly, will collectors in former French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, or Belgian colonies collect stamps of their former "home countries?" Perhaps it is possible to profit from betting on forgiveness, or at least reticence.

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