Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Before Otto von Bismarck unified Germany in 1871, the country was divided into individual states, some of which issued their own stamps. A few of these stamps are rare and extremely valuable, but in many cases, prices of German States stamps have lagged, because as a collecting area it is a minefield of reprints, fakes, and forgeries. With the exception of the rarities, many German States stamps often can be purchased in F-VF+ condition for 25%-35% of Scott. Better items which seem questionable should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization, preferably by a reputable German expert.
Having taken that necessity into account, however, I believe that over time, the "cream" (by which I mean the better, undervalued German States stamps which have been expertized) will rise to the top.
Lubeck's first stamps (Scott #1-5), issued in 1859, provide a lesson on how to navigate the treacherous maze of German States philately. I've listed these stamps, along with their printing quantities and Scott '10 Catalog values, below:
-1859 1/2g Gray Lilac (Scott #1; 40,000; $ 400.00)
-1859 1s Orange (Scott #2; 20,000; $ 400.00)
-1859 2s Brown (Scott #3; 138,600; $ 17.00)
-1859 2 1/2s Rose (Scott #4; 50,000; $ 35.00)
-1859 4s Green (Scott #5; 149,900; $ 16.00)
Reprints and fake cancels exist for this issue, and given the cost of expertization, I think that it makes sense to buy only #1 and # 2, with certificates.
Germany, an affluent nation of about 82 million people, is the world's fourth largest economy, and both the second largest importer and second largest exporter of goods. Since the age of industrialisation, the country has been a driver, innovator, and beneficiary of an ever more globalised economy, and is recognised as a scientific and technological leader in several fields. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 2% over the last five years, reflecting the recent global slowdown, and the gradual progress being made in absorbing the less developed former DDR.
Germany has long been known as a center of philately, and both the hobby and the stamp business there exhibit a markedly higher level of sophistication than what exists in the U.S.. There are three million philatelists in Germany, which makes it the second biggest stamp collecting nation in the world.