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Monday, June 7, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Saudi Arabia 1934 Proclamation Issue (Scott #138-49)

In 1932, the Kingdom of the Hejaz and Nejd was renamed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and in 1934, it issued its first stamps under that name, a set proclaiming Emir Saud as Heir Apparent (Scott #138-49). 4,000 sets were issued in both perforated and imperforate form, and Scott '10 prices either at $ 2,266.00 for unused.

Although betting on the economic development of Saudi Arabia is not without risk, I feel that the potential returns from investing in its better stamps vastly outweigh the threat of an overthrow of its monarchy and a radicalization of the country. It seems probable that the government will continue its policies of gradual reform and co-opting or corrupting its potential adversaries with oil money.

An extremely affluent nation with an estimated population of 28 million, Saudi Arabia officially has 260 billion barrels of oil reserves - about 24% of the world's total proven reserves. Though currently almost wholely dependent upon the petroleum industry, the Kingdom is attempting to diversify by building "economic cities," which will focus on pharmaceuticals, tourism, finance, education and scientific research. Annual GDP growth over the last 5 years has averaged about 5%, and it is likely that, barring the potential for disruption due to political instability, Saudi Arabia will continue to sustain high growth over the next decades. The threat of instability is real, as the Saudi government is rated the world's seventh most authoritarian regime, according to The Economist's Democracy Index. As a monarchy sworn to govern on the basis of Islamic Law, Saudi Arabia maintains a legal system which may seem feudal to many people, prescribing capital punishment and various forms corporal punishment, including amputation, for actions which are not even considered crimes in most countries. Intra-family rivalries and the heady mix of religion, politics, greed, and regional militarism make for a potentially explosive combination, but this is nothing new, and the House of Saud has proven its resilience time and time again by surviving and maintaining its primacy over the last hundred years.

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