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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Ceylon 1857 Victoria Issue (Scott #1-13)

In 1857, Ceylon (then a British colony) issued its first set of stamps, predictably portraits of Queen Victoria (Scott #1-13). The British had established a plantation economy on the island, cultivating tea, cinnamon, rubber, sugar, coffee and indigo, and transforming most of the native population into indentured laborers. Most of the stamps issued during the Colonial period were used by the colonists to send letters and packages back to England. Stamp collecting was in its infancy in 1857, so the vast majority of these stamps were used and discarded.

Many of the stamps of the first issue are quite scarce and yet neglected, especially as used examples. Among the scarcest stamps of this set, there are huge differences between the catalog values of the stamps in unused vs. used condition. It may be that some of the stamps in unused condition are rare to extremely rare, but this doesn't justify undervaluation of sound used examples.

The first set was issued imperforate, while the more common 1861-67 issues (Scott #17-57), many of which have identical colors and designs, were perfed sets. It is prudent to ascertain that stamps purchased as imperforate have reasonably ample margins on all four sides, since stamps of the later sets are known to have been trimmed in order to resemble imperforates.

I've listed the printing quantities (when known), and Scott Catalogue Values for unused and used below:

1857 Issue:

-1p Blue (Scott #1; Unknown; $---- ; $ 260.- )
-6p Plum (Scott #2; 60,000; $ 10,000.-; $ 525.- )
-1p Deep Turquoise (Scott #3; Unknown; $ 825.- ;$ 42.50 )
-2p Deep Green (Scott #4; Unknown; $190.- ;$ 72.50)
-4p Dull Rose (Scott #5; 7,400; $ 75,000.-;$ 5,400.- )
-5p Orange Brown (Scott #6; 90,800; $ 1,750.-; $ 175.-)
-6p Plum (Scott #6A; Unknown; $2,400.- ;$ 160.- )
-6p Brown (Scott #7; Unknown; $ 7,750.-;$ 550.- )
-8p Brown (Scott #8; 6,200; $ 30,000.-; $ 1,750.- )
-9p Lilac Brown (Scott #9; 9,800; $50,000.- ;$ 1,050.- )
-10p Vermilion (Scott #10; 15,500; $950.- ;$ 350.- )
-1sh Violet (Scott #11; 51,100; $ 5,500.- ;$ 240.- )
-1sh9p Green (Scott #12; Unknown; $ 950.- ;$950.-
-1sh9p Yellow Green (Scott #12a; 5,000;$ 5,000.-; $ 3,600.- )
-2sh Blue (Scott #13; 5,720; $ 6,500 ; $ 1,400.- )

The primary market for these stamps is, of course, British Commonwealth collectors. However, I am confident that a sufficient base of stamp collectors will develop in Sri Lanka (as the island republic is now known) to give the values of these stamps an additional boost.

A nation of about 20 million people, Sri Lanka has mostly had strong growth rates in recent years. The main economic sectors of the country are tourism, tea export, apparel, textile, rice production and other agricultural products. In addition to these economic sectors, overseas employment contributes highly in foreign exchange, most of them from the Mid-East.From 1983 to 2009, the country suffered through an on-and-off insurgency against the government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist militant organization which fought to create an independent state named Tamil Eelam in the North and East of the island. On May 19, 2009, the President of Sri Lanka officially claimed an end to the insurgency and the defeat of the LTTE, following the deathsof the LTTE's other leadership. Annual GDP growth has been strong, averaging slightly over 6% over the last 5 years.

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