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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Sudan 1935 Gordon Memorial Issue (Scott #51-59)

From 1899 through 1954, Sudan was officially under Anglo-Egyptian rule, but in fact administered as a British colony. In 1935, it issued a set of stamps commemorating the 50th anniversary of the matyrdom of General Charles George "Chinese" Gordon, one of the more colorful characters in the history of the British Empire (Scott #51-59). Gordon was killed in 1885 during the Mahdist Revolt , while unsuccessfully attempting to defend the besieged city of Khartoum. Ultimately, the British reasserted their control, reaching Omdurman, the Mahdist capital, in 1898. There, the British effectively used their shiny new Maxim machine guns to defeat a poorly armed native force more than twice the size of their own. Some 30,000 Mahdist soldiers were killed in the war, along with about 700 of the British forces, which included Egyptians and Sudanese.

The Gordon set strongly appeals to British Commonwealth collectors, as it beautifully illustrates the histrionic hubris and heroics of the former Empire. Only 5,500 were issued, and Scott '10 values it unused at $275.00 . I recommend the set based on my confidence in the growth of the British Commonwealth market, although it's possible that demand for it will receive an additional push should Sudan ever become a normal country.

Currently, Sudan is a nation of about 42 million people, living under what is perhaps the most vicious regime on the planet. It has suffered several civil wars over the last 50 years, including the current one being waged in Darfur, which has earned the government international condemnation and charges of genocide. The country is oil-rich, and currently exports over 180 million barrels per year. It also has significant deposits of natural gas, gold, silver, chrome, asbestos, manganese, gypsum, mica, zinc, iron, lead, uranium, copper, kaolin, cobalt, granite, nickel, tin, and aluminum. Agriculture production remains Sudan's most important sector, employing 80% of the workforce and contributing 39% of GDP, but most farms remain rain-fed and susceptible to drought. Political instability,adverse weather, and weak world agricultural prices ensures that much of the population will remain at or below the poverty line for years. Annual GDP growth has been very high, averaging almost 8% over the last five years. However, it is very likely that most (or all) of the prosperity has benefited only the ruling elite, as Sudan is not only one of the world's most murderous countries, but also one of the most corrupt.

That an attractive, historically significant set of stamps with such a meager printing quantity and some worldwide appeal, from a medium-sized country with valuable natural resources, is currently valued so low indicates a nearly total lack of a stamp market within that country, which is not surprising if the country is being run by mass murderers who do not care about the welfare of their fellow citizens. At worst, the Gordon set represents a conservative investment. If Sudan's situation improves, there will be ample reward for the patient investor who is willing to get in on the ground floor.


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