Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Among the ugliest of valuable stamps are the first issues of Uganda (Scott #1-53), which were typewritten on thin, tough white paper by Reverend Ernest Millar of the Church Missionary Society, an organization dedicated to saving the souls of native Africans from what it viewed as barbaric heathenism by converting them to Christianity. The first 34 of these stamps were typewritten in black. In late 1895, the black ribbon was replaced by a violet one, which was used to create #s 35-53.
This issue raises the question of why anybody would want to collect the visually uninspiring typewritten stamps of Uganda, a set which best illustrates the fundamental absurdity of philately - that when all is said and done, stamps are basically just worthless pieces of paper (and sometimes even look like worthless pieces of paper), yet there are many people who are willing to spend quite alot of money on some of them. Quantity of issue information is unavailable for the set, but in all probability, fewer than 300 of each stamp were produced, with the most valuable among them being extremely rare. The stamps range in value from $275.00 to $ 8,750.00, per Scott '10.
The current primary market for these stamp is, of course, British Commonwealth collectors. At worst, these stamps will remain what they have been thus far - boring, steadily rising conservative investments. However, I think that eventually, a collector base will develop among Ugandans, which will help these ugly ducklings fly much higher. Forgeries exist, so they should be purchased conditional on obtaining a certificate from either the Royal Philatelic Society of London, or the British Philatelic Association.
Uganda is a nation of over 32 million people, with great poverty but also immense potential. It has substantial natural resources, including fertile soil, regular rainfall, and sizable mineral deposits of copper and cobalt. The country also has largely untapped reserves of both crude oil and natural gas. Since 1986, the government (with the support of foreign countries and international agencies) has acted to rehabilitate an economy devastated during the regime of Idi Amin and subsequent civil war. Inflation ran at 240% in 1987, 42% in June 1992, and 5.1% in 2003. Economic growth has been impressive but has not always led to poverty reduction.
The challenge of promoting equitable growth, so that prosperity may be shared among a larger portion of the population, is common to much of the developing world. The countries which best rise to the challenge are most likely to enhance their political stability and economic prospects by sustaining a well-fed, educated middle class. Uganda's recent annual GDP growth has been healthy, averaging 5.5% over the last 5 years.
Those interested in joining a community of stamp investors are welcome to join the "Stampselectors" group on Facebook. The group provides a forum for those who wish discuss this blog, as well as trade or communicate with stamp collectors, dealers, and investors from all over the world.