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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Newfoundland 1897 Surcharges (Scott #75-77)

At the beginning of 1897, Newfoundland's Colonial Secretary Robert Bond decided to issue a long set of stamps (from 1c to 60c) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland by John Cabot. One stamp would be dedicated to Queen Victoria while the others promoted Newfoundland. Bond sensed a potential for increased revenue for the post office, with the U.S. Columbians and Canadian Silver Jubilee sets as models.

What seemed like a good plan became a disaster. The public ate up the 1¢ and 2¢ low values but eschewed the higher values. One could still buy the 60¢ at the post office in St. John’s as late as 1936. By September, the two low values were almost exhausted. The 1¢ was needed for drop mail, circulars, and other 3rd class use. With the plates gone, and few older 1¢ stamps to be found, Newfoundland had its first postal crisis. New 1¢ and 2¢ values were ordered but they would not arrive until early December and a fix was needed by mid-October.

As a solution, just under 40,000 of the 1890 3c Victoria stamps were locally surcharged "ONE CENT." Three different fonts were used, however, creating three different surcharged stamps. 32,000 of the most common stamp (Scott #75- Gothic letters), along with 5,600 of #76 (Sans-serif), and 1,600 of #77 (flat and sans-serif). Scott '11 prices the unused stamps at $60.- ,$225.- , and $750.- (slightly more than double for NH) , respectively. All three surcharges were used on each sheet, so blocks of four containing two #75s, a #76, and a #77 exist. These blocks of four are considered highly desirable.

I recommend purchase of these stamps, especially the two scarcer ones and the block. I believe that #76 and 77 have been neglected because they are surcharge varieties- after all, who cares about surcharge varieties except for anal retentive specialists? This attitude tends to diminish as demand for a particular country's stamps develops. As with all surcharges, I advise purchasing them conditional on obtaining expertization. Note that poor centering is typical for this issue, so attempt to purchase examples that are centered F-VF or better.

Many of the better stamps of Newfoundland were issued in modest quantities. I intend to revisit them in the future, as I am "doggedly bullish" (to badly mix metaphors) about better British North America in general. This area is very popular among collectors of both Canada and British Commonwealth, and the better items represent solid investments, as interest in stamp collecting in Canada is much stronger than it is in the U.S. .

With a population of about 31 million, Canada is one of the world's wealthiest countries, and is one of the world's top ten trading nations. GDP growth has averaged 2.2% over the past five years, which takes into account the 0% growth of 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Canada's population is expected to age significantly over the next decades. Canadians over 60 are projected to increase from 16.7% of the population in 2000 to 27.9% in 2025, and 30.5% in 2050. Consequently, in the future, many more Canadians will be spending time working on their stamp collections on cold winter days.

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