Monday, May 2, 2011
I'm initiating coverage of Afghanistan with a popular topical issue, in keeping with my strategy of focusing on items which have worldwide appeal when speculating on stamps of volatile emerging market countries. In 1960, Afghanistan issued a set and souvenir sheet celebrating U.N. Day (Scott #477Note). Only 12,000 of the souvenir sheet were issued, and Scott '11 prices it at $6.00 for unused.
I continue to like the U.N. as a topic, long-term. The market for U.N.-related topicals should grow over the very long haul as institutions of world government develop in order to take on serious (and possibly existential) problems which can only be coped with globally. Despite the present inadequacy, corruption, and ineffectiveness of the U.N., I view its reform and gradual strengthening as a gradual but irresistible trend.
From a philatelic perspective, Afghanistan is of interest mainly for its early issues, especially the "Tiger's Heads." These crudely lithographed stamps have appeal to specialists throughout the world. When these stamps were issued, most Afghan post offices did not have postal cancelers, so pieces were torn off of stamps in order to indicate that they were used. Tiger's Heads which catalog in the hundreds of dollars were probably produced in very modest quantities, although printing quantity information is not available for these issues. I may recommend some of these stamps in future articles.
A nation of over 28 million people, Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries. In 2010, the nation's GDP per capita was about $1,000. Its unemployment rate is 35% and roughly 36% of its citizens live below the poverty line. About 42 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day, according to USAID. However, due to the infusion of multi-billion dollars in international assistance and investments, as well as remittances from expats, the economy has steadily improved, growing at approximately 12 percent per year during the past six years. Opium production is a major part of the underground economy, employing over 2 million Afghans.
Recent discoveries of major mineral deposits make the country look compelling from a long-term perspective. In 2010, Pentagon officials, along with geologists from the United States, announced the discovery of $1–3 trillion worth untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan. The country may possess up to 36 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 3.6 billion barrels of petroleum, up to 1.3 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and huge deposits of gold, copper, coal, iron ore, lithium, and other minerals.