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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: German States - Bergdorf 1861-67 Arms (Scott #1-5)

Before the unification of Germany, the country was divided into states, many of which issued their own stamps. A few of these stamps are rare and extremely valuable, but in many cases, prices of German States stamps have lagged, because as a collecting area it is a minefield of reprints, fakes, and forgeries. With the exception of the rarities, many German States stamps often can be purchased in F-VF+ condition for 25%-35% of Scott. Better items which seem questionable should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization, preferably by a reputable German expert.

Bergdorf issued its first and only set, picturing the Arms of Lubeck and Hamburg, from 1861-67 (Scott #1-5). 80,000 sets were issued, and Scott '11 values the unused set at $137.50 . The stamps are considerably pricier used. Unfortunately, counterfeit cancels abound, as do reprints, and the unused stamps are not valuable enough to justify obtaining expertization. As is often the case, the ubiquity of fakes has dampened the market for the authentic examples, and the best strategy in such a situation is to purchase the stamps conditional on obtaining expertization and in a form which is expensive enough to justify it, such as either buying the stamps in strips or blocks, or buying them used, preferably on cover.

Having taken that necessity into account, however, I believe that the set will do well over time.

Germany, an affluent nation of about 82 million people, is the world's fourth largest economy, and both the second largest importer and second largest exporter of goods. Since the age of industrialisation, the country has been a driver, innovator, and beneficiary of an ever more globalised economy, and is recognised as a scientific and technological leader in several fields. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 2% over the last five years, reflecting the recent global slowdown, and the gradual progress being made in absorbing the less developed former DDR.

Germany has long been known as a center of philately, and both the hobby and the stamp business there exhibit a markedly higher level of sophistication than what exists in the U.S.. There are three million philatelists in Germany, which makes it the second biggest stamp collecting nation in the world.

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