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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Ethiopia 1944 Menelik II Centenary (Scott #263-67)

In 1944, Ethiopia issued a set of five stamps commemorating the centenary of the birth of King Menelik II (Scott #263-67). 39,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $20.50 .

The first King Menelik was traditionally believed to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and is credited with having founded the Solomonic dynasty that ruled Ethiopia with few interruptions for close to three thousand years. Menelik II (1844-1914) is revered as a strong and enlightened leader who extended Ethiopia's territory, transformed it into a modern state, and defeated the Italians, who wished to colonize Ethiopia, at the Battle of Adwa (1896).

The Menelik II set has obvious patriotic appeal to Ethiopians, and it is likely that most were used as postage and discarded. How often can one purchase an attractive set of stamps, for which probably fewer than 15,000 remain, from a rapidly developing country with tens of millions of people, for so little?

Ethiopia is still a poor country, with an estimated population of over 85 million people. However, it has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with annual GDP growth of 9%-11%. It has the greatest water reserves in Africa, and is one of its most fertile countries. According to the New York Times, it has the potential "to become the breadbasket for much of Europe if its agriculture were better organized."

Ethiopia has a fascinating philatelic history, and most serious collectors who specialize in Ethiopia are Europeans and Americans. I expect that this will change over the long-term, as it has for so many countries which have risen out of poverty. It doesn't take much imagination to envision how prices for scarce, inexpensive issues of Ethiopia will be affected if more of a middle class develops and more Ethiopians begin collecting their own stamps.

Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.


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