Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

General Commentary: Demographic Trends Favoring a Multi-Decade Bull Market in Stamps

In the 2009 StampSelector article "General Commentary: Demographics and the Stamp Market", I described demographic trends which determined whether a particular country's stamps would tend to rise or decline in value. As I am now convinced that various long-term global trends favor a multi-decade bull market for better stamps in general, I've decided to summarize some of the most important of these trends:

1) The Rise of a Global Middle Class: I've noted this trend in several articles, including "General Commentary: When Does a Collector Become an Investor?" The basic thrust of the argument is that democratization and the emergence of a global middle class, especially in rapidly developing countries that were once considered part of the "Third World", is bringing tens of millions of people into the philatelic fold.

2) Global Aging: I described this trend in the article "General Commentary: The Aging Population and the Coming Stamp Market Boom", which notes the tendency of many collectors to begin young, put the hobby on hold for several decades, and then return to it on a more serious basis later in life, implying that the population of stamp collectors will increase as the proportion of middle-aged and elderly people grows.

3) The Growth of the Internet: while there is no substitute for actually examining stamps before purchasing them, the buying and selling of stamps online has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade. Stamps are a nearly ideal commodity for online trading, as they are small, flat, and easy to scan. While the risk of purchasing overgraded stamps still exists, many venues, including Ebay, give buyers with the right to return stamps for a refund, and may also provide feedback or references. An ever-increasing wealth of accessible information may be found online, as well the opportunity to join collector groups and clubs via social networking. These changes have revolutionized collectibles markets in general, and will continue to do so as more and more people gain Internet access. It is all quite astounding when one considers that only 20 years ago, a collector had to amass a substantial philatelic library in order to have access to information that is now free, that he probably attended only one or two local stamp clubs (if any), and that the only convenient means of disposing of his collection were either by selling it to a dealer or through a stamp auctioneer.

4) Increasing Social and Technological Complexification: the rapid social and technological advances of recent years and the unprecedented dynamism of Modern Society have their drawbacks, including higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Clearly, many in our society suffer from "complexity burn-out," and do well to seek out activities which are refreshingly simple, relaxing, and enjoyable. Stamp collecting has been used as a form of therapy to help handicapped and autistic children, and a charitable organization, "Stamps for the Wounded", promotes stamp collecting among wounded soldiers in hospitals, in order to raise their morale and help them to heal more quickly. Whether as a form of mental health maintenance or simply as recreation, Philately offers an attractive alternative for those who are tired of the noise and inanity of television or video games.

Those interested in learning more about investing in stamps are encouraged to read the Philatelic Investment Guide ($5), available on Kindle, and accessible from any computer.


  1. I love the internet for stamps. I try to be careful describing them as to be accurate and not have let downs upon arrival. The problem is that the more expensive stamps are everywhere, try finding that 10 cent stamp by itself to fill a hole. A few dealers do take the time to scan a common stamp, but most find it a waste of time. I try to scan them all but it takes time

  2. I don´t think demographics will help the stamp market significantly.Apart from some emerging countries,like China and India the number of young serious collectors is too small to make up for the loss by death of older ones.
    Reality is: stamp prices of all established stamp-collecting countries are stagnant for the last twenty to thirty years.Price increases have been and are well below the inflation mark.
    The main reason for that is the immense flood
    of new issues.
    Take f.i.Japan.In Germany in the 60th,70th there was awell organized community of abot 600 serious Japan-collectors.When Japan started to issue countless new stamps,the membership of that community began to dwindle
    down to less than 200 today.
    Today hardly any newcomers join the group.
    Another example:
    Germany today sells about the same number of
    semi-postals,as the did in the 1950th.In the
    70th and 80th about three times as many were sold.As semi.postals are bought almost exclusively by collectors,this gives a good
    picture of the downturn in stamp collecting.

  3. Werner-

    I agree with your view that, for the most part, the emerging market countries will see the strongest bull markets for stamps, especially those which have rapidly aging populations. I also agree that generally the hobby has been stagnating in the so-called "First World" countries, especially the U.S.. I am not as familiar with the situation in Germany or Japan as I am with the U.S., but it seems likely to me that the state of the hobby here is about as bad as it's going to get - in other words, that it's bottomed.