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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Labuan 1879-82 Victoria (Scott #1-4, 5-10)

Labuan is a small island off the northwest coast of Borneo. The British became interested in the previously uninhabited, mosquito-ridden island in the 1840s as a possible base of operations against pirates in the South China Sea, and forced the Sultan of Brunei to cede it to them in 1846.

The first stamps of Labuan depict the usual profile of Queen Victoria, but are unusual for being inscribed in Arabic and Chinese as well as in English. The stamps of both the first and second sets, issued in 1879 and 1880-82, were issued in small quantities. I've listed them below, along with their Scott '12 catalog values as unused and quantities issued.

-1879 Victoria, Watermark 46:
  • 1879 2c Green 1; Scott '12 =$1,500.00 ;1,520 issued
  • 1879 6c Orange 2; Scott '12 =$240.00 ; 2,940
  • 1879 12c Carmine 3; Scott '12 =$1,925.00; 1,470
  • 1879 16c Blue 4; Scott '12 =$77.50 ; 3,520
-1880-82 Victoria, Watermark 1:
  • 1880-82 2c Green 5; Scott '12 =$27.50 ; 5,360
  • 1880-82 6c Orange 6; Scott '12 =$135.00 ; 5,200
  • 1880-82 8c Carmine 7; Scott '12 =$135.00 ; 6,100
  • 1880-82 10c Yellow Brown 8; Scott '12 =$195.00 ; 5,050
  • 1880-82 12c Carmine 9; Scott '12 =$ 330.00; 5,580
  • 1880-82 16c Blue 10; Scott '12 =$ 100.00; 5,500
I consider the early stamps of Labuan grossly undervalued, possibly due to the island's obscurity. Many of its early stamps were probably used as postage and discarded. It's likely that few collectors of the 1880s had even heard of the place.

The island is now a federal territory of Malaysia, with about 85,000 inhabitants. It is best known as an offshore financial center offering international financial and business services. It is also an offshore support hub for deep water oil and gas activities in the region and a tourist destination for nearby Bruneians and scuba divers. Labuan's stamps have dual market appeal to collectors of British Commonwealth in general, and Malaya/Malaysia in particular.

With a population of over 28 million, Malaysia is an emerging market nation and the 29th largest economy in the world. It has abundant minerals and petroleum, vast forests, as well as a thriving agricultural sector. Nevertheless, over the last four decades, the Malaysian government has committed the nation to a transition from reliance on mining and agriculture to manufacturing, and is moving to conserve its remaining forests and reforest the overcut areas. The government has recently taken steps to make Malaysia more business-friendly, and the number of Malaysians living in poverty has also decreased. As of 2007, average wages were around $34 per day, up from about $9 per day in 1999. Annual GDP growth has averaged over 5% over the last five years, although the country's economy was hurt by the global financial crisis.

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