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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: U.S. 1869-75 90c Lincoln (Scott #122, 132)

   In 1869, the U.S. issued a grilled pictorial set of stamps which many collectors consider its first commemoratives (Scott #112-22). These were reissued without grill in 1875 (Scott #123-32). In both sets, the top value is a 90c stamp (Scott #122, 132), portraying Abraham Lincoln, America's greatest president. While printing quantities are not known for the first stamp, I would estimate that a few thousand were issued. 1,356 of the reissued 90c were issued.  For unused, these stamps catalog $ 12,000.- ($2,100.-  for used), and $ 3,750.- ($ 6,500.- for used), respectively.

   Ninety cents was a lot of money in the 1870s - about 2 days wages - when the average American worker earned about $120 a year.  Only a few wealthy collectors could afford to collect the stamp unused, and it is likely that many of the rest were used as postage on heavy packages and were then discarded.

   Given these stamps' priciness, I consider purchasing them as seconds of  F-VF or better appearance to be the most prudent way to invest in them, assuming that these may be had for 10%-15% of catalog value.  Centering is typically atrocious on these issues, so select for those with perfs clearing the design on all four sides. Note that when purchasing seconds of expensive stamps, appearance and the lack of the worst types of defects is very important. Avoid stamps with pieces missing, stains, tears, ugly, obstructive cancels, etc.. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, nice-appearing seconds of very expensive stamps are often better investments than sound examples, as discussed in a previous article ( Practical Advice - When Do Seconds Come In First? ).

Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are welcome to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and is also an excellent venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.

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