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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Ethiopia 1947 Franklin D. Roosevelt Issue (Scott #278-80/C21-22)

In 1947, Ethiopia issued a compound set of stamps honoring Emperor Haile Selassie and Franklin D. Roosevelt (Scott #278-80/C21-22). 20,000 sets were issued, and Scott '10 values the set at $ 15.20 for unused). The set has obvious dual market appeal, and represents a very low-risk bet on Ethiopia's future economic development.

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.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Saar 1928 Paintings Semi-postals (Scott #B9-15)

The Saar is a region of Germany with a checkered history that was marred by two world wars. Following World War I, it was occupied and governed by Britain and France from 1920 to 1935 under a League of Nations mandate, with the occupation originally being under the auspices of the Treaty of Versailles. It was returned to Germany following a plebiscite held in 1935. After World War II, the region became a French protectorate until 1955, when a referendum ended French rule and shortly thereafter returned it once again to Germany.

During the Mandate and French Protectorate periods, Saar issued its own stamps, the scarcest of which are of interest from an investment perspective because of their appeal to collectors of Germany and Area and France and Area- two powerful philatelic markets.

A number of Saar's semi-postal sets and souvenir sheets are attractive, including the third semi-postal set picturing paintings with religous themes (Scott #B9-15). Only 15,000 of this beautiful Art/Religion topical were issued, and the key 10fr +10fr high value (Scott #B15) is often sold alone. Scott '10 values the set at $ 480.00 for unused, and I recommend purchasing either the set or the high value (Sc. 10 CV= $ 400.00) in either VF NH or VF LH condition.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: India-Convention States-Chamba 1886-95 Overprint (Scott #1-15)

During the Raj period, the Convention States of Chamba, Faridkot, Jhind, Nabha, and Patiala had postal agreements with Great Britain, allowing their stamps franking power throughout all of British India. Stamps of the Convention States were all overprinted stamps of British India, in contrast to the stamps of the Indian Feudatory States, which were issued independently, and which were only valid within the issuing states.The stamps of the Convention States are rich in varieties and errors. Typical errors include inverted overprinting, spelling mistakes in English or Devanagri, errors of omission and smaller capital letters.

A number of issues from both the Convention and Feudatory States are quite scarce and desirable. While quantities issued information is generally unobatainable for stamps of the Feudatory States, there is some available for certain Convention States issues, quite a few of which have been overlooked.

One such issue is Chamba's 1886-96 Overprints (Scott #1-15). The 2r-5r high values of the set (Scott #12-14) had printings of only 672 each, and Scott '10 values the set unused at $ 710.75. It is worth focusing on just the top three values, if the complete set is difficult to find in decent condition. While fake overprints may possibly exist on the high values, this does not represent much of a risk, because the difference in value between the stamps overprinted for Chamba and the basic stamps of British India has not been enough to justify faking them.

Until the last decade or so, most of the demand for stamps of India's Convention and Feudatory States has come from British Commonwealth collectors and specialists outside of India. With India's economic rise, its stamp market has been heating up considerably. I am confident that in the coming years, the center of demand for these collecting areas will shift to India, as the number of stamp collectors there will number in the millions, if not tens of millions.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Phila-Trivia: Stamps That Began a War

Wars have sometimes been started for rather trivial reasons, but it's hard to come up with a more petty one than a postage stamp. Yet, postal propaganda was one of the factors leading to the Chaco War (1932-35), the bloodiest military conflict fought in the Americas in the 20th century.

Both Paraguay and Bolivia claimed an uninhabited desert region known as the Gran Chaco. Bolivia, landlocked after war with Chile, wanted the territory in order to give it river access to the Atlantic. Paraguay, having lost most of its territory to its neighbors during the War of the Triple Alliance, needed the Gran Chaco just to stay on the map. Both sides believed that there were rich oil reserves in region as well.

The dispute heated up considerably when Bolivia issued a stamp featuring a map of Bolivia that included the Gran Chaco, now marked as "Chaco Boliviano." Paraguay soon issued even bigger stamps than Bolivia, with an even bigger map of the Gran Chaco, but this time marked as "Chaco Paraguayo."

Bolivia then forcefully asserted its claim by moving troops into the Gran Chaco. Paraguay responded by doing the same. In 1932, philatelic warfare gave way to the real thing.

The Chaco War saw the use of armor and aircraft on both sides. British, American, French, and Italian arms makers took the opportunity to profit from the carnage by exporting some of their newest weapons to the combatants. German and Russian veterans of the First World War served as staff members and mercenaries on both sides, advising the armies of Bolivia and Paraguay on how to butcher one another more efficiently.

In the end, after casualties and losses numbering about 100,000 were sustained by both countries, the Paraguayans won. The Paraguayans got the Gran Chaco, but it turned out that the oil that everyone had thought was there didn't exist.

Funereal Paraguayan stamp honoring the Chaco Peace, a truce negotiated in 1938

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Colombia 1919-20 Airmails (C1-10)

In 1919 and '20, Colombia issued its first airmail stamps, the first eleven of which (C1, C2-10) are extremely scarce. C1, of which 200 were issued, was intended for an experimental flight from Baranquilla to Puerto Colombia. 160 were used, and many of the stamps which remain are defective. C2-10, produced by the Compania Colombiana de Navegacion Aerea, incorporated Art Deco-style designs illustrating various flight motifs, and only 100 of each of these stamps was issued.

None of these stamps seems inexpensive, as most catalog between
$2,750.- and $5,500.- with the exception of C7 ($ 10,000.- for unused). Purchase of any of these stamps should be made conditional on expertization. Despite their apparent priciness, they are all grossly undervalued, especially given the prospects for growth in the Latin American stamp market in general, and Colombia's in particular. They are each at least as rare as the U.S. Inverted Jenny stamp, but may be had for 1% or less of its price.

A nation of 45 million people, Colombia has been plagued by decades of serious internal armed conflict, drug trafficking, corruption, and gross inequities of income, but has nevertheless racked up impressive annual GDP growth averaging 5.5% over the last 5 years. Moreover, until the global financial fiasco cut its GDP growth to 3% in 2009, it had been steadily accelerating, from 2% in 2003 to 8% in 2008. Recently, the government, armed to the teeth by the U.S., has applied a dual policy of combining military pressure with negotiations to cope with the various guerrilla factions within the country. This seems to have worked to some extent, as the number of insurgents has been halved, and the number of homicides and kidnappings drastically reduced. While some argue that the Colombian government is still utterly corrupt, and has violated human rights and supported paramilitary death squads in order to achieve relative peace, it may be that this is par for the course, given the nation's history. The main challenge that the country faces will be that of sharing more of the wealth with the majority of the population so as to develop more of a middle class and political center. Otherwise, it will devolve into an unstable mess.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Lebanon 1956 UN 10th Anniversary (Scott #C221-22,C222Note)

In January of 1956, Lebanon issued a set of stamps and a souvenir sheet commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the United Nations (Scott #C221-22, C222Note). Only 15,000 sets and 4,000 souvenir sheets were issued. Scott '10 values them unused at $ 11.75 and $ 90.00, respectively. Both are attractive, and it is unclear which represents the better bargain, because it is likely that a far greater proportion of the sets were used as postage and discarded than were the souvenir sheets.

Stamps of Lebanon are popular among collectors of the Mideast and French Colonies. Furthermore, as a UN Topical, this issue has worldwide appeal, which should increase as the UN gradually gains credibility as an effective institution for dealing with global problems.

Lebanon, a nation of 4.2 million people, has had negligible GDP growth over the last 5 years due to Hezbollah's war with Israel, Syrian domination, and internal strife. Nevertheless, I am confident that it will eventually return to prosperity as the various factions within the region learn how to get along, and Beirut returns to its former preeminence as the "Paris of the Middle East."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: St. Pierre and Miquelon 1885-86 Surcharges (Scott #1-18)

The Territorial Collectivity of St. Pierre and Miquelon, the only remnant of the former French colonial empire in North America, is comprised of two small groups of islands off the coast of Newfoundland. From a philatelic investment perspective, it is of interest because its stamps are popular in Canada and among collectors of French Colonies - both growing markets. The scarcest stamps of St. Pierre and Miquelon exist within two broad groups: the 19th century surcharges and overprints, and the 1941-42 "France Libre" overprints.

As with all overprints, some of these stamps have been faked at one time or another, so I recommend that stampselectors focus only on those which are worth getting expertized.

The first stamps of the colony were primitive surcharges. I've listed the better ones, along with their printing quantities (when known) and Scott '10 Catalog Values for unused, below:

- 1885 05c on 40c Vermilion on straw (Scott #1; 4,000; $ 140.- )
- 1885 05c on 35c Black on yellow (Scott #4; 1,500; $ 140.-)
- 1885 05c on 75c Carmine on rose (Scott #5; 1,800; $ 375.-)
- 1885 25c on 1fr Bronze Green on straw, surcharge type 'c' (Scott #7; 340; $ 13,000.-)
- 1885 25c on 1fr Bronze Green on straw; surcharge type 'd' (Scott #8; 300; $ 2,500.-)
- 1885 5c on 2c Brown on buff (Scott #9; extremely rare; $ 6,500.-)
- 1885 5c on 4c Claret on lavender (Scott #10; 900; $ 500.-)
- 1886 5c Black (Scott #12; Rare; $ 1,350.-)
- 1886 10c Black (Scott #13; Rare; $ 1,450.-)
- 1886 15c Black (Scott #14; Rare; $ 1,300.-)
- 1891 15c on 35c Black on orange, surcharge type 'e' (Scott #16; 850; $ 675.-)
- 1891 15c on 35c Black on orange, surcharge type 'f' (Scott #17; 850; $ 2,000.-)
- 1891 15c on 40c Red on straw, surcharge type 'e' (Scott #18; 5,000; $ 110.-)

Some of the other better 19th century issues, and the "France Libre" overprints, will be dealt with in future articles.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Queensland 1900 Boer War Semi-postals (Scott B1-B2)

Before Australia issued its first stamps as a self-governing dominion in 1913, it was divided into six British colonies, each of which issued their own stamps. In 1900, Queensland issued a set of two semi-postals (Scott #B1-2) to aid disabled Queensland volunteers and dependants of those volunteers who lost their lives fighting in the Boer War. Only 6,500 of #B1 and 4,020 of #B2 were issued, and Scott '10 prices them unused at $ 200.-and $ 525.-, respectively.

I favor all better stamps of Australia and Australian States, and believe that those issues which are the most undervalued, based upon their scarcity, will tend to increase the most over time.

Australia is a prosperous nation of 22 million people and a diverse economy, with thriving service, agricultural, and mining sectors. Annual GDP growth has average 3.6% over the past 15 years. Recently, there has been considerable growth in mining and petroleum extraction, in part due to increased exports to the resource-hungry Chinese market. It is likely that Australia's stamp collecting population will grow significantly as the nation ages. The percentage of Australians over 60 is projected to rise from 16% in 2000 to 24.8% in 2025, and 28.2% in 2050.

When purchasing these stamps, note that the centering of this issue is often mediocre. Try to select examples which are centered Fine or better.

Stamp Investment Tip: Netherlands/Netherlands Indies 1921 Marine Insurance Stamps (Scott #GY1-7)

In 1921, the Netherlands, and its main colony, the Netherlands Indies, both issued Marine Insurance Stamps (Scott #GY1-7, in both cases). These stamps were used to pay for a very unusual type of insured mail. Letters bearing the stamps were placed in safes mounted on the decks of ships en route between Netherlands and Netherlands East Indies. The safes were buoyant and were equipped with flares and bells. In the event that the ship sank, the safe would float off and the flares and bells would activate, hopefully leading to the recovery of the safe and its contents. Only 5,216 of the Netherlands set were issued, and 4,127 of the Netherlands Indies set, and Scott '10 prices them unused at $ 605.- ($1,500.- for NH) and $ 186.90, respectively.

Both sets should do well, although the Netherlands Indies set is "sexier," as it may potentially appeal to a dual market in both the Netherlands and Indonesia. With about 16.6 million people, the Netherlands is the 16th largest economy in the world, and its annual GDP growth has averaged about 2.5% over the last 5 years. Indonesia is a developing, though still poor, country of 230 million people, with an annual GDP growth rate hovering around 5%-6%. Like most emerging market nations, it faces challenges which will have to be addressed, including corruption and major inequities in the distribution of income.

Furthermore, global aging trends in both countries should bolster the population of serious stamp collectors in both countries in the coming decades. The Netherlands' population of citizens age 60+ is projected to rise from 18.3% in 2000 to 32.8% in 2050, while Indonesia's 60+ age group is expected to almost triple, from 7.6% to 22.3%.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: China - Offices in Tibet (Scott 1-11)

From 1909 to late 1911 China occupied Tibet and the Dalai Lama and his Government fled to India. For approximately two years, five Chinese Post Offices operated in Central Tibet and a Chinese Post Office at Chambo (Eastern Tibet) was open in 1913 and 1914.

Initially, the post office used regular stamps of Imperial China, but in 1911 a set of eleven stamps (surcharged in three languages) was introduced for Tibet (Scott #1-11). The set is very scarce and almost never sold complete. As the purchase of any overprinted stamp entails the risk of buying a fake, I recommend purchase of only those stamps in the set (including the two rare varieties) which are costly enough to justify obtaining expertization. I've listed these, along with printing quantities (when known) and Scott '10 Catalog Values for unused, below:

-1911 3p on 1c Ocher, inverted surcharge (Scott #1a; Very Rare; Scott '10 CV= $ 3,500.-)
-1911 3a on 16c Olive Green, large "S" in "Annas" (Scott #6a; Rare; Scott '10 CV= $1,250.-)
-1911 12a on 50c Yellow Green (Scott #9; 12,000; Scott '10 CV= $ 175.- )
-1911 1r on $1 Red and Pale Rose (Scott #10; 4,800; Scott '10 CV = $ 475.- )
-1911 2r on $2 Red and Yellow (Scott #11; 3,704; Scott '10 CV= $ 900.- )

The dispute between China and Tibet over the matter of Tibet's sovereignty has been ongoing for centuries, and it was following the issuance of these stamps that Tibet regained some of its autonomy and began issuing its own stamps in 1912.

I am confident that the Offices in Tibet stamps will do very well over time, mostly due to continued growth in demand for stamps of China. Interest in Tibet and its stamps may also help to push them higher.

Those readers who are on Facebook are welcome to join the "StampSelectors" group. To find it, simply enter "StampSelectors" in Facebook's search box, and then click on the search symbol ( a magnifying glass) to the right of the box. The group will focus upon philatelic investing, the stamp market, and practical matters regarding buying and selling stamps. It will also offer the opportunity to comment upon this blog, get under the author's skin, and suggest future stamp investment tips.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Mexico 1934-35 20c Slate Color Error (Scott #C62a)

In 1934-35, Mexico issued a rather unremarkable set of three stamps reprising the Coat of Arms/Biplane design of 1929-34 (Scott #C62-64). The set would be of little interest to investors, were it not for a color error, the 20c Slate (Scott #C62a), of which only 180 were issued. The normal 20c Olive Green (Scott #C62), is extremely common (Scott 2010 as unused = 35c), but Scott '10 values the error at $ 500.- (both unused and used).

Taking into account the risks of mistaking a gray shade of the common olive green stamp for the slate error, or of purchasing a chemically induced color changeling, this stamp should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization, optimally from M.E.P.S.I..

Given that caveat, however, the error is grossly undervalued, but will not remain so. It is priced at about 1/1,000th the value of an Inverted Jenny (U.S. Sc. #C3a), but is about half as rare (assuming that all of the 180 error stamps issued still exist). As the Inverted Jenny is one of the most famous errors in the world, however, perhaps this is not a fair comparison. The 20c Slate Color Error had a slightly lower printing than the U.S. 1893 4c Columbian Blue Color Error (Scott #233a), yet cats. at about 1/40th of the Columbian's value. To give some perspective on this, imagine a fantastical worst-case scenario, in which all 180 of C62a were to come on the market at once. They would probably be purchased for somewhat less than their full Scott value of
$ 90,000 ($ 500.- X 180) - less than a minor Mexican drug cartel makes on a slow day. The ludicrously low current valuation for this rarity is unsustainable.

With a population of about 109 million, Mexico has experienced consistent annual GDP growth of between 3 and 5%. It has a diverse and developing economy, but modernization remains a slow and uneven process, and current challenges include addressing income inequality and corruption, upgrading the infrastructure, and reforming tax and labor laws. Stamps of Mexico are popular among collectors in the U.S. as well as in Mexico, and those who wish to learn more about Mexican stamps should consider joining the Mexico Elmhurst Philatelic Society International (M.E.P.S.I.). MEPSI provides many useful services for collectors of Mexico, including expertizing Mexican stamps.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

General Commentary: Could a Philatelic Lottery Help Save the Postal Service?

The U.S. Postal Service is currently experiencing severe financial difficulties, due to declines in mail volume, increases in fuel costs, and other problems, according to a recent GAO report. The Postmaster General has warned that if the Postal Service continues to operate as it is, it will run a cumulative debt of $238 billion over the next 10 years. Some of the most commonly aired proposals for coping with the crisis include: closing post offices, "streamlining" compensation and benefits for employees (nothing like a bureaucratic euphemism to brighten one's day!), asking Congress for financial relief, dramatically increasing the costs of postage, and delivering mail fewer days each week.

A blog from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S.P.S offers some less conventional remedies, and solicits feedback and innovative input from readers as well. One of the ideas put forward is that of a Post Office Lottery, in which customers would buy tickets at postal outlets for a chance to win cash prizes.

Personally, I like the idea of a lottery, but I'd modify it in two ways.

First, rather than selling lottery tickets, the Postal Service should issue "Lottery Semi-postal stamps." A portion of these stamps would have postal value, and the rest would represent the cost of the lottery ticket, which would, in most cases, be rendered worthless after the drawing. For instance, if a normal lottery ticket were to cost $4, then the stamp would sell for the ticket cost plus the first class rate (currently 44c- a total of $4.44 per stamp). This would benefit the buyer because even after the lottery portion of the ticket became worthless, the stamp would still have some value as as a collectible. Collectors with non-winning stamps could even produce First Day Covers with them, submitting the covers within the 120 day cancellation deadline, thereby saving the Postal Service even more money. Scott Catalogs would probably have to assign a new letter-prefix for these stamps, perhaps "BZ."

Secondly, rather than awarding cash prizes, the Postal Service should produce ultra-limited edition postage stamps, and award them to the lottery winners. For example, the U.S.P.S. could issue an extremely small quantity (perhaps 250 or 500) of a beautifully designed, thematically popular stamp, and award one to each lottery winner. The top winners could each receive a plate block, of which there would be one per sheet. Such stamps would have immediate value in the philatelic market, probably on the order of thousands of dollars each.

Giving a Postal Service lottery philatelic appeal would make headlines, and have the long-term benefit of bolstering interest in stamp collecting in the U.S.. This would further aid the U.S.P.S. because as a consequence, a higher proportion of stamps sold by them would be collected, rather than used as postage.
By the way, should the U.S.P.S. ever need a "philatelic lottery czar" to run the operation, either as a highly paid employee or as a consultant, it need look no further. In a spirit of public service, I'd be willing to take the job, and I'd do it for just a few million dollars a year, a harem of assistants, and an office equipped with a swimming pool, sauna, and plenty of high quality medical marijuana to alleviate the stresses and strains resulting from bravely shouldering my new responsibilities.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Romania 1934-36 Boy Scout Issues

Romania issued three semi-postal sets honoring the Boy Scouts from 1934-36, all of which are worth accumulating. Worldwide membership of the Boy Scouts is estimated at 25 million, and Scouting topicals are extremely popular internationally. Wikipedia has an excellent article on Scouting Memorabilia Collecting, for those interested in the subject.

The three sets, issued in modest quantities, are an excellent way to play the growth of both Romania's economy and interest in Scouting Topicals. I've listed them, along with their quantities issued and Scott '10 Catalog Values for unused, below:

-1934 Boy Scout Mamaii Jamboree (Scott #B44-49; 50,000; $ 40.00)
-1935 5th Anniv. of Accession of King Carol I-Boy Scouts (Scott #B50-54; 50,000; $ 26.50)
- 1936 Brasov Boy Scout Jamboree (Scott #B63-65; 60,000; $ 28.50 )
A nation of 22 million people with a GDP per capita of $ 12,285.- (about 46% of the EU average), Romania is considered an upper-middle income country. Romania's main exports are clothing and textiles, industrial machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, metallurgical products, raw materials, cars, military equipment, software, pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, and agricultural products. GDP growth has been high, averaging about 7% over the last five years.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

General Commentary: Does Absence Make the Heart Grow Fonder? Former Colonies' Ties to Former Colonial Powers and Philatelic Investment

When pondering whether to invest in stamps of a former colonial power, a complicated and unquantifiable yet nevertheless important factor to consider is the sentiment of the former power's so-called "subject peoples." This is especially true in the case of former colonies which are currently prospering or rapidly developing economies, or which are beginning to develop significant stamp collecting populations.

In all cases, the former colonial powers are now First World nations, with highly developed industrialized economies and relatively affluent populations (compared to most of the rest of the world). The initial demand for stamps of these countries' former colonies originates in the home countries themselves, because usually in the first years following independence, the former colonies are too poor to sustain a significant domestic stamp collecting population. As a former colony's economy develops, so too may its stamp collecting population, which will probably focus mainly upon the country's own stamps and ignore the stamps of the former colonial power, especially since resentments toward it may linger. However, if ties to the former colonial power improve, or if its administration of its former colony lasted a long time and it exerted a strong cultural influence on the people, then an interest in the stamps of the former colonial power may develop.

Over time, resentment against the former colonial power usually diminishes. Should the feeling remain strong as a former colony's economy and stamp collecting population develops, then the initial focus will be on the independent country's own stamps, as both the stamps of the colonial period and of the former colonizer will be spurned. Over time, however, interest in stamps of the colonial period, and possibly also in stamps of the former colonizer, may also increase. Of course, hatred of or resentment towards a particular country or regime do not always deter people from collecting its stamps. The vast majority of those who collect German, Japanese, or Italian occupation stamps of World War II do not support Nazism, Japanese Militarism, or Fascism.

The cultural/political factor is very difficult to gauge, yet should be considered because it is a potentially significant source of demand. For instance, as India develops economically and the number of Indian stamp collectors increases, how many of them will collect stamps of Great Britain? Similarly, will collectors in former French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, or Belgian colonies collect stamps of their former "home countries?" Perhaps it is possible to profit from betting on forgiveness, or at least reticence.

Stamp Investment Tip: Egypt 1922 2pi Orange Postage Due (Scott #J26-26a)

Sometimes, among the best stamps in which to invest are the obscure, plain-looking back-of-book issues which collectors initially ignore. Such is the case with the unassuming little postage due which I am touting to all of you stampselectors today.

In 1922, Egypt overprinted some of its 1889 2pi Orange Postage Due stamps to celebrate the Proclamation of the Monarchy of King Fuad (Scott #J26, J26a). 26,000 of the normal, "overprint left side up" stamps, and 8,000 of the "overprint right side up" variety were issued. Scott '10 values the normal unused stamp at $ 5.00 and the variety at $ 25.00. In all probability, at least 70%-90% of these stamps were used and discarded, leaving perhaps 2,600 to 7,800 of the normal stamp and 800-2,400 of the variety remaining.

Generally, when scarce yet boring back-of-book stamps are overlooked, they remain undervalued for a time, until collectors realize that they have to fill spaces in their albums, but can't find the stamps. As prices rise, they don't seem quite as boring anymore. I think this may prove doubly true for such stamps when they come from countries with rapidly developing economies and growing populations of stamp collectors.

With an estimated 76 million people, Egypt possesses one of the most developed economies in the Mid-East, with a GDP growth rate of 5% -7%. The government is undertaking major economic reforms to further spur development, including massive investments in infrastructure and liberalizing economic and tax policies to encourage foreign investment. Egypt's main challenge in the years to come will be one of social and political democratization - how to assure that enough of the new wealth trickles down to the majority of the population to lessen the problems of poverty and political instability.

Note: you may run into a cover bearing either the normal stamp or the variety at a very reasonable price while flipping through a dealer's bargain box. Be sure to maintain a poker face as you buy it from him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Turkey 1939 Ankara-Erzerum Railroad Issue (Scott #829-32)

In 1939, Turkey issued a set of stamps commemorating the completion of the Sivas to Erzerum link of the Ankara-Erzerum Railroad (Scott #829-32). 35,000 of this Transportation/ Railroad topical set were issued, and Scott '10 values it unused at $ 21.00.

With a population of about 72 1/2 million, Turkey is perhaps the most culturally European of the Islamic nations, and their probable model for modernization, economic development, and democratization. The country experienced rapid economic growth between 2002 and 2007, with GDP averaging 7.4%, but this slowed in 2008 to 5% and stalled in 2009 to 1%, due to the global financial crisis, from which the country is recovering. While traditional agriculture is still a pillar of the Turkish economy, it is becoming more dependent on industry in major cities. Key sectors include tourism, banking, construction, home appliances, electronics, textiles, oil refining, petrochemical products, food, mining, iron and steel, the machine industry, automotive, and shipbuilding. It is likely that in the future, Turkey will benefit from serving as an economic and cultural nexus connecting Europe, the Near East, and the Turkic (formerly Soviet) nations of Central Asia.

Stamp collecting is growing in Turkey, and there are also many collectors of Turkish stamps in Europe and the U.S.. I recommend consideration of Turkish stamps and souvenir sheets with printings of 100,000 or fewer, especially if they have topical appeal.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Spain 1938 Submarine Mail Issue (Scott #605A-605F, 605G)

In 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, normal communications between the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland were disrupted by Nationalist warships. The Republicans maintained a mail service by submarine and produced a set of six stamps and one souvenir sheet (Scott #605A-605F, 605G). Only 7,526 sets and 7,385 souvenir sheets were issued, and Scott '10
prices the unused set and souvenir sheet at $ 660.- ($ 800.- for NH) and $ 600.- ($775.- for NH), respectively.

This issue has been overlooked in the U.S. because until recently, it was only noted by Scott. I strongly recommend both the set and souvenir sheet, as they are attractive ship topicals with minuscule printings, from a country with a healthy economy and an active and growing stamp collecting population.
I strongly favor all scarce and undervalued issues of Spain and its colonies. The nation has 46 million people, the 9th largest economy in the world, and the most rapidly aging population in Europe. Philately will continue to flourish under such conditions.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Canada 1949-50 Officials (Scott O1-10)

In 1949 and '50, Canada issued its first set of Official stamps (Scott #O1-10), by overprinting a portion of its 1942-43 George VI definitives and 1946 Scenes set "O.H.M.S.." The key stamps in the set, the 50c Dark Blue Green and the $1 Red Violet (Scott O9 and 10), had printings of only 30,000 and 65,000, respectively. Scott '10 values the complete set unused at $ 310.50 , and #O9 at $ 200.-. #O9 is often sold alone, and is sometimes available in blocks of 4.

I believe that the undervaluation of this set is due to its being overlooked as a back-of-book issue. Many of the sets were used as postage by government offices, and it would not surprise me if fewer than 10,000 #O9s in F-VF or better, NH condition remain. The 50c and $ 1 "No period after 'S' " overprint varieties (Scott #O9a and O10a; Scott '10 as unused $ 600.- and $ 2,250.-, respectively ) are also worthwhile, but should be purchased conditional on expertization.

Interest in stamp collecting in Canada is much stronger than it is in the U.S., and I favor better B.N.A. stamps for investment, especially if they had modest printings and have been unjustifiably overlooked thusfar.

With a population of about 31 million, Canada is one of the world's wealthiest countries, and one of the world's top ten trading nations. GDP growth has averaged 2.2% over the past five years, which takes into account the 0% growth of 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Canada's population is expected to age significantly over the next decades, thereby bolstering its population of serious collectors. Canadians over 60 are projected to increase from 16.7% of the population in 2000 to 27.9% in 2025, and 30.5% in 2050. Consequently, in the future, many more Canadians will be spending time working on their stamp collections on cold winter days.

Announcement: Those readers who are on Facebook are welcome to join the newly created "StampSelectors" group, which will focus on philatelic investment and the stamp market. To get to it, simply search under "StampSelectors."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Austria 1933 WIPA Issue (Scott #B110-11)

In 1933, Austria issued several semi-postal stamps and a souvenir sheet in celebration of the Vienna International Philatelic Exhibition (WIPA). These stamps, which pictured an engraving of a stagecoach after a painting by Moritz von Schwind, are listed below, along with quantities issued and Scott '10 Catalog Values for unused:

Scott #B110: 50g Deep Ultramarine, Perf. 12 1/2 (40,000: $ 150.00- $260.00 for NH)

Scott #B110a: 50g Deep Ultramarine, Perf. 12 1/2 on granite paper (20,000; $ 325.00- $625.00 for NH)

Scott #B111: 50g, Perf. 12, Souvenir sheet of 4 on granite paper (10,000; $ 2,500.00-$ 3,250.00 for NH)

Scott #B111a: 50g, Perf 12 on granite paper, single from s/s (40,000; $ 500.00-$ 650.00 for NH)

I view this issue as a conservative investment, which should do well over the long haul as Austria's economy and stamp collecting population grows. The global aging trend should boost the number of serious Austrian philatelists, as the proportion of Austrians over 60 is projected to grow from 20.7% in 2000 to 33% in 2025, and 41% in 2050, according to a UN Report on Global Aging.

Austria, a nation of 8.3 million people, is one of the 12 richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, with a well-developed social market economy and a high standard of living. Alongside its highly developed industries, international tourism is the most important part of the national economy. Germany has historically been the main trading partner of Austria, making it vulnerable to rapid changes in the German economy. However, since Austria became a member state of the European Union it has gained closer ties to other European Union economies, reducing its economic dependence on Germany. In addition, membership in the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria's access to the single European market and proximity to the emerging economies of the European Union. Annual GDP growth has averaged 2.4% over the past 5 years, reflecting a recent slowdown due to the global financial crisis.

Stamp Investment Tip: Brazil 1889 Pres. Hermes da Fonseca Officials (Scott #O14-29)

In 1913, Brazil issued a set of official stamps honoring President Hermes da Fonseca (Scott #O14-29). Only 5,135 sets were issued, and Scott '10 prices the unused set at $ 1,005.- . This I believe to be a grossly undervalued, overlooked back-of-book issue.
As it will probably be difficult to purchase a complete set of this issue in reasonably decent shape, it may be necessary either to buy it piecemeal, or else focus on the high values. All are extremely scarce, from the 20,000r (Sc. #O25) up, and I've noted their quantities issued and Scott '10 Catalog Values (for unused) below:

- 1913 20,000r Blue (Scott #O25; 9,306;$ 30.00)
- 1913 50,000r Green (Scott #O26; 7,407;$ 55.00)
- 1913 100,000r Orange Red (Scott #O27; 5,135; $ 200.00)
- 1913 500,000r Brown (Scott #O28; 5,326;$ 325.00)
- 1913 1,000,000r Dark Brown (Scott #O29; 5,202; $ 350.00)

With 191 million people, Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America, and the world's eighth largest. Political and economic reforms have given the country a brighter future than it had in the bad old days of oligarchical dictatorship. The Brazilian economy is diverse, the country is aggressively investing in its future by generously funding technological research and education, and exports are booming. Annual GDP growth has averaged a little over 5% over the last 5 years.

There are a number of undervalued Brazilian issues with printing quantities of 10,000 to 100,000, some of which have topical appeal, and recommending them for accumulation seems a no-brainer. Brazil looks destined to become an economic superpower, and even if it mirrors the philatelically anemic U.S. and only one out of a thousand Brazilians become serious stamp collectors and one out of a fifty become "unserious" ones, they'll be competing for their nation's better stamps, only to find that the cupboard is bare.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Manchukuo 1933 1st Anniv. of Establishment of the State (Scott #19-22)

In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria following the Mukden Incident, in which the Japanese military staged an act of sabotage in order to provide a pretext for war. In 1932, the Japanese formed the puppet state of Manchukuo, with Henry Pu-Yi, the former Emperor of China, as its head of state.

Manchukuo issued a set of four stamps commemorating the first anniversary of the establishment of the puppet state in 1933 (Scott #19-22). Only 50,000 sets were issued, and Scott '10 values the set unused at $ 50.50 ($75.- for NH).

I like this issue due to both its scarcity and potential dual market among collectors of both China and Japan. I believe that it has been overlooked by collectors in China, due to their current tendency to spurn stamps issued by foreign occupiers.