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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Indian Legion 1R + 2R Azad Hind Issue (Michel # VII)

In 1943, the Germans produced a set of stamps for Subhas Chandra Bose's Azad Hind, or Indian National Army (Michel #I-X). These were intended to serve initially as propaganda labels, later to be used as postage after the "liberation" of India from the British by the I.N.A.. The stamps were never transported to India, and stayed in storage in Germany until the end of the war. All of the Azad Hind stamps except the 1R+2R Indians Bearing Azad Hind Flag (Michel #VII) are common, as 1 million of each of the lower values were printed. Three types of the 1R+2R stamp and four proofs are known:

-1R+2R Black, imperforate (1st Printing; Mi. #VIIa- 4,500 produced; Mi. CV= Euros 600.-)

- 1R+2R Black and Orange, imperforate (2nd Printing; Mi. VIIb- 2,000 produced; Mi. Cv = 250 .- Euros .-); a large number of these exist on ungummed paper (Mi. CV= 35.- Euros)

- 1R+2R Black, Orange, and Green, imperforate (3rd Printing; Mi. VII- 7,000 produced; Mi. CV= Euros 250.-)

Proofs noted in Michel:

- 1R+2R Violet (400 produced; Mi. CV= Euros 500.-)

- 1R+2R Carton paper (100 produced; Mi. CV = Euros 500.-)

- 1R+2R On the back of a piece of carton paper, with ad. printed on the front, imperforate (Unknown quantity; Mi. CV= Euros 600.-)

- 1R+2R Proof of Michel VIIb (Black and Orange) on orange colored paper, imperforate (Unknown quantity; Mi. CV= Euros 2,000.-)

Forgeries exist of this issue, so it should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization.

At this point, many readers might wonder: Why recommend an unissued stamp, not listed by Scott, which is basically just a cinderella?

I feel that the 1R+2R stamp is exceptional, because of its historical significance, its scarcity, and its compelling potential dual market for collectors of both India and Germany. Bose and the I.N.A. are not well known in the West, but his role in the struggle for independence has been recognized by India, which has issued five postage stamps commemorating him and his army. He was a prominent figure in the independence movement, and was elected president of the Indian National Congress twice, but had to resign from the post following ideological conflicts with Gandhi. He felt that non-violent resistance would prove ineffectual, and he was willing to assist the Axis war effort, but he never liked the Nazis and once commented that we was willing to "shake hands with the Devil to achieve India's independence." Gandhi is honored as the saint and savior of India's independence movement, but it should be noted that when non-violent political movements succeed, they often do so partly because of the fear that the enraged masses will resort to less humane alternatives.

I view this stamp as an interesting and probably low-risk speculation. In the coming years, the "serious" stamp collecting population of Indians will number in the millions, and I expect that enough of these new collectors will want the Azad Hind Flag stamps to push their values dramatically upward.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Switzerland 1922-44 League of Nations Officials

In a number of previous articles, I have expressed the opinion that the demand for U.N. Topicals will increase as the U.N. gradually gains credibility and becomes an effective institution for dealing with global problems. The same holds true for other stamps related to global government, which I feel will either gradually assume more importance, or grow in fits and starts as critical problems requiring global solutions suddenly and unexpectedly rear their ugly heads.

The League of Nations, which preceded the U.N., was headquartered in Geneva, and utilized overprinted Swiss stamps. The League failed to stop aggression and mass murder by the Axis powers, and was replaced by the U.N. after the end of World War II. Stamps issued for use by the League and various other international organizations are listed as Swiss officials. I favor all of the scarce and undervalued stamps issued by these international organizations, but initially will focus on those issued for the League, which I've listed, along with quantities issued and Scott '10 Catalog Values (for used) , below:

-1922-31 Overprint (Scott #2O1-30; 11,300; $ 555.35 )

-1930-44 Overprint, grilled gum (Scott #2O2a-26a; 6,500; $ 751.75 )

-1935-36 Overprint, grilled gum (Scott #2O31-34; 75,000; $ 19.25)

-1922-25 Overprint, ordinary gum (Scott #2O31a-34a; 75,000; $ 53.00 )

-1928 5fr Blue (Scott #2O35; 12,500; $ 87.50)

-1932 Overprint (Scott #2O36-41; 50,000; $ 107.20)

-1934 Overprint (Scott #2O42-46; 50,000; $ 23.00)

-1937 Overprint, grilled gum (Scott #2O47a-55a; 20,000; $ 20.95)

-1937 3fr Orange Brown (Scott #2O56; 8,000; $ 190.00)

-1938 Overprint (Scott #2O57-60; 34,000; $ 19.90)

-1938 Circular Overprint (Scott #2O61-64; 24,000; $ 26.00)

-1939 Overprint (Scott #2O65-67; 25,300; $ 58.50- $19.75 unused)

-1942-43 Overprint (Scott #2O68-69; 84,500; $ 2.70)

-1944 Overprint (Scott #2O70-90; 42,464; $ 75.40- $ 40.30 unused; $ 65.00 NH)

As these issues are all overprinted Swiss stamps, much of the current demand for them comes from collectors of Switzerland. A far greater proportion of the Swiss population are stamp collectors than are Americans, and the level of interest there is comparable to that which exists Germany.

Switzerland, a nation of 7.8 million people,is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita, with a nominal per capita GDP of $67,384. The country experienced slow growth in the 1990s and the early 2000s, and was hurt by the global financial crisis, which has resulted in greater support for economic reforms and harmonization with the European Union.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Egypt 1932-39 Military Stamps

Between 1932 and 1935, the British provided stamps at a reduced rate for use by their military forces in Egypt, per the terms of a concessionary arrangement made with the Egyptian government. The stamps were to be affixed to the back of envelopes bearing an "Egypt Postage Prepaid" handstamp on the front, and were used by military personnel and their families for letters sent to Great Britain and Ireland.

These stamps are of particular interest because they have dual market appeal among collectors of both British Commonwealth and Egypt, with the growing stamp market in Egypt being a potentially powerful catalyst that could push the values of these stamps up significantly. I've listed the British Forces in Egypt stamps with the lowest printing quantities, along with their Scott '10 Catalog Values, below:
- 1932 3m Black on sage green (Scott #M2; 41,800; $ 55.00 )
- 1933 3m Brown Lake (Scott #M4; 54,000; $ 8.75 )
- 1934 3m Deep Blue (Scott #M6; 63,000; $ 8.25)
- 1935 1p Jubilee Overprint (Scott #M9; 27,000; $ 325.00)
- 1935 3m on 1p Bright Carmine (Scott #M11; 10,000; $ 25.00)

In addition, there is a non-Scott-listed variety of the 1935 3m Christmas stamp (Scott #M10). The normal vermilion stamp (Scott '10 CV=$ 2.25) is relatively common, with 101,100 issued. The neglected yellow orange variety (Michel #10b), which is currently valued at around triple the normal stamp, had a printing of only 12,075.

Also note that the 1935 1p Jubilee Overprint (Scott #M9) has added appeal as part of the George V Silver Jubilee Omnibus set of stamps issued by the various Commonwealth countries.

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. Nevertheless, barring major political instability, it is likely that Egypt will be one of the fastest growing economies over the next several decades.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Russia 2002 Booklet Panes

Russia has issued a number of scarce booklet panes in recent years, some of which have topical appeal. Booklet issues are often ignored when they're first released, especially if the stamp designs duplicate those issued in regular sheet format. After a while, however, collectors begin to get that horrible empty feeling from seeing blank spaces in their albums, and desperately hurry to their favorite dealers to lap up the supply.

In 2002, Russia issued four scarce booklets- three of which are attractive and have topical appeal, and one of which is boring, but worth buying anyway. I've listed them, along with their topic categories, quantities issued, and Scott '10 Catalog Values, below:

-2002 New Hermitage, 150th Anniversary (Art/Paintings; Scott #6684a-88a bklt.; 10,000; $ 40.00)

-2002 St. Petersburg, 300th Anniversary (Art/Architecture; Scott #6695a-99a bklt.; 10,000; $ 80.00)

-2002 Carriages (Transportation; Scott #6705f-05j bklt.; 10,000; $ 46.00)

-2002 Census (Scott # 6718a bklt; 12,000; $ 75.00)

With 142 million people, Russia is the 8th or 9th largest economy in the world, with vast reserves of natural resources and a highly educated population. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has experienced several major economic crises in its transition to capitalism. Annual GDP growth has averaged 3.2% over the last 5 years, which takes into account an 8% contraction in 2009, due to the global financial crisis. The country is still plagued by corruption and organized crime, making it somewhat reminiscent of America during its "Wild West" and Robber-Baron periods. Nevertheless, the middle class has grown from just 8 million people in 2000 to 55 million in 2006.

Those interested in joining a community of philatelic investors are welcome to join the "StampSelectors" group on Facebook. This lively group engages in trading as well as discussions of issues related to stamp investment and Philately in general.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Philippines 1944 "Victory" Handstamps

During the Philippines Campaign of 1944-45, the Allied forces gradually liberated the islands from the Japanese. As a propaganda tactic, in 1944 crude violet "VICTORY" handstamps were applied to some earlier Philippines issues. Many of these stamps are scarce to very rare, and comprise what would be an extremely expensive compound set (Scott # 463-84, C63, E8-9, J16-22, O38-43), though it is likely that very few, if any, complete sets remain in collections. They have dual market appeal in both the Philippines and the U.S., as they were issued during a period in which the islands were technically in transition from U.S. Administration to Independence.

Fake handstamps exist, so it is necessary to purchase these stamps conditional on obtaining expertization. I've listed them, along with quantities issued (when known) and Scott '10 Catalog Values for unused, below:

1944 Violet "VICTORY" Handstamps:

-2c (on #411; Scott #463; 168; $ 325.00)
-as above, booklet pane of 6 (Scott #463a; 28; $12,500.00 )
-2c (on #461; Scott #464; 24,400; $ 10.00 )
-4c (on #384; Scott #465; 807; $ 42.50 )
-6c (on #385; Scott #466; 64; $ 3,500.00 )
-6c (on #409; Scott #467; Unknown; $ 225.00)
-6c (on #413; Scott #468; 206; $ 4,750.00)
-6c (on #453; Scott #469; 235; $ 350.00)
-6c (on #466; Scott #470; 141; $ 1,750.00)
-6c (on #459; Scott #471; Unknown; $ 275.00)
-8c (on #436; Scott #472; 1,643; $ 17.50)
-10c (on #415; Scott #473; 450; $ 300.00)
-10c (on #437; Scott #474; 358; $ 275.00)
-12c (on # 410; Scott #475; Unknown; $ 1,100.00)
-12c (on #454; Scott #476; 36; $ 6,000.00)
-12c (on #460; Scott #477; Unknown; $ 375.00)
-16c (on #389; Scott #478; 122; $ 2,250.00)
-16c (on #417; Scott #479; 200; $ 1,250.00)
-16c (on #439; Scott #480; 500; $500.00)
-20c (on #440; Scott #481; 1,401; $ 110.00)
-30c (on #420; Scott #482; 248;$ 350.00 )
-30c (on #442; Scott #483; 200; $ 750.00)
-1p (on #443; Scott #484; 21; $ 6,250.00)


-4c Rose Carmine (Scott #C63; 122; $ 3,750.00)

Special Delivery:

-20c Dull Violet (on #E5b; Scott #E8; 138; $ 1,400.00)
-20c Blue Violet (on #E7; Scott #E9; 600; $ 550.00)

Postage Dues:

-4c Brown Red (Scott J16; 306; $ 150.00 )
-6c Brown Red (Scott J17; 390; $ 90.00 )
-8c Brown Red (Scott J18; 379; $ 95.00 )
-10c Brown Red (Scott J19; 405; $ 90.00)
-12c Brown Red (Scott J20; 423; $ 90.00)
-16c Brown Red (Scott J21; 425; $ 95.00)
-20c Brown Red (Scott J22; 375; $ 95.00)


-2c (on #O27; Scott #O38; 138; $ 375.00)
-2c (on #O37; Scott #O39; 13,100; $ 10.00)
-4c (on #O16; Scott #O40; 2,634; $ 42.50 )
-6c (on #O29; Scott #O40A; Unknown; $ 8,000.00)
-10c (on #O31: Scott #O41; 665: $ 500.00)
- 20c (on #O22; Scott #O42; Unknown; $ 8,000.00)
-20c (on #O26; Scott #O43; Unknown; $ 1,750.00)

As a newly democratic and newly industrialized country of 92 million which is moving away from from its centuries-old complete dependence on agriculture, the Philippines could turn out to be one of the most successful emerging markets in the Pacific Region. The government tends toward fiscal conservatism coupled with long-term economic planning, and annual GDP growth has been around 6%-7%. Barring extreme political instability, it is likely that the Philippines will be one of the fastest growing economies over the next decades.

Stamp Investment Tip: Mexico 1932 50c Air Official (Scott #CO18)

In 1932, Mexico overprinted its 1927 50c Dark Blue and Claret airmail stamps "SERVICIO OFICIAL," for government use. The vast majority of the stamps overprinted had watermarked paper (Scott #CO19) , but one hundred stamps of the 1922 issue (same design, but on unwatermarked paper), were also overprinted by accident, creating a very scarce stamp (Scott #CO18), which Scott '10 values at $ 1,000.00 for both unused ($ 1,600.00 for NH) and used.
The usual caveat for overprinted issues applies: purchase the stamp conditional on receiving authentication, preferably from the Mexico-Elmhurst Philatelic Society (M.E.P.S.I.). I believe this stamp has been unjustifiably neglected because it's a back-of-book issue, and because it's an unwatermarked paper variety. These factors will diminish in importance as the stamp market develops in Mexico.
With a population of about 109 million, Mexico has had 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. Despite its problems, it is likely that Mexico will experience significant economic growth over the coming decades.

Monday, April 5, 2010

General Commentary: Which Economies Will Grow the Fastest?

A recent report by Price,Waterhouse, Coopers, the world's largest professional services firm, projects long-term economic growth rates (to 2050) for the world's fastest growing economies. According to the report, China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world's largest economy in around 2025 , while India will nearly catch up with the U.S. by 2050. The report also ranks the twenty fastest growing economies according to their projected average annual GDP growth over the next forty years. In order of ranking, these are: Vietnam, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Egypt, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand, Iran, Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Russia, and Poland.

Such long-term predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it is likely that if the report proves to be generally correct, a selection of better stamps from these countries will do well over the next decades as these countries become more prosperous, assuming that the prosperity is sufficiently shared to allow for a growing middle class. Obviously, when assessing each individual country's prospects, the political and economic risks should be taken into account. Diversifying so as to create a "portfolio" of better stamps from among the high growth countries would tend to lessen the overall risk.

Those interested in joining a lively and growing community of "stampselectors" are welcome to join the "StampSelectors" group on Facebook. The group offers the opportunity to meet and communicate with other collectors, investors, and dealers from all over the world, buy and sell stamps, and discuss investment recommendations and the content of this blog.