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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: South West Africa 1923 George V (Scott #13-15)

In 1923, South West Africa (then administered by South Africa as a League of Nations Mandate territory) issued a set of high values picturing George V (Scott #13-15). Like South African stamps of the period, these were issued as bilingual pairs, with one stamp of each pair in English and the other in Afrikaans, and this is also the favored format for collecting them. Only 2,400 sets were issued, and Scott '11 prices the unused set at $1,875.- .

The main sources of demand for stamps of South West Africa are British Commonwealth collectors and collectors of South Africa, both of which I view as growing markets. S.W.A. has been replaced by the Republic of Namibia, independent following the dismantling of South Africa's Apartheid regime. It is closely tied to South Africa, and has similar problems and potential for economic growth, but also has a much smaller population (about 2 million). Accordingly, the country analysis for stamps of South West Africa should focus on South Africa's prospects.

As a a middle-income country of about 49 million, South Africa has an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks among the top twenty in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centres throughout the entire region. South Africa is ranked 25th in the world in terms of GDP. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 4% over the past 5 years.

However, the country has a two-tiered economy- one rivaling other developed countries and the other with only the most basic infrastructure, similar to a Third World nation. Unemployment is extremely high and income inequality is approximately equal to Brazil. Also, there is an 18% HIV infection rate among South African adults, among the highest in the world.

Given the somewhat mixed picture that South Africa presents, I feel that better stamps from the country and its related issuing entities should be viewed mainly as conservative plays on the growth of British Commonwealth collecting. I am hopeful that over time, most of South Africa's worst problems will be ameliorated or solved, but whether that will require years or decades is an open question.

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