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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Czechoslovakia 1921 Special Delivery Issue on White Paper (Scott #E1a-3a)

In 1918 and 1920, the newly formed nation of Czechoslovakia issued its first stamps, which were imperforate, and among which were its first special delivery stamps (Scott #E1-3). The stamps pictured Doves, appropriate symbols of the hope for peace following the senseless carnage of World War I, were issued on yellow paper, and are extremely common. However, in 1921, a special set of 3 was issued on white paper (Scott #E1a-3a). Only 12,500 of these "white paper" sets were issued, and Scott '11 values them unused at $113.25 . It is likely that they were produced mainly to generate revenue from sales to stamp collectors, but as with many such issues from countries with generally conservative stamp-issuing policies, the stain of questionable legitimacy gradually fades with the passage of time, until no one cares anymore.

Stamps of Czechoslovakia are very popular among collectors in Europe, and I expect that the number of stamps collectors in "former Czechoslovakia" will continue to grow.

The end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989 was followed by the country's dissolution and division into two successor states- the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia. With among the most developed industrialized economies in Eastern Europe, these republics have a combined population of about 16 million. They have privatized most of its formerly state-owned industries and have maintained annual GDP growth of around 4% over the past 5 years.

I view this set as a low-risk bet on the two republics' continued long-term economic development.

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, as is also an excellent venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Cochin China (Scott #1-5)

There are some stamp-issuing entities which issued only a few stamps, making it simple (though not necessarily inexpensive) to form complete collections of them. Such is the case with Cochin China, a former French colony encompassing the southern third of Vietnam, for which the French issued five stamps from 1886-88. Stamps of the colony were superseded by those of Indo-China in 1892.

The five (Scott #1-5) are all French Colonies General Issue stamps surcharged for use in the colony, and though printing quantities are not known, I would estimate that they were produced in the low thousands (for #1, the scarcest), to between ten and twenty thousand for the others. Scott '11 Catalog values for the stamps unused total $430.-.

In addition to the basic stamps, six surcharge errors are known. The inverted surcharge of the 5c on 25c yellow on straw (surcharge type "b"- Scott #3a; CV= $200.- ) is the most common, and perhaps a few hundred exist. The five surcharge errors of #4- the 5c on 25c black on rose, surcharge type "c"- are all very rare to extremely rare. All of the surcharge errors should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization.

All stamps of this former colony are worthwhile investments, especially the surcharge errors, which have been overlooked because of their obscurity and because they rarely come up for auction. Stamps of Cochin China have multiple market appeal to collectors of French Colonies, Indochina, and Vietnam.

Vietnam is a nation of 86 million people which is in transition from a command economy to a market-driven one. It is still a relatively poor country, with an annual GDP of $ 280 billion. Deep poverty, defined as a proportion of the population living under $1 per day, has declined significantly and is now proportionally smaller than that of China, India, and the Philippines. Annual GDP growth has been impressive, averaging about 7.5% over the past five years, and it is likely that Vietnam will have one of the fastest growing economies over the next several decades. Manufacturing, information technology, and high-tech industries are rapidly growing sectors. Though a relative newcomer to the oil business, Vietnam is now third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia, with an output of 400,000 barrels per day.

Interest in the better stamps of Indochina and Vietnam has been upstaged by the recent feeding frenzy of the Chinese stamp market. This relative neglect represents a buying opportunity.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Kazakhstan 2005 Hunting Dogs pair (Scott #495)

In 2005, Kazakhstan issued a pair of stamps picturing hunting dogs (Scott #495). 30,000 pairs were issued, and Scott '11 values the unused pair at $7.25.

As "Pet Topicals," Dogs are among the most popular sub-categories of Animal Topicals, and that, combined with the inexpensiveness of the pair, makes it a very low-risk speculation. Animals are the most popular stamp collecting topic in the world, and since pet ownership is growing, especially in the emerging market nations, I think that Dog and Cat topicals will become more popular as well. A recent article about pet ownership in China cited research showing that the percentage of Chinese owning dogs increased by 40% from 1999 to 2004 (from 5% to 7%). It seems reasonable to assume that as the middle class grows in developing countries, more people will be able to afford keeping a pet, and therefore more stamp collectors will collect dog and cat topicals.

Many of the new and newly resurrected nations of Central Asia and Europe have issued quite a few stamps and souvenir sheets in very modest quantities, and some of these represent interesting opportunities for speculation for those who wish to "get in on the ground floor." As these countries have only recently begun issuing stamps, their collector populations are minimal, although they are unlikely to remain so, especially if the countries prosper. The best way to play them is to target popular topicals with low issuance quantities, as these will have worldwide appeal, whether interest in these countries' stamps grows significantly or not.

A nation of 16 million, Kazakhstan is known to many outsiders from the somewhat demeaning film comedy "Borat." It is the 9th largest country in the world, with a territory greater than that of Western Europe, although its population density is less than 15 per square mile. Kazakhstan has plentiful reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium, chromium, lead, zinc, manganese, coal, iron, and gold. It also has a major agricultural sector, and is the seventh largest producer of grain. Annual GDP growth has averaged 6% over the last 5 years.

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, as is also an excellent venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Bolivia 1868-69 Arms (Scott #10-14, 15-19)

In 1868 and '69, Bolivia issued its first perforated stamps, two sets picturing its coat of arms and either nine or eleven stars (Scott #10-14 and #15-19). In each, the 500 centavos Black high value is particularly scarce, as only 2,000 of #14 and fewer than 1,000 of #19 were issued. Scott '11 values the unused sets at $1,222.50 and $3,643.- respectively, and the high values at $1,000.- and $3,500.- .

I recommend purchase of either set or high value. There were very few collectors of Bolivian stamps 140 years ago, and I'd be astounded if more than a couple hundred of either 500 centavos stamp remains. As with all Latin American issues, there are many collectors who focus on the region as a whole, which supplements demand for the better stamps of the individual countries. Although I'm not aware of any counterfeits of the the 500 centavos stamps, it might prudent to purchase either conditional on obtaining expertization.

A nation of about 11 million people, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, despite being rich in natural resources. Along with substantial reserves of silver and tin, Bolivia has the second largest natural gas reserves in South America and 50%-70% of the world's lithium, for which demand is expected to rise significantly over the next decades, because of its use in making batteries for electric vehicles. Since 1985, the government of Bolivia has implemented a far-reaching program of macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform aimed at maintaining price stability, creating conditions for sustained growth, encouraging foreign investment, and alleviating scarcity. Annual GDP growth has averaged 4.6% over the last 5 years.

I have begun a new blog, " The Stamp Specialist ", featuring my buy lists for stamps which I wish to purchase, including some Bolivian stamps. I haven't listed the sets recommended in this article, but would be very interested in purchasing either of them, with certificates for the 500 centavos stamps, if offered at a reasonable price. Periodically viewing dealers' buy lists is an excellent way to remained informed about the state of the stamp market.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Cook Islands 1893-94 Queen Makea Takau (Scott #9-14)

From 1893 through 1894, the Cook Islands issued a set of definitives picturing Queen Makea Takau (Scott #9-14). Only 7,200 sets were issued, and Scott '11 prices the unused set at $224.- .
The set is seldom found in any condition, and it wouldn't surprise me if fewer than 1,000 remain. Note that rough perfs and poor centering are typical of this issue, so attempt to purchase the set that is centered Fine or better.

While the population of the Cook Islands (about 20,000) is probably too low to sustain much of a stamp collecting population, there is significant demand for its stamps among collectors of British Commonwealth in general and in New Zealand in particular, because the islands were a dependency of New Zealand for many years, and still have strong links to that nation.

New Zealand is a modern, prosperous nation of about 4.3 million people, with a GDP of $115 billion. Over the last 10 years, annual GDP growth has averaged about 3%. The economy was hurt by the recent global financial crisis, and is beginning to recover. In 2005, the World Bank praised New Zealand as being the most business-friendly nation in the world. The nation has a stamp collecting demographic similar to Great Britain's, and the demand for better material should increase dramatically as population aging accelerates. According to a recent UN Report of Global Aging, the percentage of New Zealanders aged 60 and over is projected to rise from 18% in 2009 to 29% in 2050.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

General Commentary: Faith in Religion (on Stamps)

"One man's faith is another man's fortune." The axiom not only refers to televangelists, cult leaders, Afterlife insurance salesmen, New Age gurus, and other purveyors of theological snake oil, but also has possible implications for the philatelic investor.

Religion on stamps is the sixth most popular topical collecting area in the U.S., according to a survey done by the American Topical Association. While comparable data for the world as a whole is unavailable, it is likely that Religion ranks high among the world's most popular collecting topics. Aside from the normal criteria for determining whether to invest in a particular issue (described in my earlier article, "Practical Advice: Stamp Investment Criteria"), three more are useful when considering topicals related to a particular religion:

1) the population of adherents worldwide;

2) economic trends affecting that population, especially growth of a middle class;

3) the growth/decline of the religion and/or level of interest/participation among its members (the data cited below is for 2000-2005, and is from Wikipedia's article- "Major Religious Groups);

Each of the major religions represent potential sources of demand for the topicals that relate to them, and the characteristics of the markets created by their adherent/collector populations differ. A detailed analysis would be advisable as preliminary to investing funds in any of them, but for now we'll make do with a brief overview. Several of the "belief systems" described below reside in a gray area between religion and philosophy, but qualify for consideration because they've adopted theocentric or spiritual elements since their inception, and more importantly, because they inspire devotion among hundreds of millions of followers. I've listed the belief systems in order of member population.

1) Christianity (approximately 2 billion to 2.2 billion adherents) : from a philatelic investment perspective, a mixed bag; according to Wikipedia, the number of Christians grew by a rate of 1.32% from 2000 to 2005 - less than the population growth rate of the world as a whole (1.41%). While there are themes which may be popular to Christians generally (Old/New Testament scenes, religious figures/saints, churches, holidays) the heterogeneity of the religion and its demographic subtrends necessitates a closer look at its main branches.:

  • a) Roman Catholicism (approx. 1.2 billion) - growing in the U.S., and prevalent in much of the developing world - Latin America, the Philippines, some parts of Africa; related topicals should be bolstered by economic growth in these areas;

  • b) Protestantism (approx. 600 million) - prevalent in much of Northern Europe, the U.S., making inroads in Latin America and Africa;

  • c) Orthodox Churches (approx. 300 million)- prevalent in Russia, much of Eastern Europe, and Greece; related topicals represent a bet on the economic development of Russia and the Slavic and part-Slavic nations of Eastern Europe;

2) Islam (approx. 1.6 billion)- according to Wikipedia, Islam is the fastest growing major religion in the world, with a 2000-2005 growth rate of 1.84%. Even more compelling is the placement of the religion mostly within nations throughout Asia, Africa, and Australasia that should continue to enjoy rapid economic development over the coming decades. It should be noted that as the secularist Western belief in the "separation of Church and State" is not generally recognized in Islam, prominent Moslems need not be religious leaders in order to qualify as subjects for Islamic topical stamps. Other likely subjects include: mosques, minarets, and other holy sites, and Islamic art.

3) Hinduism (approx. 900 million)- the fourth fastest growing religion in the world (1.57% from 2000-2005). Hinduism topicals will likely be bolstered by India's rapid economic growth. Topics include: Hindu gods, religious figures, holy places/temples.

4) Buddhism (estimates range from 350 million to about 1 billion) - Buddhist topicals should be bolstered by the rapid economic development of the Far East; it also has a foot in the door in the West, as it is beginning to attract converts among the middle and upper classes; Topics include: the Buddha and Bodhisattvas (Buddhist saints), temples.

5) Confucianism/Taoism (approx. 400 million)- widespread in China , and the countries culturally influenced by China (Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam), all of which are likely to prosper over the long-term; topics include: Confucius, Lao Tze, holy places/shrines, etc..

6) Shinto (approx. 40 million)- the prospects for Shintoism Topicals are wholly dependent upon the growth of stamp collecting in Japan. Topics include: holy sites, shrines.

7) Sikhism (approx. 26 million)- the third fastest growing religion (2000-2005 rate of 1.62%), and significant in that most adherents live in India, and will participate in that country's projected explosive economic growth. Topics include: Guru Nanak, prominent Sikhs, temples/holy sites.

8) Judaism (approx. 16 million) - the World Jewish population is static; however, a relatively high percentage of Jews collect stamps; also, certain Old Testament themes may appeal to Christian collectors as well; Israel is popular, of course, and topics include: prominent Jews, holidays, Jewish history.

9) Jainism (approx. 10 million)- most live in India, which has issued a few stamps commemorating prominent Jains and temples.

10) Bahai Faith (approx. 7.5 million) - the world's second fastest growing religion (1.72% from 2000-2005); worldwide dispersion- about 35% live in India, and 5% in Iran; currently, I am not aware of any stamps honoring the religion.

11) Cao Dai (approx. 4 million) - I note this Vietnamese religion mainly because of Vietnam's stellar economic growth over the last few decades, and its prospects for even greater prosperity in the years to come.

In summary, whether one is a believer, an agnostic, atheist, or convert to the insidious new cult of stamp collecting, the philatelic investor may be truly blessed if he worships at the altar of demographic data regarding religions, and always makes the trend his friend.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Canada 1857 7 1/2p Green (Scott #9)

In 1857, Canada issued a 7 1/2p stamp portraying a young Queen Victoria for use on packet mail (Scott #9). 82,140 were issued, and Scott '11 prices the stamp at $10,000.- for unused, and $3,500.- for used. As 7 1/2p was almost half of an average worker's daily wage back then, the vast majority of stamps were probably used and discarded. There were far fewer collectors in the early days of stamp collecting, and I estimate that no more than a few thousand Canada #9s were saved, in any condition.

Accordingly, I recommend purchase of the stamp, either used or unused. The unused stamps are pricey, but it might be possible to locate a sound four-margin used example at 50-60% of Scott. Even those with minor defects (such as creases or thins) which appear F-VF or better are worth buying, if priced at between 8%-15% of catalog value. Since the stamp isn't cheap, as it climbs in value, the more affordable nice-appearing seconds may rise at a faster rate (see my earlier article "Practical Advice: When Do Seconds Come in First?" ).

I continue to favor all better stamps of British North America as worthy of consideration. The area is very popular among collectors of both Canada and British Commonwealth, and the better items represent solid investments, as interest in stamp collecting in Canada is much stronger than it is in the U.S. .

With a population of about 31 million, Canada is one of the world's wealthiest countries, and is 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. 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.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Alexandretta

Alexandretta was a sanjak (or district) of French-controlled Syria, which was carved from the Ottoman Empire and mandated to France under the Versailles Treaty, and which issued stamps in 1938. The territory was returned to Turkey in 1939. However, it is located near the border between Turkey and Syria, and ownership of the area is disputed by the two countries.

From a philatelic investment perspective, Alexandretta is attractive because the four sets produced for it by the French were issued in modest quantities, and have multiple market appeal to collectors of French Colonies, Turkey, and Syria.

Quantities issued of two of the sets, the Death of Ataturk Mourning set (Scott #13-17; fewer than 10,000; Scott '11 CV for unused = $205.00; 375.- for NH ) and the Airmail set (Scott #C1-8; 15,000; Scott '11 CV for unused = $ 48.50; 160.- for NH) are known, but it is likely that the other two sets (Scott #1-12 and the Postage Due set- #J1-6) had comparable printings. While all are worthy of consideration, the black-bordered Death of Ataturk set is the best of the four, both because of its relative scarcity and because it honors a hero of modern Turkish nationalism.

With a population of about 72 1/2 million, Turkey is perhaps the most culturally European of the Islamic nations, and a likely model for their 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. 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.

Those interested in joining a community of stamp investors are welcome to join the "StampSelectors" group on Facebook. The group provides a valuable forum for those who wish discuss this blog, as well as trade or communicate with stamp collectors, dealers, and investors from all over the world.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Mexico 1922 Eagle Airmail (Scott #C1)

In 1922, Mexico issued its first airmail stamp (Scott #C1). Only 3,000 were issued, and Scott '11 prices it at $67.50 for unused ($85.- for NH).. The normal stamp was printed in blue and red brown, and a somewhat scarcer dark blue and claret color variety was also produced (Scott #C1a- CV as unused = $90.-; $125.- for NH ). The stamps are distinguishable from the far more common 50c Eagles of 1927 and '28 by their colors and also because they were printed on unwatermarked paper.

I recommend purchase of this stamp unused, used, and on cover. The undervaluation of Mexico's first airmail stamp, issued in such a low quantity, would seem astonishing were it not the norm for many scarce stamps of Latin America.

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, crime, 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.

I've begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", which will feature wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. The first such buy list is for Mexico, and includes the stamp recommended in this article. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep current on the vagaries of the stamp market.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: German States- Wurttemberg 1906 Centenary Officials (Scott #O109-18)

Before Otto von Bismarck unified Germany in 1871, the country was divided into individual states, some of which issued their own stamps. A few of these stamps are rare and extremely valuable, but in many cases, prices of German States stamps have lagged, because as a collecting area it is a minefield of reprints, fakes, and forgeries. With the exception of the rarities, many German States stamps often can be purchased in F-VF+ condition for 25%-35% of Scott. Better items which seem questionable should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization, preferably by a reputable German expert.

Some of the German States continued to maintain their postal autonomy and issue their own stamps after Unification, and two of them, Bavaria and Wurttemberg, issued stamps well into the 20th Century. There is less incidence of fakery with the more modern issues, especially with those items which are not rarities.

In 1906, Wurttemberg issued a set of overprinted official stamps commemorating its centennial as a kingdom (Scott #O109-18). 22,000 sets were issued, and Scott '11 prices the set at $188.75 for unused. I feel that it has been neglected because it is a German States back-of-book issue.

Germany, an affluent nation of about 82 million people, is the world's fourth largest economy, and both the second largest importer and second largest exporter of goods. Since the age of industrialisation, the country has been a driver, innovator, and beneficiary of an ever more globalised economy, and is recognised as a scientific and technological leader in several fields. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 2% over the last five years, reflecting the recent global slowdown, and the gradual progress being made in absorbing the less developed former DDR.

Germany has long been known as a center of philately, and both the hobby and the stamp business there exhibit a markedly higher level of sophistication than what exists in the U.S.. There are three million philatelists in Germany, which makes it the second biggest stamp collecting nation in the world.

Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer, at

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: South Korea 1948 Election (Scott #80-84)

In 1948, South Korea held its first election, commemorating the event with the issuance of a set of five stamps (Scott #80-84). 50,000 were issued, and Scott '11 values the unused set at $83.00 ($175.- for NH).

Many of the early stamps of South Korea were rather primitively produced, and mediocre centering, rough perfs, and gloppy gum are normal for these issues. Not many Koreans were collecting stamps in the late '40s and early '50s, and many that were collected unused were probably purchased by U.S. and allied soldiers during the Korean War. The stamps have increased in value over the decades as South Korea has prospered, and I expect that they will continue to do well.

South Korea, a nation of about 50 million people, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Currently, it is the world's 13th largest economy and eighth largest exporter. It's export-fueled economic growth has led to a miraculous explosion in its GDP, from almost nothing 50 years ago to about $1 trillion today. Annual GDP growth has averaged 4.2% over the last 5 years, reflecting a slowdown in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Furthermore, South Korea may be the most rapidly aging nation on earth, as its 65+ population is expected to more than quadruple from 9% in 2005 to 38% in 2050. Obviously, this could pose economic challenges for the country, but it will almost certainly add to its stamp collecting population.

Those interested in joining a community of stamp investors are welcome to join the "StampSelectors" group on Facebook. The group provides a valuable forum for those who wish discuss this blog, as well as trade or communicate with stamp collectors, dealers, and investors from all over the world.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Belarus 2002 International Ecotourism Year booklet (Scott #453a)

In 1992, Belarus issued a stamp celebrating the International Year of Ecotourism (Scott #453) in sheet and booklet form. While the sheet stamp is relatively common, with 66,740 issued, only 3,500 of the booklet (Scott #453a) were produced, and Scott '11 values it at $10.00 .

The issue has appeal as a combination UN and "Eco-topical." It is often the case that booklets are ignored for a while if the basic stamps are more commonly available in sheet form, and then rise later when collectors are shocked to realize that they have empty spaces in their albums where the booklets are supposed to be, and then proceed to go on a rampage.

A nation of about 9.5 million, the Republic of Belarus retains a largely state-controlled economy, although it's government has committed to gradual privatization. Important sectors include manufacturing of heavy machinery, agricultural products, and energy production and transport. Recently, the Belarusian economy has shifted into sustained high gear, along with Ukraine, Russia, and many other Commonwealth of Independent States economies. The economic boom provided by mineral wealth of Russia and other CIS nations and Belarus' key location as a transit route between the EU and Russia have enabled it to sustain this impressive growth. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 7.5% over the past 5 years.

Many of the newly independent and newly resurrected nations of Europe and Central Asia have issued popular topical sets and souvenir sheets in modest quantities, and most are currently very inexpensive. I view such issues as low-risk speculations, as only time will tell whether either the development of stamp markets within these countries or topical appeal will push them significantly higher. In a sense, they're comparable to penny stocks, but not as risky.

Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Uruguay 1929 Winged Triangle Parcel Post (Scott #Q39-45)

In 1929, Uruguay issued a triangular parcel post set picturing wings, implying rapid delivery (Scott #Q39-45). A mere 2,950 sets were issued, and Scott '11 values the unused set at $20.00.

This is yet another example of a neglected and ridiculously undervalued back-of-book issue - as scarce as hen's teeth and difficult to find in any condition. Scott has ignored it because it has only recently begun recognizing the effects of the "stealth bull market" in Latin America, and while it has significantly increased catalogue values on the more obvious regular issues, semi-postals, and airs, it has ignored the more obscure "back-of-back-of-book" items. Such issues are almost impossible to locate, yet are absurdly underpriced and will remain so even if their catalogue values increase by twentyfold.

With a population of about 3 1/2 million people, most of whom are of European or mixed descent, Uruguay has a stamp collecting population which will probably approach European levels in the years to come. Uruguay is one of the most economically developed, politically stable and least corrupt countries in Latin America, and is moving away from its dependence on agricultural exports and toward development of commercial technologies, especially software. Annual GDP growth has averaged a little over 3% over the last 5 years.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", which will feature wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. It includes a buy list for Uruguay, and includes the set recommended in this article. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep current on the vagaries of the stamp market.