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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Azerbaijan Aquarium Fish Souvenir Sheet (Scott #743)

In 2002, Azerbaijan issued an attractive and humorous souvenir sheet picturing aquarium fish (Scott #743). Only 20,000 of this Animal topical sheet were issued, and Scott '11 prices it unused at $10.00.

The sheet makes an interesting and low-risk speculation based on its appeal as an Animal topical, and as a bet on the economic growth of Azerbaijan and the development of a stamp market there. This recommendation is consistent with my belief that one of the best ways to play the new and newly resurrected countries of Europe and Asia is to focus on popular topicals with low printings.

Azerbaijan is an oil-rich nation of about 9 million people, which also has significant reserves of natural gas and various minerals. Agriculture and tourism are also important to the Azerbaijani economy. The country shares all the problems of the former Soviet republics in making the transition from a command to a market economy, but its energy resources brighten its long-term prospects. It has begun making progress on economic reform, and old economic ties and structures are slowly being replaced. Annual GDP growth has averaged a stellar 21% over the last 5 years, largely based on the frenetic development of the country's oil wealth - an estimated 7 billion barrels of reserves.

Those interested in viewing a list of scarce stamps with printing quantities of 100,000 or fewer should take a look at the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List, which currently contains over 9,400 entries.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Uruguay 1960-61 Flight Monument (Scott #C211-22)

In 1960-61, Uruguay issued a set of airmail stamps picturing a statue symbolizing "Flight", part of a monument to fallen aviators (Scott #C211-22). 20,000 sets were issued, and Scott '11 prices the set at $17.20 for unused.

As it is likely that most of the sets were used as postage and discarded, perhaps a a few thousand remain. It is grossly undervalued, especially considering that there are many collectors of Latin America who focus on the region as a whole.

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.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Penrhyn Island 1903 Overprint (Scott #10-12)

In 1903, New Zealand overprinted three stamps picturing birds from its 1898 Issue in thee for use on Penrhyn Island, one of its dependencies
(Scott #10-12). The overprint utilized the local Cook Islands Maori language, to facilitate use by the 395 natives who lived on the island. Penrhyn Island later was administered as one of the Cook Islands, which attained full independence in 1973.

13,800 sets were issued, and Scott '11 prices the unused set at $91.50.

It might seem reasonable to wonder why StampSelector would recommend issues from obscure islands in the South Pacific that have small populations and about which few people even know.
Generally, I am recommending these issues based on their low printings increasing external demand. Aside from the growth in interest among British Commonwealth collectors, many of these islands were once dependencies of either Australia or New Zealand, which issued stamps for them, and philatelists in these countries consider them as similar to former colonies.

Hence, the primary sources of demand for the stamps of Penrhyn Island will not be found among the few hundred Penrhyn Islanders or the 20,000 or so Cook Islanders, but in New Zealand and among the collectors of British Commonwealth worldwide.

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. The percentage of New Zealanders aged 60 and over will rise from 18% in 2009 to 29% in 2050.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Feature Announcement: StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List

I invite all readers to take a look at a new feature associated with the StampSelector blog, the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List (or SSSSQIL).

Currently containing just over 9,700 entries, the SSSSQIL represents an ongoing attempt to list all stamps with known issuance quantities or quantities sold of 100,000 or fewer. It is a compilation of information from many different sources - the product of several years of work which I initially undertook to supplement my knowledge and improve my effectiveness as a philatelic investor.

Quantities issued information is very important for those interested in investing in stamps, as it provides a basis for estimating supply. The decision to utilize the 100,000 maximum was somewhat arbitrary, as it's probably too high for some countries and too low for others, depending upon the levels of collector appeal.

Thanks to all who have viewed this site.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Hawaii 1893 Black Provisional Government Overprints (Scott #65-73)

In 1893, following the contrived planter's rebellion that ultimately resulted in Hawaii's annexation by the U.S., Hawaii overprinted some of its earlier 1883-86 Kingdom stamps for use by its new provisional government (Scott #65-73). All stamps of this set with the exception of #66 are scarce and undervalued, and #66C is rare. I've listed the better stamps, along with their Scott '11 values for unused and printing quantities, below:

-1893 2c Rose Vermilion (Scott #65; Sc. '11 CV =$80.00-$200.00 NH ; 6,250 issued)
-1893 6c Green (Scott #66C; Sc. '11 CV = $14,000.00 ; 50 issued)
-1893 10c Vermilion (Scott #67; Sc.'11 CV= $ 20.00-$50.00 NH; 25,000 issued)
-1893 10c Red Brown (Scott #68: Sc. '11 CV= $ 10.00-$25.00 NH ; 31,200 issued)
-1893 12c Red Lilac (Scott #69; Sc. '11 CV = $325.00-$525.00 NH ; 3,750 issued)
-1893 15c Red Brown (Scott #70; Sc.'11 CV= $25.00-$55.00 NH ; 20,000 issued)
-1893 18c Dull Rose (Scott #71; Sc. '11 CV= $35.00-$75.00 NH ; 5,830 issued)
-1893 50c Red (Scott #72; Sc.'11 CV = $80.00-$175.00 NH ; 11,499 issued)
-1893 $1 Rose Red (Scott #73; Sc.'11 CV=$140.00- $300.00 NH ; 6,099 issued)

Despite the fact that these are overprints, it's not necessary to purchase them conditional on obtaining expertization, because the basic Kingdom stamps are never significantly less expensive than the overprints (in fact, they are generally more expensive). The 6c Green (Scott #66C), is the notable exception to this rule.

It is surprising that there are still many undervalued stamps of Hawaii, given that it is the most popular U.S. Possession among U.S. collectors, and that it is an important cultural and economic nexus between the U.S. and the Far East.

Many of the definitives of the Kingdom Period and the later Provisional Government overprints may be found quite well centered. As the P.S.E. (Professional Stamp Experts organization) now grades U.S. Possessions stamps, I advise selecting for condition and centering when purchasing them. Should the current grading fetish persist, Hawaiian stamps that grade XF-90 or higher will sell at auction for multiples of their catalog value.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Ethiopia 1944 Menelik II Centenary (Scott #263-67)

In 1944, Ethiopia issued a set of five stamps commemorating the centenary of the birth of King Menelik II (Scott #263-67). 39,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $20.50 .

The first King Menelik was traditionally believed to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and is credited with having founded the Solomonic dynasty that ruled Ethiopia with few interruptions for close to three thousand years. Menelik II (1844-1914) is revered as a strong and enlightened leader who extended Ethiopia's territory, transformed it into a modern state, and defeated the Italians, who wished to colonize Ethiopia, at the Battle of Adwa (1896).

The Menelik II set has obvious patriotic appeal to Ethiopians, and it is likely that most were used as postage and discarded. How often can one purchase an attractive set of stamps, for which probably fewer than 15,000 remain, from a rapidly developing country with tens of millions of people, for so little?

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.

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, August 7, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Canada 1918-34 Semi-Official Airmails (Scott #CLP1-52)

From 1912 through 1934, private mail services delivered mail via airplane to remote parts of Canada for which the regular postal service was insufficient or non-existent. Beginning in 1918, some of these companies produced and sold stamps, which were to be affixed to the back of envelopes carried. Canadian postal regulations required that regular postage also be paid for delivery of this mail.

Until recently, these stamps were listed only in specialized Canadian and Airmail catalogues. Now, they may also be found in Scott's Classic Specialized Catalogue, a book which conveniently lists worldwide stamps of the first hundred years of stamp issuance (1840-1940). Incidentally, while new Scott Classic Catalogues are pricey (about $130), used copies that are 2-4 years old may sometimes be found on ebay for $20 -$40. It's a useful reference to have, as it lists many stamps not found in the regular Scott's, and carrying one to shows and auctions is certainly easier than lugging around Scott's Volumes I to VI, plus the U.S. Specialized Catalogue.

When a major stamp catalogue lists a new category of stamps that it's publishers heretofore considered either dubious or too obscure to include, it can significantly boost demand for those stamps. This may seem like the "tail wagging the dog" as far as the stamp market is concerned, but in this case, the tail is large enough that the aforementioned dog may need to take a Dramamine. In other words: "If they put it in the book, then it's worth a look."

This is especially true when such stamps have low printings, as do Canada's Semi-official Airmails, most of which were issued in the low thousands. The stamps are relics of the early days of airmail delivery, and appeal to both Canadian collectors and to Aerophilately topicalists worldwide. Printing quantities may for these and other issues may be found by viewing the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List (under British America - Canada)

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 1.2% over the past five years, which takes into account the contraction of 2009 and '10 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.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Burundi 1965 Birds (Scott #111-25/C8-16)

In 1965, Burundi issued a colorful attractive compound set featuring birds (Scott #111-25/C8-16). 30,000 were issued, and Scott '12 values the unused set at $49.00.

Birds are among the most popular subjects of Animal Topicals, and though it is unlikely that a significant stamp market will develop in Burundi in the near future, there is some interest in Belgium for stamps of its former colony.

A nation of about 10 million, Burundi has one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Its largest industry is agriculture, which accounts for over half of its GDP. The nation's largest source of revenue is coffee, which makes up 93% of Burundi's exports. Other agriculture products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca); beef, milk, and hides. The country also has significant deposits of minerals, including uranium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and platinum. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 4% over the last 5 years.