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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Uruguay 1930 Centenary of Independence (Scott #394-409)

In 1930, Uruguay issued a handsome set of sixteen stamps celebrating its Centenary of Independence (Scott #394-409). 3,006 were issued, and Scott '12 prices the set unused at $105.40.

The set is grossly undervalued, especially considering that there are many collectors of Latin America who focus on the region as a whole. It is very likely that many were used as postage and discarded.

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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Philippines 1979 Birds (Scott #1392-97)

In 1979, the Philippines issued an attractive set of stamps featuring Native Birds (Scott #1392-97). Only 50,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $28.90. Most were probably used as postage and discarded.

From the perspective of philatelic history, the Philippines is interesting because it has issued stamps under Spanish dominion, U.S. Administration, Japanese Occupation, and as an independent nation. It is also compelling as an area of research for the philatelic investor, because of its rapid economic growth, and because it has issued a number of scarce yet overlooked issues, including some modern popular topical sets, such as the Birds set featured in this article.

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.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", which will feature wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've just posted a buy list for the Philippines, and it includes the set and souvenir sheet 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.

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 22, 2012

General Commentary: Has the Bull in the China Shop Met His Matador?

Happy, productive stamp collectors heroically marching
together on a single path to a glorious philatelic utopia


Since October of 2010, the People's Bank of China has raised interest rates five times in an effort to combat inflation. This tightening of monetary policy has led to a deceleration of economic growth in the P.R.C., and has been a factor in the global economic recession.

There have been reports that this deceleration of growth has also dampened prices for Chinese collectibles, including stamps, that the once white-hot P.R.C. stamp market has cooled somewhat, and that dealer buy prices for many items have dropped by 20%-30%.

In a March, 2010 StampSelector blog article ("General Commentary - the Bull in the China Shop"), I commented on the dramatic price increases for P.R.C. material, and noted buy prices for several souvenir sheets and Cultural Revolution issues. I've re-listed these items below, along with current buy prices.

(Prices are for VF NH)

1958 Kuan Han-ching s/s (Scott #357a):

2004: $ 65.00
2006: $ 75.00
2007: $ 85.00
2008: $ 130.00
March, 2010: $ 215.00 ; April, 2010: $ 340.00
September, 2011: $ 650.00
January, 2012: $660.00

1961 Table Tennis s/s (Scott #566a):

2004: $ 180.00
2206: $ 225.00
2007: $ 225.00
2008: $ 275.00
March, 2010: $ 800.00; April,2010: $ 1,180.00
August, 2011: $ 1,500.00
January, 2012: $ 1,400.00

1962 Mei Lan-fang s/s (Scott #628):

2004: $ 1,800.00
2006: $ 2,500.00
2007: $ 3,000.00
March, 2010: $ 10,000.00; April, 2010: $ 11,000.00
August, 2011: $ 25,000.00
January, 2012: $ 25,000.00

1964 Peonies s/s (Scott #782):

2004: $ 400.00
2006: $ 500.00
2007: $ 500.00
March, 2010: $ 2,000.00; April, 2010: $ 3,650.00
August, 2011: $ 3,750.00
January, 2012: $ 4,100.00

1967 Thoughts of Chairman Mao- unfolded strip of 5 (Scott #948a):

2004: $ 325.00
2006: $ 750.00
2007: $ 750.00
March, 2010: $ 2,500.00; April, 2010: $ 3,300.00
August, 2011: $ 5,000.00
January, 2012: 8,000.00

1967-68 Poems by Chairman Mao (Scott #967-80):

2004: $ 475.00
2006: $ 800.00
2007: $ 800.00
2008: $ 1,300.00
March, 2010: $ 2,200.00; April, 2010: $ 3,000.00
September, 2011: $ 4,275.00
January, 2012: $ 5,350.00

1968: "The Entire Nation is Red" (Scott #999A):

2004: $ 8,000.00
2006: $ 10,000.00
2007: $ 10,000.00
March, 2010: $ $ 60,000.00; April, 2010: $ 75,000.00
September, 2011: $ 150,000.00
January, 2012: $ 170,000.00

1978 Science Conference s/s (Scott #1383a):

2004: $ 140.00
2006: $ 150.00
2007: $ 160.00
March, 2010: $ 400.00; April, 2010: $ 490.00
August, 2011: $ 550.00
January, 2012: $ 540.00

1979 Study Science s/s (Scott #1518):

2004: $ 300.00
2006: $ 510.00
March, 2010: $ 1,600.00; April, 2010: $1,950.00
August, 2011: $ 2,350.00
January, 2012: $ 2,300.00

1980 Year of the Monkey (Scott #1586):

2004: $ 100.00
2006: $ 215.00
2007: $ 200.00
March, 2010: $ 800.00; April, 2010: $975.00
August, 2011: $ 1,600.00
January, 2012: $ 1,550.00

According to my sampling, the buy prices for the key items selected remain very strong, but it is possible that this selection of key items is not representative, or that it doesn't take into account fluctuations which may have occurred on a shorter term basis, or during months for which buy prices were not noted. A few items seem to have stabilized or declined slightly, while others continued to increase in value.

My view is that if there has been a dampening in the P.R.C. stamp market, it will prove to be a temporary phenomenon, assuming that the market's fundamentals aren't undermined by extreme political instability. The key items of the P.R.C. may soar more rapidly skyward, like an awakened dragon, after China's monetary policy is relaxed. For those who wish to take a more conservative approach, I recommend focusing on better items of Imperial China and foreign offices in China, which have increased more steadily over time.

In the long run, the 64 million yuan question will be whether the P.R.C. will be able to maintain a politically and socially stable society in the midst of dramatic social and economic change. It is likely that the government will manage to succeed in its traditional policy of balancing repression and gradual reform, but if the economy falters and expectations of future growth are dashed, then, to paraphrase Robert Graves, all of the poisons which lurk in the mud could hatch out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Hawaii 1893 Red Provisional Government Overprints (Scott #53-64)

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 #53-64). Many of the stamps of this set are scarce and undervalued, and #61B is rare. I've listed the better stamps, along with their Scott '11 values for unused and printing quantities, below:

  • -1893 1c Purple (Scott #53; Scott ' 11CV = $9.00- $21.50NH ; 62,500 issued)
  • -1893 1c Blue (Sc. #54; SCV = $9.00-$21.50 NH ; 75,000 issued)
  • -1893 2c Brown (Sc.#56; SCV= $12.00-$28.50 NH:37,500 issued)
  • -1893 5c Deep Indigo (Sc.#58; SCV=$13.00- $32.00 NH : 46,350 issued)
  • -1893 6c Green (Sc. #60; SCV = $17.50-$40.00 NH : 39,950 issued)
  • -1893 10c Black (Sc. #61; SCV=$13.00- $30.00 NH ; 50,000 issued)
  • -1893 10c Red Brown (Sc. #61B; SCV= $ 14,000.00; 50 issued)
  • -1893 12c Black (Sc. #62; SCV= $12.00-$30.00 NH : 20,831 issued)
  • -1893 12c Red Lilac (Sc. #63;SCV= $ 165.00- $400.00 NH;7,500 issued)
  • -1893 25c Dark Violet (Sc. #64; SCV=$32.00- $72.00 NH ; 25,000 issued)

It is surprising that there are still many undervalued stamps of Hawaii, given that it's 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 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.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: There's Nothing Silly About Cilicia

During World War I, the British and the French occupied Cilicia, a territory of the Ottoman Empire, and in 1919, the administration of it was transferred to the French. It was later assigned to the French Mandated territory of Syria, but eventually reverted to Turkey.

From 1919 to '21, the French issued stamps for Cilicia by overprinting the Turkish stamps that they'd found in the local post offices. Fortunately for later stamp collectors insane enough to consider themselves philatelic investors, the French kept records of the quantities of many of the new stamps that they produced. Cilician stamps range from very rare to scarce, even for some of the cheapest ones, with quantities issued ranging from under 100 to 100,000, and with most with quantities issued in the thousands to low ten thousands. I've listed many of these in the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List, on the French Colonies/Area page.

I believe stamps of Cilicia to be undervalued considering their scarcity and multiple market appeal to collectors of French Colonies, Turkey, and possibly Syria. Their main drawback (and a major reason for their undervaluation) is that they're all overprints, and fakes exist. Consequently, I recommend purchase of those stamps of Cilicia which catalog $200 or more, conditional on obtaining expertization, because the expertization cost is not justified for the less expensive stamps. Quantities issued on the stamps which cat. $200+ range from 50 (for the 1920 Airs) to 2,000.

I view the future growth of the Turkish economy and stamp market as the most likely catalyst for significant increases in the values of better stamps of Cilicia.

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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Canal Zone 1939 Views (Scott #120-35)

In 1939, the U.S. issued an attractive set of sixteen stamps for the Canal Zone featuring views of the Panama Canal (Scott #120-35). 34,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $164.65.

Many of the better stamps of the Canal Zone are overprints or overprint varieties. This set has a more general appeal than most. It is likely that quite a few were used as postage and discarded, and I would not be surprised if fewer than ten thousand sets remain, in any condition.

Stamps of the Canal Zone are popular among U.S. Possessions collectors, and should continue to do well as interest both in this collecting area and in Latin America grows.

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 focuses upon philatelic investing, the stamp market, and practical matters regarding buying and selling stamps. It also offers the opportunity to comment upon this blog and suggest future stamp investment tips.

Those interested in learning more about investing in stamps are encouraged to read the Philatelic Investment Guide ($5), available on Kindle, and accessible from any computer.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Russia 1934 Stratosphere Disaster Issue (Scott #C50-52)

In 1934, Russia issued a set of three airmail stamps honoring the victims of a tragic ballooning disaster (Scott #C50-52).

Osoaviakhim-1 was a record-setting, hydrogen-filled Soviet high-altitude balloon designed to seat a crew of three and perform scientific studies of the Earth's stratosphere. On January 30, 1934, on its maiden flight which lasted over 7 hours, the balloon reached an altitude of 22,000 metres (72,000 ft). During the descent the balloon lost its buoyancy and plunged into an uncontrolled fall, disintegrating in the lower atmosphere. The three crew members- I.D. Usyskin, A.B. Vasenko, and P.F. Fedoseinko- were probably incapacitated by high g-forces in a rapidly rotating gondola, failed to bail out, and were killed by a high-speed ground impact.

100,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $150.00. The vast majority were probably used as postage and discarded. The set has obvious appeal to Aviation topicalists.

Note that a Perf. 14 set, which is probably a hundred times scarcer than the normal set (Perf. 11), was also issued. The price of the Perf. 14 set (Scott #C50a-52a) is truly stratospheric, however, as it cats. at $30,110.00 for unused.

The market for better Russian stamps from the Czarist through Stalin periods is very hot right now. 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, including a major economic contraction of about 8% in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Even accounting for 2009, annual GDP growth over the last 5 years has averaged about 3.4%. 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.

I favor all scarce sets of Russia, as I believe that it is likely both its economy and stamp collecting population will grow substantially over the next decades.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: India 1900 China Expeditionary Force Overprint (Scott #M1-10)

As with the other colonial powers smuggling opium into China, bribing corrupt officials, and generally making a mockery of Chinese sovereignty during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Great Britain maintained "spheres of influence" within China, and maintained post offices there and in Hong Kong. This understandably led to some resentment among the Chinese who attempted to forcibly eject the foreign parasites. The abortive Boxer Rebellion (1898-1901) was crushed by the multinational China Expeditionary Force, to which the various colonial powers had contributed personnel. In a truly British combination of efficiency with a sense of humor, Great Britain added Indian units to the C.E.F., thereby setting one colonized and exploited people against another.

In 1900, a set of ten Victoria definitives from India's regular issues of 1882-99 were overprinted for use by the C.E.F. (Scott #M1-10). 13,717 sets were sold, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $100.70.

The set has potential appeal in three growing markets: collectors of British Commonwealth, India, and China. Many of the best investments in Indian stamps are to be found among the obscure colonial back-of-book items and the Convention States. The Indian stamp market is really just beginning to take off, and is at a stage similar to the Chinese stamp market of 30 years ago.

The set should also do well based upon demand from China, but that may require a change in attitude on the part of Chinese collectors. Many, if not all, of the better foreign offices in China stamps are grossly undervalued, because most Chinese collectors disdain them as relics of foreign imperialism, which they are. Nevertheless, I feel that they are excellent investments solely on the basis of growing demand in their home countries, and because I believe that eventually, the Chinese will bid them up as well. Many of these issues are undervalued to such an extent that they are currently selling for less than P.R.C. souvenir sheets and Cultural Revolution sets which are at least 30 to 100 times more common. When reticence begins to replace rage, they will zoom upward at a rate that will shock and amaze the the vast majority of collectors who unwisely neglected to read this blog.