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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Venezuela 1943 Habilitado Surcharge (Scott #384-87)

In 1943, Venezuela surcharged four stamps from earlier issues, creating a set which was sold primarily to stamp collectors (Scott #384-87). 6,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $137.50 .

It is highly probable that most, if not all, of the sets still exist. Nevertheless, its low issuance quantity makes it a good bet on the growth of interest in stamps of Venezuela as well as those of Latin America in general.

With a population of about 26 million, Venezuela is resource-rich, and consistently ranks among the top ten oil producers in the world. Annual GDP growth has averaged almost 10% over the last 5 years, although it has been decelerating recently due to lower oil prices. Under Chavez-style quasi-socialism, the percentage of Venezuelans living below the poverty line has decreased from 48% in 2002 to 30% in 2006. The country has begun diversifying its economy away from its current near-total dependence on petroleum exports, and has spawned a rapidly growing manufacturing sector.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", featuring my buy lists for stamps which I wish to purchase, including the set recommended in this article.Periodically viewing dealers' buy lists
is an excellent way to remained informed about the state of the stamp market.

I encourage those interested in learning more about investing in stamps to view my book, A Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5 on Kindle).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Cook Islands 1919 Maori Surcharge (Scott #48-60)

In 1919, New Zealand surcharged thirteen stamps of its 1909-19 issues for use in its dependency, the Cook Islands (Scott #48-60). To facilitate use of the stamps by the native islanders, the surcharge utilized Cook Islands Maori language, also known as Rarotongan, or Te reo Ipukarea, literally "the language of the Ancestral Homeland." The set is commonly known as the "Polynesian Surcharge Issue", although this is imprecise, since there are some 40 Polynesian languages. 20,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices it unused at $27.90.

The engraved stamps of this set (Scott #53-57, 59-60) were produced with two different perf. sizes per sheet, perf. 14X14 1/2 and 14 x 13 1/2, and pairs and blocks of four containing examples with both perf sizes are desirable.

The set should do well based on their appeal to British Commonwealth collectors and demand from New Zealand.

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

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: U.S. 1946-50 Migratory Waterfowl Stamps with Plate Number on Reverse of Selvedge (Scott #RW13-17var.)

The fact that knowledge is power applies to many aspects of life, and it especially holds true when it comes to the market for collectibles, including stamps. One of the most exciting aspects of the hobby is that every once in a while, one may find scarce varieties priced as normal stamps.

Beginning in 1946, the U.S. Department of the Interior issued Migratory Waterfowl Hunting Permit Stamps, otherwise known as Duck Stamps,
with messages on the back (gum side) of the stamps instructing hunters to sign them on the front. From 1946 to 1950 (for Scott #RW13-17), "PL. 47510" (Plate #47510) was printed on the back of the selvedge attached to one stamp in each sheet (Position 24 on the upper right pane).

The Duck stamps of this period were issued in sheets of 4 panes, each of which contained 28 stamps. Hence, for each of these five issues, only one out of every 112 stamps was attached to the selvedge bearing the plate number printed on the gum side. Until recently, these stamps were ignored by the vast majority of duck stamp collectors, who now collect them as plate blocks of six and plate number singles. Album publishers also ignored the varieties. I've discussed these stamps with several dealers who specialize in duck stamps, and the consensus among them is that perhaps 2%-4% of the initial quantity remain, at most. The Scott U.S. Specialized Catalog describes and prices the plate blocks of these stamps in a note following RW12.

I've listed the five stamps, along with the Scott '11 values for Plate Blocks of 6, the quantities issued for each stamp and the positional variety, and the estimated range of quantities remaining below:

  • 1946 $1 Redhead Ducks (RW13) - 2,816,041 issued; $550.00 ; 25,143 vars. issued; Est. 500-1,000 remain;
  • 1947 $1 Snow Geese (RW14) - 1,722,677 issued; $550.00 ; 15,381 vars. issued; Est. 300-600 remain;
  • 1948 $1 Buffleheads (RW15) - 2,127,603 issued; $550.00 ; 18,996 vars. issued; Est. 375-750 remain;
  • 1949 $2 Goldeneye Ducks (RW16) - 1,954,734 issued; $550.00 ; 17,453 vars. issued; Est. 350-700 remain;
  • 1950 $2 Trumpeter Swans (RW17) - 1,903,644 issued; $1,500.00 ; 16,997 vars. issued; Est. 350-700 remain;
I believe these positional varieties to be an excellent investment if purchased at their current catalog values, and advise collectors to keep a lookout for the varieties priced as the normal stamps by dealers who are ignorant of them.

The Duck Stamp collecting community is interesting because it represents an atypical crossover market which includes collectors of general U.S. stamps and U.S. Revenues, along with collectors of Duck hunting memorabilia and Wildlife art. Because the sales of the stamps protect wildlife habitats, it may be considered a "green" collectible, and Duck stamp collecting is actively promoted by the Fish and Wildlife Service. There are currently about 8,000 to 10,000 "serious" Duck stamp collectors in the U.S., and many others who buy them to them to fill spaces in their general U.S. albums.

I wish to thank Bob Dumaine, President of Sam Houston Philatelics, for providing much of the information used in this article.

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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: British East Africa 1890-94 Sun and Crown (Scott #14-30)

The Imperial British East Africa Company administered the territory which was later to become Kenya from 1888 to 1895, when the territory became a British protectorate. Between 1890 and '94, the Company issued a set of seventeen stamps picturing a sun and crown, symbolizing "Light and Liberty" (Scott #14-30). 1,500 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $752.50 . Most of the stamps in the set had printings in the mid-10,000s, but the two key stamps, the 8a Gray (Scott #24 ; CV=$350.00) and the 1r Gray (Scott #26; CV=$275.00) had printings of 1,500 and 2,400, respectively.

I recommend either purchase of the complete set, if found in F-VF or better, LH condition, or the key stamps individually. The set represents a conservative investment based on the growth of British Commonwealth collecting alone, but should a significant collecting population develop within Kenya, it will do very well indeed.

A nation of 41 million people, Kenya has the largest GDP in East and Central Africa. The country traditionally produces world renowned tea and coffee, and more recently has become a major exporter of fresh flowers to Europe. It is generally perceived as Eastern and Central Africa's hub for financial, communication and transportation services, and has a service industry driven by a steadily growing tourism sector. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 5% over the past five years.

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.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Jamaica 1897 Victoria (Scott #28-30)

I'm initiating coverage of Jamaica with a set of high values which the British issued for their colony to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1897 (Scott #28-30). Only 9,120 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $104.50 .

These three stamps (1sh, 2sh, and 5sh) were pricey for the time, and while it is possible that some may have been purchased by well-heeled collectors, it is likely that many were used as postage to send heavy packages and then discarded. The set represents a conservative investment based solely upon the growth in interest in stamps of the British Commonwealth. Should a significant collecting population develop among Jamaicans, it's value will be given an added boost.

An island nation with just under 3 million people, Jamaica is a mixed economy with both state enterprises and private sector businesses. Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, and financial and insurance services. Economic growth has been flat over the past 5 years, in part due to the recent global economic downturn.

Information concerning printing quantities of stamps is often useful in determining which may turn out to be good investments. The StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List (SSSSQIL) currently includes over 9,700 listings of stamps and souvenir sheets with issuance quantities of 100,000 or less.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Luxembourg 1952 Postage Stamp Centenary (Scott #C16-20)

In 1952, Luxembourg issued a set of five airmails commemorating the centenary of its postage stamps (Scott #C16-20). 37,416 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $55.30 ($100.00 for NH).

Stamps-on-stamps topicals are very popular worldwide, and although Luxembourg is a small country, its stamps are widely collected, especially in the Benelux countries.

A nation of about a half a million people, Luxembourg has a highly developed economy, with the world's second highest GDP per capita. Its stable, high-income economy features moderate growth, low inflation, and low unemployment. The industrial sector, which was dominated until the 1960s by steel, has diversified to include chemicals, rubber, and other products. During the past decades, growth in the financial sector has more than compensated for the decline in steel. Services, especially banking and other financial exports, account for the majority of economic output. Annual GDP growth has averaged 2.3% over the last 5 years, despite a major recent contraction due to the global financial crisis.

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.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Laos 1956 Birth of the Buddha Anniv. (Scott #27-29, C20-21)

In 1956, Laos issued a compound set of five stamps celebrating the 2,500th Anniversary of the Birth of Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as the Buddha (Scott #27-29, C20-21). The printing quantity is not known for this set, but it was probably in the low ten thousands, and Scott '12 values it at $72.00 .

Laotian stamps of the '50s and early '60s utilize beautifully engraved designs, a tradition inherited from the French which is characteristic of many of the stamps from their colonies and former colonies. The Buddha's Birth Anniversary set has multiple appeal, among collectors of French Colonies/Area, Indochina, Laos, and Buddhism Topicals.

A nation of 6.3 million, Laos is a poor, though rapidly developing nation which is heavily dependent upon trade with its neighbors, China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Subsistence agriculture still accounts for half of the GDP and provides 80 percent of employment. However, the mining and tourism sectors are growing rapidly, and the government is taking steps to significantly upgrade the country's infrastructure, with the help of foreign aid. Annual GDP growth has averaged over 7% over the last 5 years.

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.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Kyrgyzstan 2003 Artifacts Souvenir Sheet (Scott #205)

In 2003, Kyrgyzstan issued a souvenir sheet picturing Kyrgyz artifacts found by archeologists (Scott #205). Only 3,000 were issued, and Scott '11 prices the unused sheet at $10.00 .

The miniature sheet is a very scarce Art topical, and I believe that focusing on scarce popular topicals is a prudent means of speculating on stamps of the newly independent nations of Central Asia. Whether or not demand develops within these countries for the stamps that they issue, there will always be worldwide demand for their most popular topicals.

A nation of 5.5 million, Kyrgyzstan is the second poorest country in Central Asia. It has had economic difficulties following independence from the Soviet Union, as a result of the breakup of the Soviet trading bloc and resulting loss of markets, which impeded the republic's transition to a free market economy. Agriculture is an important sector of the economy, and the country also has substantial deposits of coal, gold, uranium, antimony, and other valuable minerals. In addition, the country's plentiful water resources and mountainous terrain enable it to produce and export large quantities of hydroelectric energy. Overall, the government appears committed to the transition to a market economy,and economic performance has improved considerably in the last decade, although the country was hit by the global financial crisis in the last two. Annual GDP growth has averaged 2.8% over the last 5 years.