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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: French Southern and Antarctic Territories 1966-69 Flora/Fauna Issue (Scott #25-28)

Four countries claim territory in the Antarctic and issue stamps for their territories. They are Australia (Australian Antarctic Territory), Great Britain (British Antarctic Territory), New Zealand (the Ross Dependency), and France (the French Southern and Antarctic Territories). Of these, the French territory, also known as French Antarctic and abbreviated as F.S.A.T. or T.A.A.F., is of most interest to philatelists, because most of the F.S.A.T. stamps were issued in modest quantities and many are beautifully engraved. Most stamps issued for the various Antarctic territories are sold to collectors, as only a few hundred scientists reside in research facilities in the Antarctic.

From 1966 to '69, the F.S.A.T. issued a set of five stamps picturing native animals and one local plant, the Phylica tree of Amsterdam Island. 40,000 were issued, and Scott '12 prices it unused at $433.00.

Demand for stamps of the French Antarctic is strong in France and among collectors of French Colonies/Area, and the Flora/Fauna set has obvious topical appeal. It is the territory's key set, and as such may be purchased as a conservative investment.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

General Commentary: The Holy Grail of Philatelic Investing

Over the last 2+ years, I've published over 400 StampSelector blog articles recommending various stamps or souvenir sheets as investments. However, I have never made any comparison between the issues recommended, nor have I attempted to rate their prospects and predict which might provide the best returns.

The desire to provide some kind of stamp investment rating system ("S.I.R.S.?") is an ongoing obsession of mine, because it would be extremely valuable to be able to provide an educated guess as to which stamps will appreciate in value the most over the long-term. Obviously, a philatelic investor could use it to determine which stamps to target for investment, and a blogging hack who tips stamps, such as myself, might acquire immense influence over the stamp market by providing a credible system, and could even use such information to hoard the top-rated stamps before publishing it. Such a strategy would invite a friendly visit from the Securities and Exchange Commission and a probable prison term if the subject were stocks, which it isn't.

It is for this reason that I compare such a ratings system, or formula, to the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend, and as with the search for the mythical Grail, the paths to it are hidden due to lack of information, and remain obscured by clouds of ambiguity. Nevertheless, it is possible to list some of the criteria which might be taken into consideration in order to determine a stamp's rating.

Firstly, the formula's intended solution - the rating itself - would be a number which represents an estimate of a stamp's long-term growth, perhaps the estimated average annualized return (L.T.E.A.R.) on the investment over the next ten or twenty years. Hence, a stamp with an LTEAR of 15% have a rating of 15.

Variables which would factor into the formula would include the stamp's printing quantity and/or estimate of its current supply, the population of its country of origin and population growth rate, the country's economic growth rate and/or projection of the growth of its middle class, the country's current current population of stamp collectors, sources of external demand (such as topical, regional or "mother-country" demand, if the country of origin is a former colony, as well as the population of those with ties to the former country now living in other countries). Population aging rates might also be factored in, since serious stamp collectors tend to be middle aged or older. Ideally, the formula might also include a quantification of cultural factors, as some nations/ethnic groups have more affinity to stamp collecting than others; however, estimating this variable would probably prove insuperably difficult. Finally, there would have to be an application of the stamp market's version of the Heisenberg Principle - an incorporation of the effect of investors, speculators, investment tips, and even the rating system itself, on demand.

In all likelihood, the prospect of creating a SIRS will remain nothing more than a dream. I encourage any reader with an interest in pursuing the project to post a comment either here or on the Facebook StampSelectors group site.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Puerto Rico 1898 Provisional Issues (Scott #200-201)

During the Spanish American War, U.S. troops landed at Guanica Bay in Puerto Rico, and mail service was established under General Wilson, the acting governor of the conquered territory. Crude provisional stamps were issued at La Playa de Ponce and Coamo in 1898 (Scott #200 and 201).

The Ponce Issue (Scott #200) was a violet 5c handstamp applied to envelopes, while the Coamo Issue (Scott #201) was an imperforate stamp, of which four types exist, as described in Scott. Quantities issued of the Ponce Issue are unknown, but in all probability, fewer than 100 were produced. About 500 of the Coamo stamps were issued. Scott '12 prices the Ponce stamp unused at $7,500.00 , and the Coamo stamps unused at between $ 650.00 and $850.00, and the used stamps between $1,050.00 and $1,350.00, depending upon type. Blocks of four of the Coamo stamps showing all four types exist, as do complete sheets of ten.

These rather boring-looking stamps appeal to collectors of U.S. Possessions, Puerto Rico, and Latin America. They're offered at auction on occasion, and should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization, since dangerous counterfeits exist. Based on the projected growth in demand for U.S. Possessions stamps alone, they may be considered conservative investments. Should demand for stamps of Puerto Rico increase dramatically, then they will outperform this expectation.

With about 3.7 million people, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, with an economy that is one of the most diverse in the Caribbean region. In addition to the island's population, there are also approximately 3.8 million Puerto Ricans living in the Continental U.S.. Services and industrial production have surpassed agriculture as the primary focus of economic activity and income. Encouraged by duty-free access to the U.S. and by tax incentives, United States firms have invested heavily in Puerto Rico since the 1950s. Sugar production has lost out to dairy production and other livestock products as the main source of income in the agricultural sector. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income for the island. Due to immense debt problems and problems associated with Puerto Rico's status, annual GDP has actually declined by about 2.5% per year over the last 5 years.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Senegambia and Niger 1903 Navigation and Commerce (Scott #1-13)

Senegambia and Niger was a short-lived administrative unit of the French possessions in Africa, formed in 1902 and reorganized in 1904 into Upper Senegal and Niger. These territories later became the Republics of Burkina Faso and Mali.

In 1903, the French issued the first stamps for the colony, a set of thirteen utilizing the Navigation and Commerce design (Scott #1-13). Scott '12 prices the unused set at $287.15, and while quantities issued are not known, it's likely that they were in the low ten thousands.

The set should do well as a conservative investment, based on the growth of interest in stamps of the French Colonies/Possessions. It has the added attraction of being an possible emerging market play, should a stamp collecting community develop within Burkina Faso or Mali.

Burkina Faso is a poor nation, with a population of about 16 million. Agriculture represents 32% of its gross domestic product and occupies 80% of the working population. Highly variable rainfall, poor soils, lack of adequate communications and other infrastructure, a low literacy rate, and a stagnant economy are all longstanding problems of this landlocked country. Many Burkinabé migrate to neighboring countries for work, and their remittances provide a substantial contribution to the balance of payments. The government is attempting to improve the economy by developing its mineral resources. Annual GDP growth has averaged just under 5% over the past 5 years.

Mali, another poor and landlocked African country, has a population of about 15 million. As with Burkina Faso, about 80% of the population is employed in agriculture, which is vulnerable to periodic droughts. The country has significant mineral reserves, which it is developing. These include: gold,kaolin, salt, phosphate, and limestone. Annual GDP growth has averaged just over 4% over the past 5 years.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Costa Rica 1963 Native Animals (Scott #C354-61)

In 1963, Costa Rica issued a pleasant set of triangular stamps picturing native animals (Scott #C354-61). 30,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $20.00.

According to a recent survey done by the American Topical Association, "Animals" are the most popular collecting topic among U.S. collectors, and the same probably holds true for collectors in the rest of the world. The set also has an "Eco-topical" theme, which should give it an additional boost as people feel increasingly sentimental about all of the wonderful animal species which they are wiping out. It is undervalued, especially since there are many collectors of Latin America who focus on the region as a whole, and also that it is likely that many of the sets were used as postage and discarded.

With 4 1/2 million people, Costa Rica is unique as the only Latin American country to have escaped the plague of repressive dictatorships and oligarchies endemic to the region. Costa Rica has generally enjoyed greater peace and more consistent political stability than many of its fellow Latin American nations. The government offers generous tax exemptions to those investing in the country,and in recent times electronics, pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing, software development, and eco-tourism have become the prime industries in Costa Rica's economy. High levels of education among its residents make the country an attractive investing location. Annual GDP growth has averaged 5.6% over the last 5 years.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", which will feature my buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've just posted a buy list for Costa Rica, including 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, May 13, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: India 2007 Satyagraha Centennial Souvenir Sheet (Scott #2208e)

In 2007, India issued a souvenir sheet commemorating the Centennial of Mahatma Gandhi's Non-violent Resistance, or Satyagraha, Movement (Scott #2208e). 200,000 were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused souvenir sheet at $3.00 .

While the quantity issued may seem high compared to those of most stamps recommended by StampSelector, it should be kept in mind that India is a rapidly developing nation of over a billion people, and millions of Indian collectors will probably be converted to the insidious cult of Philately over the next decade.

As for the sheet's topical appeal, it couldn't be any stronger, as many Indians view the Mahatma as something like a semi-divine combination of Jesus, Washington, and Lincoln. Gandhi Topicals with low or moderately low printings, whether from India or elsewhere, are worthy of consideration as investments.

Those interested in viewing a list of scarce stamps with printing quantities of 100,000 or fewer may wish to view the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List, which currently contains over 9,700 entries. Researching quantities issued data is vital to determining in which stamps to invest.

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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Italy- Aegean Islands 1933 Graf Zeppelin (Scott #C20-25)

The Aegean Islands, a group of islands in the Aegean Sea, were occupied by Italy during the Tripoli War and ceded to Italy by Turkey in 1924 per the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne. They were ceded to Greece after World War II.

In 1933, Italy issued a set of six airmail stamps for the Aegean Islands, intended for use on the Italian Flight of that year (Scott #C20-25). 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $360.00.

I recommend purchase of the set- NH, LH, or on covers carried on the flight. It has multiple market appeal among collectors of Italy/Area, Zeppelin stamps, and possibly also Greece.

Zeppelin stamp and cover collecting is extremely popular worldwide. Many countries issued stamps for use on the various Zeppelin flights, and those interested in learning more about the Zeppelin issues and their usages should consider purchasing a Michel Zeppelin Specialized Catalog or a Sieger Zeppelin Post Catalog.

A nation of about 61 million people, Italy is the fifth most populous country in Europe, with the eighth-largest economy in the world and the fourth-largest in Europe in terms of nominal GDP. Italy was rapidly transformed from an agriculture based economy into one of the world's most industrialized nations and a leading country in world trade and exports. It is a developed country, with the world's 8th highest quality of life and the 23rd Human Development Index. In spite of the recent global economic crisis, Italian per capita GDP at purchasing power parity remains approximately equal to the EU average,] while the unemployment rate (8.5%) stands as one of the EU's lowest. The country is well known for its influential and innovative business economic sector, an industrious and competitive agricultural sector (Italy is the world's largest wine producer), and for its creative and high-quality automobile, industrial, appliance and fashion design. The country's GDP has contracted by a little under 1% per year over the past 5 years, due to the European Sovereign Debt Crisis.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Kyrgyzstan 2007 Fine Arts Souvenir Sheet (Scott # 293 )

In 2007, Kyrgyzstan issued a souvenir sheet honoring the Fine Arts (Scott #293 ). Only 10,000 were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused sheet at $5.00 .

The sheet has appeal to Art Topicalists as well as collector of Kyrgyzstan.

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.

Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are welcome to join the "Stampselectors" group  page at Facebook. The page hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and is an excellent venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Bolivia 1930 Scenes (Scott #C27-34)

In 1930, Bolivia issued a set of eight airmail stamps picturing scenes of rural Bolivia (Scott #C27-34). 5,767 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $23.60 .

This set is yet another grossly undervalued issue from a Latin American country. There are many collectors who focus on the region as a whole, which supplements demand for the stamps of the individual countries.

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. Periodically viewing dealers' buy lists is an excellent way to remained informed about the state of the stamp market.