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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: Australia 1932-33 Officials (Scott #06-11)

From 1932-'33, Australia overprinted six stamps "OS" (for Official Service), creating a set of Officials (Scott #06-11). 48,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $148.75 ($275.- for NH) . In all likelihood, many were used as postage by various government offices and discarded.

While I sometimes advise obtaining expertization for overprinted issues, it's not necessary in this case because the Officials are not worth considerably more than the basic stamps.

I favor all better stamps of Australia. As a a prosperous nation of 22 million people, it has a diverse economy, with thriving service, agricultural, and mining sectors. Annual GDP growth has averaged 2.6% over the past 15 years. Recently, there has been considerable growth in mining and petroleum extraction, in part due to increased exports to the resource-hungry Chinese market. Furthermore, it is likely that Australia's stamp collecting population will grow significantly as the nation ages. The percentage of Australians over 60 is projected to rise from 16% in 2000 to 24.8% in 2025, and 28.2% in 2050.

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. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

General Commentary: The Global Growth of the Middle Class

   One of the most radical transformations of the 21st century could be the explosive growth of the middle class, especially in countries where virtually no middle class existed until recently.  I am convinced that aside from the many beneficial social and political effects of this change, it will also mean that more people will have the time and money to engage in recreational activities, including hobbies such as stamp collecting.

   According to Ernst and Young, the population of the world's middle class will increase by over 260% from 2009 to 2030, and by that year, two thirds of the middle class will live in the Asia-Pacific region. These trends, along with a concurrent trend toward global aging, have important implications for the philatelic investor.

    The break down of the projections provided by Ernst and Young is interesting: only North America's middle class declines in both absolute terms and as a proportion of the world's population: from 338 million/ 18% (2009) to 322 million/ 7% (2030). Europe's rises slightly in absolute terms but declines proportionately: from 664 million/ 36% to 680 million/ 14%.  It is the developing world which experiences the most dramatic transformation, led by Asia/Pacific: 525 million/28% to 3,228 million/ 66%. Central and South America and the Middle East/North Africa see a dramatic rise in absolute terms along with a corresponding proportionate decline: 181 million/10% to 313 million/6% and 105 million/6% and 234 million/5%, respectively. Sub-Saharan Africa's middle class increases in population by 334%, from 32 million to 107 million, while remaining 2% of the the global total.

   Obviously, these are only projections, and any number of circumstances may render them inaccurate. Furthermore, many other factors may also influence the future growth or decline in demand for a particular country's (or region's) stamps, so the middle class population stats should not be viewed alone when making such predictions.

   Other than the general positive effect of this "rising tide lifting all boats" on the hobby, the demand for certain stamps will be heightened when favorable trends coincide. The greatest increases in demand will be for better issues with popular topics from countries where both the growth of the middle class and aging of the population are occurring most rapidly. 

    The Stamp Auction Bidders and Consignors Union (SABACU) is a forum for discussing stamp auctions, and represents the interests of stamp auction bidders and consignors in their dealings with stamp auctioneers. All stamp collectors and dealers are welcome to join. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: Canada 1924 George V Imperforates (Scott #136-38)

   From 1911-31, Canada issued its "Admiral" series - handsome stamps picturing George V in a naval uniform. Due to this issue's large number of formats and varieties, there are many specialists in this issue among among Canadian collectors, similar to Washington/Franklin fanatics in the U.S..

   In 1924, the three low values of the set were issued imperforate. 50,000 of each of the 1c and 2c, and 100,000 of the 3c were issued - low printings for Canadian stamps. Scott '14 prices the set unused at $87.50 ($162.50 for NH) and as a set of pairs - $212.50 (397.50).

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.

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: Lagos 1882-1902 Victoria (Scott #13-38)

 From 1882-1902,  Lagos, a British Protectorate which later became part of Nigeria, issued a set of twenty six stamps picturing a young Queen Victoria for Lagos (Scott #13-38). The Scott Catalog doesn't treat this issue as a set, because there were at least two types of many of the stamps issued. Many of its stamps are quite undervalued, and one could do worse than attempting to form a small specialized collection comprising the set, its varieties, covers, etc..

I've listed those stamps from the set with issuance quantities known (or quantities remaining after supplies were destroyed by postal authorities) of 100,000 or less, and included the Scott '14 values for unused.

  •  2p Gray(Scott #17) 41,780 - $ 90.-
  •  3p Orange Brown (#20) 24,540 - $ 26.-
  •  3p Lilac and Brown Orange (#21) 143,820 (believed destroyed: 85,800) - $ 3.-
  •  4p Rose (#22) 36,240  - $ 200.-
  •  4p Violet (#23) 41,760  - $ 150.-
  •  5p Lilac and Green (#25) 92,160 (believed destroyed: 57,540) - $ 3.-
  •  6p Olive Green (#26) 22,500  - $ 9.-
  •  6p Lilac and (Red Violet or Carmine Rose #27 and #28) Total for both: 86,340  (believed destroyed: 23,400) - #27: $ 5.50, #28: $ 5.75
  •  7 1/2p Lilac and Carmine (#29) 55,620- $ 3.25
  • 10p Lilac and Yellow (#30)  43,380 (believed destroyed: 23,100) - $ 3.75
  • 1sh Orange (#31) 22,200 - $ 14.-
  • 1sh Yellow Green and Black (#32)  86,460 (believed destroyed: 26,220) - $ 6.50
  • 2sh6p Olive Brown (#33) 900  - $ 375.-
  • 2sh6p Green and Carmine Rose (#34)  28,260 (believed destroyed: 18,060) - $ 27.50
  • 5sh Blue (#35) 600 - $ 700.-
  • 5sh Green and Ultramarine (#36)  28,320 (believed destroyed: 18,900) - $ 47.50
  • 10sh Brown Violet (#37 - the set's key stamp) 420  - $ 1,700.-
  • 10sh Green and Brown (#38) 24,720 (believed destroyed: 13,620) - $ 110.-
Stamps of Lagos have the potential for a strong dual market among collectors of British Commonwealth and Nigeria.

A nation of over 154 million people, Nigeria is an an emerging market country, and is rapidly approaching middle income status, with its abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, transport sectors and stock exchange (the Nigerian Stock Exchange), which is the second largest in Africa. It is the eighth largest exporter of petroleum in the world. GDP growth has average almost 6% over the last 5 years. However, the country also has major problems, including corruption, human rights abuses, grossly unequal distribution of income, and internal religious and tribal conflicts.

Based purely on the growth of demand from British Commonwealth collectors, this set and its scarcest  values (#33,33, and 37) represent a conservative investment with little downside risk. Should Nigeria develop even a modest base of stamp collectors, it will soar.

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, December 14, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: Cuba 1930 Central American Games (Scott #299-303)

   In 1930, Cuba issued a set of five stamps celebrating the Central American Games (Scott #299-303). 50,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $20.65 ( $32.50.- for NH) .

   The set has appeal as a Sports Topical, particularly to Latin American collectors who specialize in stamps honoring this regional competition.

As with most of Latin America, Cuba has issued many stamps which I feel are grossly undervalued. This set has wide appeal throughout Latin America, and should do very well, especially after Cuba rejoins the free world. Note that "gloppy" or toned gum are typical defects found on many of these sets, so select for those that have clean gum.
   I believe it inevitable that Cuba will join the fold of more-or-less free nations, and that tourism and trade will explode as a result. Currently, the average wage of each of the 11 1/2 million people living in this "socialist utopia" is under $20 per month, and GDP per capita is 107th in the world. Annual GDP growth has been high, averaging 6.4% over the last 5 years, but given the levels of corruption and favoritism shown to high ranking Communist Party members, it's an open question whether much of that new wealth has been filtering downward. Eventually, something will have to give. The current market for Cuban stamps, especially of the Pre-Castro Period, is bolstered by interest of stamp collectors within Cuban-American community, currently about 1.6 million strong, and far wealthier than their compatriots on the island. Interest in Cuban stamps is likely to increase, especially given the likely prospect of a replacement of the stale, "gerontocratic" regime within a decade or so.

"The Stamp Specialist" blog features my buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've posted a buy list for Cuba. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep up with the vagaries of the stamp market.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: United Nations -Kosovo 2005 Archeological Artifacts (Scott #38-41)

As part of the treaty negotiations ending the 1998-99 Kosovo War, the United Nations set up an interim administration mission (UNMIK) in Kosovo, which functioned from 1999 to 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence. The UN issued stamps for this provisional governing body, and many of the UN-Kosovo sets have topical interest and were issued in small quantities. In my opinion, the better UNMIK sets make far better investments than those issued by any of the three regular UN Offices (New York, Geneva, and Vienna).

In 2005, UNMIK issued a set of stamps picturing Archeological Artifacts (Scott #38-41). 50,000 were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused set at $ 27.00. The set has potential multiple market appeal to collectors of Yugoslavia,  United Nations, and Art Topicalists.

I continue to like the U.N. as a topic, long-term. The market for U.N.-related topicals should grow over the very long haul as institutions of world government develop in order to take on serious (and possibly existential) problems which can only be coped with globally. Despite the present inadequacy, corruption, and ineffectiveness of the U.N., I view its reform and gradual strengthening as a gradual but irresistible trend.

Kosovo is now a quasi-independent state with about 1.7 million citizens. Before Independence, it was the poorest part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and in the 1990s its economy suffered from the combined results of political upheaval, the Yugoslav wars, Serbian dismissal of Kosovo employees, and international sanctions on Serbia, of which it was then part. After 1999, it had an economic boom as a result of post-war reconstruction and foreign assistance. In the period from 2003 to 2011, despite declining foreign assistance, growth of GDP averaged over 5% a year. This was despite the global financial crisis of 2009 and the subsequent eurozone crisis. A major deterrent to foreign manufacturing investment in Kosovo was removed in 2011 when the European Council accepted a Convention allowing Kosovo to be accepted as part of its rules for diagonal cumulative origination, allowing the label of Kosovo origination to goods which have been processed there but originated in a country elsewhere in the Convention.

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.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: Germany - Offices in China 1900 Foochow Issue (Scott #16,16a)

16a, 16
 Germany came late to the colonialism game, but nevertheless spent the last decade of the 19th century enthusiastically pursuing the goal of extending the "benefits of German civilization" to peoples who did not yet possess warships, artillery, carbines, or machine guns.

  In 1900, it was one of the colonial powers fighting outraged Chinese nationalists waging the Boxer Rebellion. During this time of upheaval, two different 10 pfennig stamps were locally hand-stamped "5 pf" in order to meet a shortage of this denomination (Scott #16,16a). These stamps are distinguished from one another by the angle of the black "China" overprint (56 degrees for #16, and 45 degrees for #16a). 2,500 of #16 and 1,400 of #16a were issued, and Scott '14 prices them unused at $600.-  and $550.- , respectively.

As with most valuable overprinted stamps, I strongly advise purchasing them conditional on obtaining expertization.

I favor all better stamps of the various foreign offices in China long-term investments. As with all stamps issued by the colonial powers in China, the Foochow Provisionals stamps have been neglected because the Chinese view them as shameful relics of that period of subjugation, which they are. Until reticence replaces resentment and demand for the Foreign Offices is boosted among Chinese collectors, the stamps' values will probably continue to increase steadily, based on collector demand in Germany.

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: Turkmenistan 2000 UN Declaration Souvenir Sheet (Scott #72)

  In 2000, Turkmenistan issued a souvenir sheet of 24 stamps picturing flags of various nations, and celebrating the United Nations' Declaration of the country's neutrality (Scott # 72). 5,500 were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused sheet at $70.00.

   The set has multiple appeal to UN and Flag topicalists, 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 5.1 million, Turkmenistan is a largely desert country with nomadic cattle raising, intensive agriculture in irrigated oases, and huge gas and oil resources. It possesses the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas, and is also the world's tenth largest producer of cotton. As in the Soviet era, central planning and state control pervade the system, although there is gradual progress toward greater privatization. Annual GDP growth has averaged over 8% over the last 5 years, mostly due to increasing demand for the country's oil.

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, December 1, 2013

Stamp Investment Tip: Brazil 1935 Ragged Revolution Centenary (Scott #407-10)

In 1935, Brazil issued a set of four stamps commemorating the "Ragged Revolution" (also known as the Ragamuffin War), which is considered the second bloodiest of the failed wars of independence in the Brazilian Empire, after the War of Cabanagem (Scott #407-10). 100,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $12.30 .

This is a very inexpensive set, considering Brazil's population and prospects for economic growth over the coming decades.

With 191 million people, Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America, and the world's eighth largest. Political and economic reforms have given the country a brighter future than it had in the bad old days of oligarchical dictatorship. The Brazilian economy is diverse, the country is aggressively investing in its future by generously funding technological research and education, and exports are booming. Annual GDP growth has averaged a little over 5% over the last 5 years.

There are a number of undervalued Brazilian issues with printing quantities of 10,000 to 100,000, some of which have topical appeal, and recommending them for accumulation seems a no-brainer. Brazil looks destined to become an economic superpower, and even if it mirrors the philatelically anemic U.S. and only one out of a thousand Brazilians become serious stamp collectors, they'll be competing for their nation's better stamps, only to find that the cupboard is bare.

 "The Stamp Specialist" blog features my buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've posted a buy list for Brazil. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep up with the vagaries of the stamp market.