Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: South West Africa 1923 George V (Scott #13-15)

In 1923, South West Africa (then administered by South Africa as a League of Nations Mandate territory) issued a set of high values picturing George V (Scott #13-15). Like South African stamps of the period, these were issued as bilingual pairs, with one stamp of each pair in English and the other in Afrikaans, and this is also the favored format for collecting them. Only 2,400 sets were issued, and Scott '11 prices the unused set at $1,875.- .

The main sources of demand for stamps of South West Africa are British Commonwealth collectors and collectors of South Africa, both of which I view as growing markets. S.W.A. has been replaced by the Republic of Namibia, independent following the dismantling of South Africa's Apartheid regime. It is closely tied to South Africa, and has similar problems and potential for economic growth, but also has a much smaller population (about 2 million). Accordingly, the country analysis for stamps of South West Africa should focus on South Africa's prospects.

As a a middle-income country of about 49 million, South Africa has an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks among the top twenty in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centres throughout the entire region. South Africa is ranked 25th in the world in terms of GDP. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 4% over the past 5 years.

However, the country has a two-tiered economy- one rivaling other developed countries and the other with only the most basic infrastructure, similar to a Third World nation. Unemployment is extremely high and income inequality is approximately equal to Brazil. Also, there is an 18% HIV infection rate among South African adults, among the highest in the world.

Given the somewhat mixed picture that South Africa presents, I feel that better stamps from the country and its related issuing entities should be viewed mainly as conservative plays on the growth of British Commonwealth collecting. I am hopeful that over time, most of South Africa's worst problems will be ameliorated or solved, but whether that will require years or decades is an open question.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Belgium 1932 Cardinal Mercier Issue (Scott #B114-22)

In 1932, Belgium issued a semi-postal set honoring Cardinal Mercier (Scott #B114-22). A hero of World War I, Mercier staunchly resisted the occupation of Belgium and issued a pastoral letter condemning German atrocities. 25,509 sets were issued, and Scott '11 values it unused at $573.85.

This is an attractive Religion topical and one of the key semi-postal sets of Belgium. I view it as a conservative investment.

With a population of just under 11 million, Belgium is the world's 15th largest trading nation. Highly industrialized, educated, and affluent, Belgium has a sizable, vibrant stamp collecting community comparable to those of its Northern European neighbors. GDP growth has averaged only 1.2% over the last 5 years, reflecting a 3% contraction in 2010. Like most of Europe, the country was hit very hard by the global financial crisis, and is now in recovery mode.

Notes that the set exists with a privately produced black overprint "Braine-L'alleud 17-7-33 Collegio Card. Mercier." 4,700 sets were overprinted, and it is noted by Scott.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Netherlands Indies 1912-40 Wilhelmina (Scott #101-36)

Between 1912 and 1940, the Netherlands Indies issued a long set picturing Queen Wilhelmina (Scott #101-136). Only 20,000 were issued, and Scott '11 prices the set at $ 128.55 for unused, and $16.90 for used. In all probability, at least 85%-95% of these stamps were used and discarded, and given the fact that the set was issued over 28 years, locating sound complete sets, whether NH, LH, or used may prove a challenge. I consider this issue grossly undervalued, as it has dual appeal among collectors of Netherlands and Colonies, and Indonesia.

Note that some of the low and middle values of this set were printed with water-soluble ink. Do not soak any of these stamps in water, as it will result in much of the design disappearng, along with the stamp's value.

With about 16.6 million people, the Netherlands is the 16th largest economy in the world, and its annual GDP growth has averaged about 2.5% over the last 5 years. Indonesia is a rapidly developing, though still poor, country of 230 million people, with an annual GDP growth rate hovering around 5%-6%. Like most emerging market nations, it faces challenges which will have to be addressed, including corruption and major inequities in the distribution of income.

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.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Palestine 1918 5m on 1pi Gray Blue (Scott #3a)

In 1918, the British issued their first stamps for Palestine, formerly a Turkish emirate, which had been occupied by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force of the British Army during World War I. Initially, they had issued 1 piaster stamps (Scott #1 and 2, of which #1 was recommended in an earlier article) for overseas usage, as many soldiers wished to send letters back to England, but they neglected to issue
5m stamps for domestic mail (including letters to Egypt). Accordingly, they created a provisional surcharge by overprinting some of the 1p stamps "5 Milliemes."

The normal 5m on 1p Ultramarine stamp (Scott #3, pictured at top left) is quite common, but the Gray Blue variety (Scott #3a) is not, as only 55,560 were issued. Scott '11 prices it at $105.00 for unused.

Stamps of Israel and the Palestine Mandate are popular among stamp collectors in Israel and among Jewish collectors throughout the world. Stamps of the British Mandate Period are of particular interest from an investment standpoint, because they also appeal to British Commonwealth collectors.

Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of economic development. As a technology powerhouse which leads the world in the number of scientists and engineers per capita, it also has the second largest number of start-up companies after the U.S.. Israel's main burden is having to spend much of its GNP on defending itself from some of its more bellicose neighbors. Should peace break out, trade will grow exponentially, and Israel could serve as a model for economic development in the Mid-East and much of the Third World. In that event, the better stamps of Israel and the Palestine Mandate will increase dramatically.

Those who wish to learn more about stamps of Israel and the Palestine Mandate should consider purchasing a Bale Catalogue, which classifies and values many items not listed in Scott, including forerunners, errors, varieties, machine-vended stamps, revenues, postal stationery, and booklets.

Those interested in joining a community of stamp investors, dealers, and collectors are welcome to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group provides a useful venue for those who wish to buy, sell, and trade stamps, and a forum for those who wish to discuss philatelic investing and practical aspects of stamp collecting.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Haiti 1958 President Duvalier (Scott 428-31/C122-25, C125Note)

In 1958, Haiti issued a compound set and souvenir sheet (Scott #428-31/C122-25, C125Note) honoring its dictator, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, a somewhat eccentric tyrant who modeled his image on that of Baron Samedi, a Voodoo spirit. Only 3,000 sets and 3,000 of the souvenir sheet were issued, and Scott '10 prices them unused at $10.90 and $6.25, respectively.

When it comes to philatelic investing, Haiti represents a ground floor opportunity. While some of its earlier stamps have attracted interest among specialists in the U.S. and Europe, many of its scarce modern sets have been neglected. Normally, I recommend that investors focus on either key stamps or popular topical issues when speculating on stamps of desperately poor countries, but the Duvalier set stands out because of its scarcity, inexpensiveness, and historic significance. As speculations go, it's about as low-risk as they come.

A nation of about 9 million people, Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. In 2009, it had a nominal GDP of about $7 billion , with a GDP per capita of $790 - slightly over $2 per person per day. Half of all Haitians are illiterate, and 66% work in the agricultural sector, mainly as small-scale subsistence farmers. The richest 1% of the population owns about 50% of the wealth, and the country is rated among the most corrupt in the world. Not surprisingly, annual GDP growth has been low, averaging about 1.8% over the last 5 years. The devastating 2010 Earthquake resulted in increased international attention and aid, offering the hope that perhaps things can't get much worse.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Argentina 1930 Zeppelin First Flight, Green Overprint (Scott #C25-29)

In 1930, Argentina overprinted some of its 1928 Airmail stamps to produce two sets to be used on the Zeppelin flight from Germany to South America (Scott #C20-24, C25-29). Both sets are scarce, as only 4,375 of the first and 947 of the second were sold. I prefer the scarcer, green-overprinted set- #C25-29 (or its 1.80p high value alone), because the high value is valuable enough to be worth getting expertized. Scott '11 values the unused set at $ 766.-and #C29 alone at $700.-.
The set strongly appeals to both collectors of Argentina and of Zeppelin stamps. Zeppelin stamps and covers are extremely popular among "Zepp" collectors and Aviation topicalists, especially in Europe. Those issued by destination-countries which are likely prospects for rapid economic development should do very well over the next decades.

With a population of about 40 million, Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base. Historically, Argentina's economic performance has been uneven, as periods of high economic growth have alternated with severe downturns. Over the last 5 years, annual GDP growth has averaged a whopping 8.5%. However, over the last 20 years Argentina has weathered several major debt crises and recessions.

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 Argentina, 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.

Those interested in joining a community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are encouraged to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group provides an excellent venue for trading, and a forum for discussion of topics related to philatelic investing and the practical aspects of stamp collecting.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

General Commentary: Variable Value Stamps

Variable Value Stamps are machine-vended stamps issued according to the specified instructions of the user. They are closely related to meter stamps, which are impressions made by a meter machine on a strip of paper or envelope, indicating that postage has been paid. While there have been many experiments with systems for printing variable value stamps over the years, none has been truly successful until the evolution of modern sophisticated computer printing technology. Use of these stamps has been growing worldwide since the 1980s.

In the U.S., the best known examples of these stamps are the 1989 Autopost stamps and the Variable Rate Coils of the 1990s. These are listed in Scott's U.S. Specialized Catalogue. The Autopost stamps were issued from three different locations and the scarcest were those issued for delegates of the Universal Postal Union (Machine #11), although quantities produced of the UPU Autopost stamps remain unknown. The Autopost stamps represented a rather primitive experiment, and are not true variable value stamps because the the customer could choose from only 5 different denominations. Of the Washington, DC (Brentwood) and Kensington, Maryland Autoposts, which were available to the general public, 3,000 sets of 20 different stamps (all 5 denominations - Machines 82 and 83) were pre-printed and sold over the counter at those locations.

Several different types of Variable Rate Coils were later issued, and initially, the customer could purchase these stamps with denominations ranging from 1c to $99.99. Early on, the 1c to 18c denominations were phased out, so they are considered somewhat scarce. Occasionally, VRC machines created computer-generated errors, containing dashes or slashes. VRC errors with faded, misplaced, or missing denominations could be artificially created by intentionally jamming the machines. The computer-generated errors, however, are legitimate and considerably scarcer.

From an investment perspective, Variable Value Stamps present some unique challenges. Since the stamps are produced locally by postal clerks or customers, quantities issued of a particular stamp, stamp design, or denomination are never known. Since the machines often allow the customer to produce stamps of different denominations, stamps with some denominations will be scarcer than others, but whether or not denomination scarcity will ever play a part in determining a stamp's value is an open question. The recent innovation of "Personalized Postage Stamps," produced by firms such as, add to the confusion in that they allow the customer to utilize his own images when creating stamps. Since certain images have more topical appeal than others (for instance, a stamp picturing Elvis or Michael Jackson will be more popular than one containing a photo from your neighbor's son's Bar Mitzvah), the personalized postage stamp phenomenon is likely to become an interesting and anarchic element in the stamp market, but not one which is investable.



About Me

My Photo
I create paintings as documentations of context, based on systems of rules.
View my complete profile