Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stamp Investment Tip: South Africa 1936 JIPEX Souvenir Sheets (Scott #72-73)

In 1936 South Africa issued a pair of souvenir sheets for the Johannesburg International Philatelic Exhibition (Scott #72-73). Only 5,000 sets were issued, and Scott '10 prices the set at $ 11.75 ($ 25.00 for NH).

I feel that the set is undervalued, given its appeal to collectors of British Commonwealth and South Africa.

South Africa is a country of vast potential but many problems. As a a middle-income country of about 49 million, it 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.

Nevertheless, I believe that the sheets represent a low-risk speculation, and given their current inexpensiveness and low printing quantity, the downside is virtually non-existent.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stamp Investment Tips: Mulling Over Moldova

There's an old saying in real estate investing which I believe applies to the many of the stamps of Moldova: "Buy the worst house in the best neighborhood."

Flipping through the Moldova section of a Michel Osteuropa 2009/2010 Catalog (Band 7), I've noted that the country was established in 1991, and that the sets and souvenir sheets it has produced since then have been issued in low to moderate quantities- mostly 100,000 or fewer, with many under 30,000. Furthermore, many of Moldova's issues are attractive topicals, with international appeal.

On the other hand, Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, and about a quarter of its population of 3 1/2 million live on less than $2 per day. The country has no mineral deposits but enjoys a favorable climate and good farmland, and depends heavily on agriculture (mainly fruits, vegetables, wine, and tobacco). Currently, Moldova imports all of its supplies of oil, coal, and natural gas, mostly from Russia, and consequently is extremely vulnerable to increases in energy prices. Annual GDP growth has been strong recently, averaging about 5.5% over the last five years.

My view is that the Moldovan economy will probably gradually improve, and that even if it doesn't, it doesn't have much further to fall. Development of domestic alternative forms of energy could improve its situation considerably. While I do not believe that a significant stamp collecting base will develop within the country in the near future, its scarcest popular topical sets and souvenir sheets should be considered for speculation. I've listed a few of them, along with quantities issued, and Scott '10 Catalog Values, below:

1995 Mushrooms (Scott #153-57; 22,500; Scott '10 CV = $ 16.65)

1995 Relics (Scott #161-63; 25,500; Scott '10 CV = $ 9.40)

1995 Films (Scott #187-89; 20,000; Scott '10 CV = $ 9.15 )

1996 Mushrooms (Scott #190-94; 20,000; Scott '10 CV = $ 9.00)

1996 Summer Olympics s/s (Scott #199a; 10,000; Scott '10 CV = $ 3.50)

1996 Monasteries (Scott #200-04; 17,000; Scott '10 CV = $ 10.40)

1997 Composers (Scott #232-35; 19,500; Scott '10 CV = $ 7.00)

1997 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Scott #250-55; 18,500; Scott '10 CV = $ 6.35)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stamp Investment Tips: Canada 1952 $1 Fisheries Official (Scott #O27)

In 1951, Canada issued one of its most attractive stamps, honoring its Fishing Industry (Scott #302). In 1952, 40,000 of the Fisheries stamps were overprinted "G" for government use (Scott #O27). Scott '10 prices the unused Official stamp at $ 100.00.

In my opinion, the $1 Fisheries Official is undervalued and has been ignored because it is a back-of-book issue. Interest in stamp collecting in Canada is much stronger than it is in the U.S., and I favor better B.N.A. stamps for investment, especially if they have modest printings and have been unjustifiably overlooked thusfar.

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, thereby bolstering its population of serious collectors. 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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stamp Investment Tip: Lagos 1904 Edward VII Issue (Scott #40-49)

In 1904, Lagos, a British Protectorate which later became part of Nigeria, issued a set of definitives picturing Edward VII (Scott #40-49). Only 720 sets were issued, based on the printing quantity of the 10sh high value (Scott #49), and Scott '10 prices the unused set at $ 694.10 . The 2sh6p and 5sh values (Scott #47 and 48) are also scarce, with printing quantities of 1,440 and 1,680 respectively.

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, the Lagos 1904 Edward VII set and its high values represent a conservative investment with little downside risk. Should Nigeria develop even a modest base of stamp collectors, the set will soar.

Monday, November 16, 2009

General Commentary: Getting in on the Ground Floor

There is a saying on Wall Street that a good time to buy stocks is when there is "blood in the streets." The old adage also applies to philatelic investing, sometimes quite literally, when it comes to stamps of "basket case" countries which have "bottomed out" due to war or economic stagnation, and for which the situation can't get much worse. Of course, there is the possibility that such a country's situation may not improve much in the long-term, but remain bad indefinitely. Fortunately, there are ways of investing in stamps of stricken nations which minimize the consequences of this risk.

There have been many notable examples of countries which have risen from misery, and for which the stamps have followed suit. The three Axis powers of World War II - Germany, Japan, and Italy- were impoverished for years following their defeat, and stamps of those countries purchased during the lean years of recovery and reconstruction have risen considerably. Many of the countries of the Far East and South Asia were considered Third or Fourth World nations only a few decades ago, yet based on their recent growth, the time may come when Chinese or Indian parents tell their children to finish the food on their plates and pity the poor, starving Americans. Latin America, once a region dominated by corrupt, oligarchical dictatorships and American multi-nationals, has experienced a mega-trend of democratization and economic reforms which has created greater prosperity and a nascent middle-class where none existed before.

Of course, it is always possible that a stricken country will remain so for decades. When investing in stamps of such a country, the risk of loss may be minimized by investing in stamps which are sought by collectors outside of the country itself - extremely scarce to rare key items which are of interest to specialists, and scarce popular topical issues which appeal to collectors worldwide. Demand for such stamps will not be significantly affected should the country remain in the doghouse or even decline further, but will increase rapidly if it breaks out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stamp Investment Tips: Great Britain 1929 1 Pound Postal Union Congress (Scott #209)

In 1929, Great Britain issued the 1 Pound Postal Union Congress stamp picturing St. George Slaying the Dragon (Scott #209). Many collectors believe this to be Great Britain's most beautiful stamp. 61,000 were issued, and Scott '10 prices it unused at $ 850.00 ($1,400 for NH) . Many were probably used on packages and then discarded.

This is one of two or three stamps that could serve as a representative investment for all of the stamps of Great Britain. I view it as a blue-chip which should do well over the long haul, but probably does not have the same potential for explosive value increases as the more speculative items of emerging market nations.

Stamps of Great Britain are popular worldwide, especially in Commonwealth nations and in the U.S.. With about 61 million people and an advanced, diverse economy, Great Britain had annual GDP growth of around 2-3% until the the nation participated in the train-wreck of the global financial crisis, from which it is recovering. As with much of Western Europe, Great Britain's population is projected to age significantly over the next decades. The proportion of British citizens over 60 is projected to rise from 20.6% in 2000 to 29.4% in 2025, and 34% in 2050, according to a 2007 UN report. This will add to the ranks of stamp collectors seeking better material from Great Britain and its former colonies.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stamp Investment Tips: Belgian Congo 1910-15 Scenes (Scott #45-59)

From 1910-1915, the Belgian Congo issued a set picturing various scenes of the Colony (Scott #45-59). 85,000 sets were issued, and Scott '10 prices it unused at $ . Additionally, some of the values of the set were surcharged in 1918, creating the Colony's first semi-postal set (Scott #B1-9). Only 7,500 of the semi-postal set were issued, and Scott '10 prices it unused at $ 181.59 ($500 for NH) .

I recommend purchase of both of these sets, because they have a potential dual market among collectors of Belgian Colonies and the Congo.

With about 66 million people, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), is endowed with a vast potential wealth of resources, but has been plagued by wars, corruption, mismanagement, and poverty. Annual GDP growth has been between 6% and 7% over the last 3 years, but little of the new wealth has been distributed amongst the majority of the population, which is extremely poor.

I favor both sets based upon the probable growth in demand for stamps of Belgium and Colonies. Given the economic situation in the D.R.C., I do not feel that a significant stamp market will develop there for at least a decade. If and when the situation in that country substantially improves, however, the increases in value for its better stamps could be quite dramatic.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stamp Investment Tip: Israel 1949 TABUL Souvenir Sheet (Scott #16)

In 1949, Israel held its first national stamp exhibition, TABUL, and issued a souvenir sheet picturing one of its first stamps, which featured an ancient Judean coin (Scott #16). About 95,000 were sold, and Scott '10 prices the unused souvenir sheet at $ 90.00. Aside from the sheet's scarcity, it represents an interesting investment as both a "stamps on stamps" and a "coins on stamps" topical, and because of its association with Jewish history.

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.

Israeli stamps are popular in Israel and among Jewish collectors around the world. Those interested in learning more about Israeli stamps 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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stamp Investment Tips: Tunisia 1918 P.O.W. Semi-postal Issue (Scott #B12-18)

Tunisia was a French protectorate until 1956. In 1918, it surcharged its regular Scenes set of 1906, issuing a semi-postal set funding relief of prisoners of war in Germany (Scott #B12-19). Only 7,285 sets were issued, and Scott '10 prices the unused set at $ 326.85 .

This scarce set has a potential dual market among collectors of both French Colonies and Tunisia.

Tunisia has a diverse economy, and its major industries include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, petroleum products and tourism. This republic of 10.3 million people is considered a moderate Islamic nation, and was ranked the most competitive economy in Africa and the 40th in the world by the World Economic Forum. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 5% over the last 5 years. The European Union is Tunisia's main trading partner, and the country has also attracted major investments from several Persian Gulf countries.

I view the 1918 P.O.W. Semi-postal set as an attractive investment based solely on interest from French Colonies collectors. Of course, should a significant stamp market develop among Tunisians, the set will be given an added boost.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stamp Investment Tips: Ryukyus "Heavenly Maiden" Airmails

The Ryukyus Islands were occupied by U.S. forces in 1945, and reverted to Japan in 1972. During the period of occupation, the U.S. issued stamps for use in the Ryukyus, which now are sought by U.S. and Japanese collectors. Three of the airmail sets, picturing a heavenly maiden playing a flute, are scarce, and I've listed their printing quantities and Scott '10 Catalog Values below:

C4-8 1951-54 Heavenly Maiden (75,000; $ 30.00)
C9-13 1957 Heavenly Maiden (48,800; $ 85.00)
C14-18 1959 Heavenly Maiden, Surcharged (80,000; $ 50.00)

Many of these stamps were used as postage by Americans stationed on the islands, for sending letters and packages back to the States. The sets have a strong dual market, appealing to both American and Japanese collectors, and I recommend their accumulation.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stamp Investment Tips: Lebanon 1948 UNESCO Souvenir Sheet (Scott #C145Note)

In 1948, Lebanon issued a compound set honoring UNESCO (Scott #220-24/C141-45). 50,000 sets were issued, and Scott '09 prices the unused set at $ 80.25. The set is worthy of consideration as an attractive UN Topical; however, I feel that the souvenir sheet issued with the set (Scott #C145Note), of which only 2,000 were issued (Scott '10 Catalog Value of $ 275.00) is a far better investment.

UN Topicals have worldwide appeal, which should increase as the UN gradually gains credibility as an effective institution for dealing with global problems.

Lebanon, a nation of 4.2 million people, has had negligible GDP growth over the last 5 years due to Hezbollah's war with Israel, Syrian domination, and internal strife. Nevertheless, I am confident that it will eventually return to prosperity as the various factions within the region learn how to get along, and Beirut returns to its former preeminence as the "Paris of the Middle East."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stamp Investment Tips: Latakia

Latakia is not a Jewish potato pancake, but rather a territory of northeastern Syria formerly under Turkish domination, which became a part of the Syrian Mandate to France under the Versailles Treaty. It was later incorporated into the nation of Syria.

Between 1931 and 1933, the French issued 35 stamps for Latakia, overprinting "Lattaquie" on the stamps that they had issued for Syria. The three sets issued during the period, a regular issue (Scott #1-22), airmails (Scott #C1-11), and Postage Dues (Scott #J1-2) are all worthwhile investments, having a dual market among collectors of French Colonies and Syria. Only 5,868 of the airmail set were issued, and the printing quantity of the regular issue was probably similar, although it was not recorded. Latakia's key stamp, the 50 centime Ochre Airmail with inverted overprint (Scott #C1a; Scott '10 Catalog value of $ 1,200.00 for unused) could be at least as rare as an Inverted Jenny, and should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization.

Currently, stamps of Latakia are sought mainly by French Colonies collectors, and I feel that they are worth targeting on that basis alone. In the long-term, the demand could be enhanced if Syria becomes more democratic and normalizes its relations with Israel and the West. GDP growth for this nation of 22 million people has averaged 3.5% over the last five years, and has been steadily increasing, but the country is handicapped by a corruptly managed command economy and lack of access to international capital markets. Furthermore, a report by Strategic Foresight Group, a think tank in Asia, has calculated the opportunity cost of conflict for the Middle East from 1991-2010 at a whopping $12 trillion (12,000,000,000). Syria’s share in this was over $150 billion. In other words had there been peace since 1991, every Syrian citizen would be earning $2,896 instead of the $1,664 he or she will earn in 2010. The government also spends almost 7% of their GDP on the military, compared to the 2% that they spend on health care. I believe that reform is inevitable but may be very slow, as Syrians gradually become fed up with the wastefulness, corruption, fanaticism, and militarism of their leaders.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stamp Investment Tip: Paraguay 1931-35 Zeppelin Issues

Between 1931 and 1935, Paraguay issued five sets of stamps for use on the Graf Zeppelin flights to South America. All of these sets are inexpensive, scarce, and popular among collectors of both South America and Zeppelin stamps and covers. I've listed them below, along with their printing quantities and Scott '10 Catalog Values for unused.

C54-55 1931 Pictorial Zeppelin overprint (20,000;$ 30.00)

C74-78 1932 Triangular Zeppelin stamps (30,000; $ 23.00)

C79-83 1933 Zeppelins (15,000; $ 30.50) - counterfeits exist

C88-92 1934 Zeppelins, "1934" Overprint (7,500; $ 26.50 )

C93-97 1935 Zeppelins, "1935" Overprint (7,000;$ 47.50)

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 are compelling investments, in my opinion.

With about 6 1/2 million people, Paraguay is an emerging market nation with the potential to become a major agricultural exporter. Its subtropical climate allows for 5 harvests every 24 months, and it has vast tracts of virgin arable land. In addition, manufacturing has shown strong growth in the production of edible oils, garments, organic sugar, meat processing, and steel. Annual GDP growth has averaged 4.5% over the past 5 years, and was steadily increasing until it experienced a recent slight decline due to the global financial crisis.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Phila-Trivia: Got A Rocket in Your Pocket? The Missile Mail Fiasco

Be thankful that one of the U.S. Navy's late-1950s solutions to the problem of slow mail delivery never caught on because, if it had, you could be ducking unarmed cruise missiles right now. On June 8, 1959, the U.S. submarine Barbero conducted the first and last test of so-called "Missile Mail," a concept that involved using a warhead-less Regulus cruise missile to carry postal containers.

The U.S. Postal Service devised the Missile Mail test as a combination experiment and publicity stunt in the hopes of finding alternative uses for military technology and more expeditious methods of delivering the mail. At the time, U.S. Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield hailed Missile Mail as "the first known official use of missiles by any post office department of any nation… [and an event] of historic significance to the peoples of the entire world." Summerfield went on to predict that "before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India, or Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail."

Clairvoyant, Summerfield was not. Considering the absurdity of using cruise missiles for civilian purposes during the Cold War, to say nothing of the inherent danger of firing weapons over civilian locations at regular intervals, or the high probability that the four-cent (domestic) and eight-cent (international) stamps on the rocket-powered postage didn't exactly cover the cost of using high-priced ordnance to pick up the delivery pace, it should come as no surprise that Missile Mail was a one-time-only affair.

Covers from the Barbero test are now quite valuable, and sell for $300 - $ 500.

This article contains quotes from the article "Geek Trivia: Air (and Space) Mail" by Jake Garmon of the Geek Trivia Newsletter

Stamp Investment Tip: Costa Rica 1941 Soccer Championship Issue (Scott # 201-08/C57-66)

In 1941,Costa Rica issued a compound set commemorating the Caribbean and Central American Soccer Championship (Scott #201-08/C57-66). 5,000 sets were issued, and Scott '10 prices the unused set at $ 121.35.

As with most of Latin America, Costa Rica has issued many stamps which I feel are grossly undervalued. This set has a very strong topical appeal, as soccer is widely considered to be the most popular sport in the world. Millions of people regularly go to stadiums to follow their favourite teams,while billions more watch the game on television.

This small nation of 4 1/2 million people 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 ecotourism 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.

Note that a rare "Flags Omitted" error exists of the 5c Green regular issue (Scott #201a; Scott '10 CV= $ 200.00). I advise requiring expertization as a condition for purchase when buying this error stamp.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stamp Investment Tip: Venezuela 1944 Baseball Issue (Scott #C189-97)

In 1944, Venezuela issued an airmail set commemorating the 7th World Amateur Baseball Championship Games, held in Caracas (Scott #C189-97). Only 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott' 10 prices it at $ 42.50 for unused.

This overlooked issue is extremely attractive, as it combines scarcity, low price, a growing worldwide topical interest in Baseball, and an issuance country which is prospering, and likely to continue to prosper for the foreseeable future.

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.

Varieties exist for stamps of this set, including imperforates and overprint varieties. Perhaps the rarest is the double overprint of "AEREO" on the 45 centavo Rose Violet (Scott #C193), which is listed in Michel, but not in Scott. These varieties are considerably rarer than the normal stamps, but since they are not Scott-listed, it is possible that you will find them priced at only a modest premium.

Stamp Investment Tip: Suriname 1941 Arms/Inscription Semi-Postals(Scott #B34-36)

In 1941, Suriname issued a set of semi-postals to purchase fighter planes for the Royal Air Force of the Netherlands based in Great Britain (Scott # B34-36). The inscription reads "Netherlands Shall Rise Again, " referring to the struggle against German occupation. 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '10 prices the unused set at $ 33.50.

The set has a potential dual market among collectors of Netherlands Colonies and Suriname.

With about 1/2 million people, Suriname is rich in natural resources, especially bauxite, athough it will be necessary to fund infrastructure projects to exploit them without destroying the environment. GDP growth has been robust, averaging 5% over the last 5 years. The country maintains close ties to the Netherlands, its primary trading partner.

In my opinion, most of this set's future growth will come from collectors of Netherlands Colonies, although it will receive an added boost if a stamp market develops in Suriname.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Stamp Investment Tip: Albania 1939 Definitives (Scott #310-23, C46)

In 1939, Italy invaded and occupied Albania, and issued a compound set featuring Albanian costumes, scenes, and Italy's King Victor Emmanual III (Scott #310-23,C46). Scott errantly does not list these stamps as a compound set. 40,000 of the regular-issue set were issued. Printing quantity information is unavailable for the key stamp (Scott C46), but in all probability, 10,000 to 20,000 were issued. Scott '10 prices the compound set at $115.75 for unused.

This set has a dual market, appealing to both Italian Area collectors and collectors of Albania.

A nation of 3.2 million people, Albania is poor by Western European standards, but has experienced healthy GDP growth, averaging 6% over the last 5 years. Foreign investment has increased but has been dampened somewhat by the country's inadequate infrastructure. Modernization will be Albania's main challenge over the next decade.

Stamp Investment Tips: Angola 1949 Scenes (Scott #319-24)

In 1949, Angola, issued a tourist set featuring scenes of the country (Scott #319-24). 50,000 sets were issued, and Scott '10 prices the unused set at $ 143.85 ($ 200.00 NH). Most were used as postage and discarded.

Angola, a nation of 18 1/2 million people, won its independence from Portugal in 1975, but was the scene of an intense civil war until 2002. The country has the fastest growing economy in Africa, averaging 15.5% over the last five years, largely driven by oil production. However, it faces huge social and economic problems as a result of the 27-year Civil War, and widespread corruption and poverty.

I favor the Scenes set based on its scarcity and interest to Portuguese Colonies collectors. Should Angola progress toward reconstruction and reform more quickly than is likely, the set will receive an added boost from from collectors within the country.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stamp Investment Tip: Cuba 1953 Airliner Issue (Scott #C75-78)

In 1953, Cuba issued a set of four airmail stamps picturing Lockheed Constellation Airliners (Scott #C75-78). Only 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '10 prices the unused set at $ 86.00 . Many of the sets were used as postage and discarded, as the 2p and 5p high values were used for shipping packages to the U.S..

This is one of many scarce issues of Cuba which should be targeted for investment. 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.

Stamp Investment Tip: Newfoundland 1910-11 Guy Issues (Scott #87-97,98-103)

In 1910, Newfoundland issued a handsome lithographed set of 12 stamps commemorating the tercentenary of its colonization by John Guy (Scott #89-97). Six of the stamps were re-issued as an engraved set in 1911 (Scott #98-103). 10,000 of each set were issued, and Scott '10 prices #87-97 unused at $ 487.30 ($ 950.00 NH), and #98-103 unused at $ 412.50 ($ 750.00 NH).

I recommend both sets in VF NH, LH, or Used condition. Stamps of Newfoundland (and British North America in general) are popular among collectors of Canada and British Commonwealth. Better B.N.A. 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.



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