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.



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