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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: India 2004 U.N. Peacekeeping Souvenir Sheet (Scott #2081a)

In 2004, India issued a souvenir sheet honoring its army's participation in UN Peacekeeping operations (Scott #2081a). 100,000 were issued, and Scott '11 prices the unused sheet at $12.00.

Over the last decade or so, India has issued a number of souvenir sheets in quantities of 50,000 to 100,000. I intend to recommend some of them in future articles. While India's stamp market is heating up, the process has been more gradual than that of its neighbor, China.

The Peacekeeping souvenir sheet has additional appeal as a U.N. topical. 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.

This souvenir sheet should be targeted for aggressive accumulation as a grossly undervalued popular topical issue from a nation of 1.2 billion people which is becoming an economic superpower. I think that in certain respects, the Indian stamp market resembles the Chinese stamp market of 20-25 years ago. In the coming years, the "serious" stamp collecting population of Indians will number in the millions, if not tens of millions.

Check out StampSelector's Scarce Stamp Quanities Issued List, which now comprises over 9,700 worldwide listings of stamps with printings of 100,000 or fewer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Colombia 1935 National Olympics Issue (Scott #421-36)

In 1935, Colombia issued a set of stamps honoring its National Olympics (Scott #421-36). Only 3,000 were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $1,350.00. As is often the case, the key stamp in the set is the 10p High Value (#436; CV = $550.00), which is worth purchasing alone if one can't locate an entire set.

The set has worldwide appeal to Sports Topicalists, and should also benefit from the long-term stealth bull market for better Latin American stamps.

A nation of 45 million people, Colombia has been plagued by decades of serious internal armed conflict, drug trafficking, corruption, and gross inequities of income, but has nevertheless racked up impressive annual GDP growth averaging 5.5% over the last 5 years. Moreover, until the global financial fiasco cut its GDP growth to 3% in 2009, it had been steadily accelerating, from 2% in 2003 to 8% in 2008. Recently, the government, armed to the teeth by the U.S., has applied a dual policy of combining military pressure with negotiations to cope with the various guerrilla factions within the country. This seems to have worked to some extent, as the number of insurgents has been halved, and the number of homicides and kidnappings drastically reduced. While some argue that the Colombian government is still utterly corrupt, and has violated human rights and supported paramilitary death squads in order to achieve relative peace, it may be that this is par for the course, given the nation's history. The main challenge that the country faces will be that of sharing more of the wealth with the majority of the population so as to develop more of a middle class and political center. Otherwise, it will devolve into an unstable mess.

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

Also, those interested in learning more about investing in stamps may wish to view my new book, A Guide to Philatelic Investing (available on Kindle, but easily accessed w/any pc; digital list price = $5).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Philippines 1979 Flowers (Scott #1411-16)

In 1979, the Philippines issued a set of stamps picturing native varieties of Mussaenda flowers (Scott #1411-16).
Only 50,000 were issued, and Scott '11 prices the unused set at $10.95. It is likely that most were used as postage and discarded.

From the perspective of philatelic history, the Philippines is interesting because it has issued stamps under Spanish dominion, U.S. Administration, Japanese Occupation, and as an independent nation. It is also compelling as an area of research for the philatelic investor, because of its rapid economic growth, and because it has issued a number of scarce yet overlooked issues, including some modern popular topical sets, such as the Flower topical issue featured in this article.

As a newly democratic and newly industrialized country of 92 million which is moving away from from its centuries-old complete dependence on agriculture, the Philippines could turn out to be one of the most successful emerging markets in the Pacific Region. The government tends toward fiscal conservatism coupled with long-term economic planning, and annual GDP growth has been around 6%-7%. Barring extreme political instability, it is likely that the Philippines will be one of the fastest growing economies over the next decades.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", which will feature wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. I've just posted a buy list for the Philippines, and it includes the set and souvenir sheet 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 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 discuss philatelic investing and practical aspects of stamp collecting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Phila-Trivia: Irish 1865-67 Fenian Stamps

While the first postage stamps of the Republic of Ireland were issued in 1922, there were a number of earlier forerunners issued as propaganda labels in support of the cause of Irish Independence. Forerunners are stamps or labels that are used (or prepared for use) for a country, prior to the issue of the first official postage stamps for general use in that country. Some of these stamps may have been produced as essays - proposed designs for stamps to be issued when the final goal was reached. In any case, none are in any of the major stamps catalogs, although they are listed in David Feldman’s ‘Handbook of Irish Philately’ published in 1968.

During the American Civil War, approximately 190,000 Irish-American immigrants served in both the Union and Confederate armies, with almost 80% of that number fighting for the North. When the war ended in 1865, a group of Irish veterans, members of an Irish Nationalist organization, Clan na Gael (Family of the Gael), which had been established in the late 1850′s, and better known as the Fenian Brotherhood, realized that a great way to promote their cause was to produce postage stamps for the ‘Republic of Ireland’, even though no such place existed at that time.

Accordingly, the Clan na Gael produced the 1865-67 Fenian Stamps, a set of seven probably printed by S. Allen Taylor of Boston, from wood blocks in three different denominations: 1c black on green, 1c black on pale blue, 1c black on rose mauve, 3c green, 24c deep green, and 24c mauve-purple, and 24c black on yellow.

They are all imperforate, although the 3c is also recorded perforated, and all are quite rare. In his handbook Feldman states: ‘Most of the exmples in circulation are forgeries, copied from magazine or catalogue illustrations’. It also seems that small printings, of at least the 1c and 24c values, were produced around 1893 from metal plates.

Around the same time that Clan na Gael appeared in the US, The Irish Brotherhood, an organization with the same objectives, was established in Ireland. Both movements were described as ‘secret, separatist, physical force organizations whose object ‘was national (Irish) independence’. Both organizations were involved in violent actions against the British authorities.

In Ireland, The Irish Brotherhood were involved in unsuccessful risings in Dublin and Kerry during 1867. The Fenian Brotherhood were involved in a number of terrorist activities including armed raids over the border into Canada, assassinations, and dynamiting railways and buildings. These activities included between 800 and 1300 (accounts vary) Fenians, under the command of Colonel John O’Neill, actually captured Fort Erie on the Great Lakes in 1866.

These activities, both in Ireland, the U.S., and Canada, had two main purposes, to force the British government into granting Ireland independence, and to raise the visibility of this cause to the world at large. It was in anticipation of Irish independence coming about sooner, rather than later, that these ‘Fenian issue’ stamps came to be. Independence did not happen, and so, of course, the stamps were never used.

The Fenian stamps proved effective, and served as a precedent for the issuance of later propaganda labels as a means of popularizing and raising money for the cause.

In 1967, Ireland issued a set of two stamps commemorating the centennial of the Fenian uprising, illustrating how sometimes those considered outlaws in the past may be legitimized as national heroes in the present.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: U.S. 1934-38 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamps (Scott #RW1-5)

I'm initiating coverage of U.S. Migratory Bird Hunting Stamps, popularly known as "Duck Stamps", because I believe that Duck stamp collectors represent a unique and growing niche market offering opportunities for the philatelic investor.

Ducks stamps are tax stamps which are sold to hunters annually to license the hunting of ducks and other migratory waterfowl. The revenues obtained from their sale are used to purchase wetlands. The stamps have been around since 1934, and the first was designed by Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, a Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist and prominent conservationist. Since 1949, the Department of the Interior has chosen the stamp designs via a contest, in which thousands of wildlife artists enter their proposed designs. Those who win are entitled to sell prints, which are sought by both stamp collectors and art collectors.

Within the U.S., Duck stamps are issued by the Federal government (the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service), by states, and by some Indian tribal organizations. Since 1995, the Fish and Wildlife Service has also issued "Junior Duck Stamps", for which the designs are chosen by a nationwide contest in which students in Kindergarten through the 12th grade may participate. While Junior Duck Stamps have no validity as tax stamps and might strictly be considered labels, they do promote interest in Duck stamps in general, and have become very popular among collectors.

The Duck Stamp collecting community is interesting because it represents an atypical crossover market which includes collectors of general U.S. stamps and U.S. Revenues, along with collectors of Duck hunting memorabilia and Wildlife art. Because the sales of the stamps protect wildlife habitats, it may be considered a "green" collectible, and Duck stamp collecting is actively promoted by the Fish and Wildlife Service. I estimate that currently there are between 8,000 to 10,000 "serious" Duck stamp collectors in the U.S., and many others who buy them to them to fill spaces in their general U.S. albums.

I recommend purchase of the first five Duck Stamps (Scott #RW1-5) in F-VF or better, LH or NH condition. These were issued from 1934 to 1938 by the Department of Agriculture (the Interior Department took over the operation in 1939), and they were sold at post offices. Each of the stamps cost $1.00, which was a lot of money during the Depression, when the unemployment rate rose as high as 22% and the average earnings of an American family were about $1,400 per year. Quantities issued of these stamps ranged from 635,000 to just over 1 million, and the Scott '12 values for unused range from $ 225.00 to $400.00 ($ 425.00 to $ 800.00 for NH). However, it it is likely that very few were collected mint, partly because of the expense, and also because at the time, the post offices were instructed to sell only one Duck stamp per customer.

Hunters used the stamps by affixing them to licenses, and sometimes "canceling" the stamps by signing their names on them. Frequently, Duck stamps offered as "unused, no gum", or "unused, regummed" are often just used stamps which were not signed, so it's best to purchase the gummed stamps, and should there be any question as to the authenticity of the gum, obtain a certificate. Graded certificates have become de rigueur for better Duck stamps in premium condition, so if purchasing a nice one, I suggest obtaining a cert. from the Professional Stamp Experts (P.S.E.).

I wish to thank Bob Dumaine, President of Sam Houston Philatelics, for providing much of the information used in this article.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: French Equatorial Africa 1944 Resistance Surcharges (Scott #B22-35)

The important role played by African members of the French Resistance has long been neglected, but it is important to note that some of the first to support the movement were overseas territories in North Africa.

In 1944, French Equatorial Africa overprinted some of its 1941 issues to produce a semi-postal set for which the excess non-postal funds were used to support the French Resistance (Scott #B22-35). Only 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $252.00.

The set strongly appeals to French Colonies collectors, as well as World War II topicalists. Furthermore, since the former colony of French Equatorial Africa was granted independence and divided to form the current nations of Chad, Congo, Gabon, and Central African Republic, the set makes an interesting emerging market play as well.

A new feature, the Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List, contains over 9,400 entries of stamps with printings of 100,000 or fewer. Take a look!

Also, those interested in learning more about investing in stamps may wish to view my new book, A Guide to Philatelic Investing (available on Kindle, but easily accessed w/any pc; digital list price = $5).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Nicaragua 1967 Ruben Dario Souvenir Sheets (Scott #C601a, C605a)

In 1967, Nicaragua issued a set and pair of souvenir sheets honoring its most famous poet, Ruben Dario (Scott #C598-605, and C601a, C605a). 20,000 sets and 5,000 of #C605a were issued, and Scott '11 prices the unused sets at $2.25 and the unused pair of souvenir sheets at $4.00 . Though the sets were printed in greater quantity, it is likely that they had a much higher usage and attrition rate than the souvenir sheets.

Both seem ridiculously inexpensive, especially given the fact that many stamp collectors focus on Latin America as a region. The development of even a small stamp collecting community within Nicaragua would significantly bolster the value of the value of this issue.

Nicaragua is a poor nation of about 5 1/2 million people, and annual GDP growth of about 3%. It is largely dependent upon agriculture and remittances from Nicaraguans living in other countries. Nevertheless, its government has instituted economic reforms, and important secondary industries, such as tourism, banking, mining, and fisheries, are expanding.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", which will feature wholesale buy prices for stamps which I am interested in purchasing. It includes a buy list for Nicaragua. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep current on the vagaries of the stamp market.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Greenland 1996-98 Whales Issues

Between 1996 and 1998, Greenland issued three different souvenir sheets featuring various species of whales (Scott #308a, 322a, 334a). Scott '11 prices these unused at $9.50, $9.75 , and $9.00, and the quantities issued for these souvenir sheets were 86,620, 76,885, and 85,707, respectively.

Stamps of Greenland are popular among collectors of Scandinavian stamps, and these souvenir sheets also have worldwide appeal as Animal topicals.

Much of the demand for these stamps originates in Scandinavia, a region containing about 26 million generally affluent and well-educated people and a thriving stamp market. Also there are many people of Scandinavian ancestry living overseas, including about 12 million Scandinavian Americans.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stamp Investment Tip: Thailand 1988 Buddha Monthon Celebrations Souvenir Sheet (Scott #1291)

In 1988, Thailand issued a souvenir sheet commemorating its annual Buddha Monthon celebrations (Scott #1291). Only 20,000 were issued, and Scott '11 prices it unused at $24.00

I favor the sheet as both a investment in Thailand's economic group, and as a Buddhist topical. There are hundreds of millions of Buddhists in the world, and most live in the the rapidly developing countries of East Asia.

A nation of 66 million people, Thailand is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Despite this, Thailand ranks midway in the wealth spread in Southeast Asia as it is the 4th richest nation according to GDP per capita, after Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. Though most of the country's population still works in agriculture, the relative contribution of agriculture to GDP has declined while exports of goods and services have increased. Major industries include automobiles and automotive parts, financial services, electric appliances and components, tourism, cement,, appliances, computers and parts, furniture, plastics, textiles and garments, agricultural processing, beverages, and tobacco. Annual GDP growth has averaged just over 3% over the last 5 years, but this takes into account a 2% contraction in 2010, due to the global financial crisis.