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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Kazakhstan 1994 Space Shuttle Souvenir Sheet (Scott #56)

  In 1994, Kazakhstan issued a souvenir sheet honoring the Russian Space Shuttle and Kazakh cosmonaut Toktar Ongarbayuly Aubakirov (Scott #56). 40,000 of the souvenir sheet were issued, and Scott '13 prices it unused at $3.50 .

The sheet makes an interesting and low-risk speculation based on its appeal as a Space Exploration topical, and as a bet on the economic growth of Kazakhstan and the development of a stamp market there. This recommendation is consistent with my belief that one of the best ways to play the new and newly resurrected countries of Europe and Asia is to focus on popular topicals with low printings.

A nation of 16 million, Kazakhstan is known to many outsiders from the somewhat demeaning film comedy "Borat." It is the 9th largest country in the world, with a territory greater than that of Western Europe, although its population density is less than 15 per square mile. Kazakhstan has plentiful reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium, chromium, lead, zinc, manganese, coal, iron, and gold. It also has a major agricultural sector, and is the seventh largest producer of grain. Annual GDP growth has averaged over 5% over the last 5 years.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Venezuela 1930-39 Plane and Map Issues

Between 1930 and 1939, Venezuela issued four airmail sets picturing a biplane and a map of the country. All four sets are undervalued, and have multiple market appeal to collectors of Venezuela, Aviation, and the small but growing number of Map-on-Stamp topicalists.

Winchester Security Paper
The four sets are Venezuela's first airmail set of 1930 (Scott #C1-16), the 1932 set of similar design issued on bluish Winchester Security Paper (Scott #C17-40- example pictured at right), the 1937 Surcharged set (Scott #C41-46), and the 1938-39 set issued on white paper without the imprint at bottom, which is pictured above (Scott #C119-26). 30,000, 15,300, 5,000, and 50,000 of these sets were issued, respectively, and Scott '12 prices them unused at $ 24.50, $167.05, $66.00, and $34.45 . Many of these Depression-era sets were probably used as postage and discarded. Few Venezuelans of the time could afford to purchase and save the stamps in unused condition.

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.

I have begun a new blog, "The Stamp Specialist", featuring my buy lists for stamps which I wish to purchase, including many items from Venezuela .Periodically viewing dealers' buy lists
is an excellent way to remained informed about the state of the stamp market.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Malaya-Negri Sembilan 1948 Silver Wedding (Scott #36-37)

The British administered Malaya as a group of protectorates, which included the various sultanates. These were later consolidated into the Federation of Malaya., and ultimately the independent nation of Malaysia in 1963.

In 1948, the Sultanate of Negri Sembilan issued a set of two stamps celebrating the Silver Wedding Anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother (Scott #36-37). 19,151 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $28.10 .

The set has multiple market appeal among collectors of Malaya/Malaysia, British Commonwealth, and British Royal Family topicals. As a popular topic for British Commonwealth collectors, it's hard to beat the Royal Family, with a stick, scepter, or other appropriately heavy object, and banking on such loyalty can pay interest.

With a population of over 28 million, Malaysia is an emerging market nation and the 29th largest economy in the world. It has abundant minerals and petroleum, vast forests, as well as a thriving agricultural sector. Nevertheless, over the last four decades, the Malaysian government has committed the nation to a transition from reliance on mining and agriculture to manufacturing, and is moving to conserve its remaining forests and reforest the overcut areas. The government has recently taken steps to make Malaysia more business-friendly, and the number of Malaysians living in poverty has also decreased. As of 2007, average wages were around $34 per day, up from about $9 per day in 1999. Annual GDP growth has averaged over 5% over the last five years, although the country's economy was hurt by the global financial crisis.

Those interested in viewing a list of scarce stamps with printing quantities of 100,000 or fewer should take a look at the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List, which currently contains over 9,700 entries. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Falkland Islands 1904-07 Edward VII (Scott #22-29)

The Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina, is a self-governing territory of the United Kingdom. While Falkland Islanders comprise a tiny but very affluent population of about 3,000, from a philatelic investment perspective, the Falklands are of interest because they appeal to both British Commonwealth and Antarctic territories collectors.

From 1904 through 1907, the Falklands issued a set of six stamps portraying King Edward VII (Scott #22-29). Only 6,060 were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused set at $577.75 .

I recommend purchase of the set in F-VF+ NH or LH condition. Few people were collecting stamps of the Falklands a century ago, and the high values of the set were pricey, considering that the average worker of the time earned only about 10 to 20 shillings per week. Most of the sets were probably used as postage and discarded.

Readers who are on Facebook are welcome to join the "StampSelectors" group, which focuses upon philatelic investing, the stamp market, and practical matters regarding buying and selling stamps. It also offers the opportunity to comment upon this blog and suggest future stamp investment tips.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: New Guinea 1931 Airmails (Scott #C14-27)

In 1931, New Guinea issued an airmail set of 14 stamps, by overprinting its regular issue for airmail use (Scott #C14-27). Only a few thousand of each of the top values of the set were printed. A total of 3,240 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $366.25 .

While it's often wise to purchase expensive overprinted stamps conditional on obtaining expertization, such caution is unnecessary in this case because the basic non-overprinted set is also expensive.

Papua New Guinea is richly endowed with natural resources, but exploitation has been hampered by the rugged terrain and the high cost of developing infrastructure. Agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for most of the population of about 7 million. Annual GDP growth has increased dramatically over the last 5 years, from 1% in 2005 to about 7% in 2009. Still, the majority of the population is extremely poor, and I do not foresee the development of a significant collecting population within the country for some time.

Most of the collectors of Papua New Guinea are British Commonwealth collectors or Australians, because the country was administered by Australia until 1975 and maintains close ties with that nation. I recommend purchase of the better stamps of Papua, New Guinea, and Papua New Guinea based on the probable growth in interest among Australian collectors and collectors of British Commonwealth.

Those interested in learning more about investing in stamps are encouraged to read the Philatelic Investment Guide ($5), available on Kindle, and accessible from any computer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Phila-Trivia: 1905 Article on Somali Coast Inverts

This exposé was translated from L’Echo de la Timbrologie and published in the American Journal of Philately (New York) for February 1905. It is interesting and relevant because it points out that errors are not always rare or legitimately issued.
The Truth about the Stamps of the Somali Coast with Inverted Centers
From being very rare, the Somali Coast stamps with inverted centers have become common, and let us see who will throw a stone at them; since the law has busied itself with these stamps no one wishes to see or possess them! Their too-rapid appearance was the despair of collectors and certain among them talked of giving up collecting! In truth there has been much talk about these stamps, everybody has seen thousands of them and, finally, no one has them.

I think that it is right to inform amateurs what has been done and what these stamps are.

The postage stamps of the French Colonies are sold in Paris, at the Agency of the Colonies, 6 rue du Mont-Thabor. There a commission is charged with receiving them, verifying them and destroying the defective ones and the errors. Now, from the establishment of the Agency until 1904, this commission amounted to nothing; the stamps often reached them at two o’clock and the commission closed its session above five o’clock. It is easily understood that all errors would escape their scrutiny, as they could not verify 60,000 sheets in three hours.

It is thus that the following errors have appeared:
0.75 Indo China, inverted center

0.01 Martinique, name in blue

0.02 Congo, red, etc.

The dealers who obtained their supplies at the rue du Mont-Thabor did not hesitate to ask M. Evrard, an employee, if he did not find errors. He set himself to look for them and gave them out freely; I will point out these:

0.05 Djibouti, green and yellow-green, inverted center

1fr Congo, inverted center

0.01 Congo inverted center

But M. Evrard at that time received practically nothing for his trouble; he quickly ascertained that the said stamps were sold for 20 francs, indeed for 200 francs, apiece and, instead of giving up the errors he put them aside and kept them.

In May 1903, M. Evrard proposed to me to sell me these inverted centers; he showed me what he had found up to that time:

1 sheet of 100 stamps of 0.04

2 sheets of 100 stamps of 0.20

15 sheets of 100 stamps of 0.25

3 sheets of 100 of 0.30

He asked me for my estimate and I replied to him that I estimated the lot to be worth something like ten thousand francs. Upon his proposition that I should take them at that price I agreed, then I sold them, sometime after, to M. Dorsan Astruc.
But in proportion as the new deliveries were made at the rue du Mont-Thabor, M. Evrard found new errors and below is the exact list of all the values which came from the rue du Mont-Thabor:

Colored Center Black Center
0.01 --
100 examples
0.04 100 examples --
0.05 700 1500
0.20 200 500
0.15 1900 200
0.30  -- 300 (1st printing)
0.50  -- 600
0.75  -- 500
1fr.  --  24

All stamps really purchased at the rue du Mont-Thabor as proved by the receipts presented by M. Evrard. (Since 1904 we see no more errors coming from the rue du Mont-Thabor. This is because the active members of the commission on verification are taking their duties seriously, throwing out all errors from the deliveries as made to them and carefully destroying them.)
In 1904 we have seen inverted centers of the Somali Coast come from everywhere. Where do they come from? An inquiry has actually been started. M. Le Poitevin being entrusted with the investigation.

An order of arrest is issued against the principal culprit; a workingman is already locked up! Because, if these stamps do not come from a theft, properly speaking, they come from a clandestine printing executed at night in the workrooms of the printer, which should be called a theft.

The values printed are the following:

With colored center 0.04; 0.40; 0.50; 1fr; 2fr and 5fr

With black center 0.40; 0.50; 2fr and 5fr

And more than all this, the following freaks have appeared:

1st. The frame of the 0.25 blue with the central mosque in blue

2nd. The 0.40 with black ground having the central design of a camel turned to the right instead of to the left.

I shall not take upon myself the role of the investigating judge; I sincerely hope that these elusive and clandestine impressions, which equally concern certain values with proper centers, certain values of Madagascar and Congo, all good for postage, I sincerely hope, I say, that this way of doing things will cease. The collectors are not the only ones who suffer by it, but, what is worse, the budgets of our Colonies also.

But I wish to show collectors that there is a difference between these clandestinely printed stamps and the stamps coming from Evrard.

In the first place the values are not the same, excepting the 0.40 and 0.50.

Then the colors of these two stamps are not the same, notably the rose, which is too bright, almost always the color of the frame runs and the paper is tinted by it.

Finally the paper of the clandestinely printed stamps is very much thicker, which is easily recognized by the touch, but it becomes evident when one separates two stamps. The Evrard stamps come apart evenly like all stamps coming from the Colonial Agency; the stolen stamps are upon a paper which is almost cardboard.

I will add that the paper of the two printings comes from the same house, Blanchet & Kléber, and bears the same marks. The persons who have executed these clandestine printings have, indeed, bought the paper from the same house, but they did not take it of the same weight.

To sum up, and I am not alone in my opinion, the Evrard stamps are good, recognized as having come from the rue du Mont-Thabor by the judge charged with the investigation; they are worthy, according to this decision, of figuring the catalogues and certain varieties are very rare.

The stolen stamps are not worth much, and, a capital thing, it is extremely easy to distinguish the two printings; one is a stamp, the other is comparable to the fraudulently perforated essays upon cardboard.

Dr.H. Voison

* * *

So this is the truth? Well, there is an old adage that “murder will out” and its terse probity is certainly well illustrated in this case!

To start with we are shown a commission, who were appointed for the express purpose of doing certain things, whose members are, or have been, so lax in performing the special duties entrusted to them that one of the principal causes of its creation has been completely nullified and rendered inoperative, for, as Dr. Voisin says, it would be a physical impossibility for them to count, let alone examine, twenty thousand sheets of stamps an hour, for this would mean an average of a little over five and one-half sheets per second.

We are not told whether the errors which are said to be due to this criminal carelessness made their appearance from the various colonies for which the stamps were printed or directly from the Colonial Agency in Paris, but we are strongly inclined to the belief that the errors in question never saw the colonies whose names they bear. The pernicious habit of selling any and all colonial stamps in Paris has many sins to answer for and, though we freely admit that these stamps would have been perfectly good for postage had they ever reached the colonies wherein they were valid, we greatly doubt that they ever were used in that way, although, so far as these three cases are concerned, there is, at least, a possibility that some of them may have reached the colonies in question.
We now come to the statement that “dealers who obtained their supplies at the rue du Mont-Thabor did not hesitate to ask M. Evrard, an employee, if he did not find errors,” etc. What, may we ask, is the name which Frenchmen would apply to transactions of this kind? Here in the United States the most lenient term which would be used would be bribery on the part of the dealers in question, and malfeasance in office on the part of M. Evrard. The fact that the latter gentleman found out early in the game that he was not receiving his full share of the profits accruing from the sale of his stolen goods is of no consequence in considering the ethics of the case.

He was a government official whose special duty it was, after duly verifying the account of the number of sheets of stamp delivered to the Agency, to destroy all spoiled sheets and all errors of whatsoever kind. Instead of doing this he carefully laid aside all errors which he found and sold them at enhanced prices for his individual account.

The ingenuousness of Dr. Voisin’s description of his own part in the disposition of the twenty-one sheets with inverted centers is so apparent as to make its truth unquestionable. M. Evrard, having become tired of acting as the cat’s paw for the more avaricious dealers who first approached him, simply reversed things, himself played the part of the monkey and induced the worthy doctor to become the cat whose paws were to pull the chestnuts (francs, in this case) from the fire for his delectation.

Finally we are given a list of 6,624 of these stamps with inverted centers which came from the Colonial Agency but the doctor is silent as whether or not he was the accomplice in marketing the extra 4,524 stamps over and above the twenty-one sheets already spoken of. It is, however, plain that none of these 6,624 stamps ever reached the Somali Coast; therefore the case is of a very similar nature to that of our own four-cent value of the series of 1901, which stamp has already been expunged from our catalogue upon the ground that, although it was a bona-fide error, it never was on sale at any post office.

Now, our conspirators are suddenly startled out of their tranquil dreams of ever-increasing wealth and worldly prosperity by the appearance upon the market of a flood of these self-same errors for which they cannot account. Prices fall rapidly; their castles in Spain totter upon their foundations; something must be done. Then an official investigation is instituted, whether at the instance of the conspirators themselves or through the fact of so many errors (?) being upon the market reaching the ears of the officials we know not, but, at all, events, the results are attained, for, we are told, “Since 1904 we see no more errors coming from the rue du Mont-Thabor,” and that the commissioners “are taking their duties seriously, throwing out all errors from the deliveries as made to them and carefully destroying them.” Thus is the source of supply closed to the arch conspirator, M. Evrard.

We are then told that “an order of arrest is issued against the principal culprit;” we are left in ignorance as to the name of this unfortunate individual but, if justice has been done, we think that we might safely hazard a guess that his name began with the fifth letter of the alphabet. “A working man has been locked up!” Yes, probably upon the principle of Justice which says that a man who steals a loaf of bread for his starving family is a thief while the “man higher up” who robs the government or some large institution of hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars is an exponent of high financiering - a smart, able man. But, of course, something had to be done and someone must be made the scapegoat!

We must confess to being unable to understand certain fine distinctions which are drawn by the worthy doctor. For instance, if the “secret printing executed at night in the workrooms of the printer” is theft, and we do not dispute this point for a moment, what shall we call the method employed by Mr. Evrard in obtaining his stock of the same stamps?

It is doubtless true that the secret printings can be easily recognized from those emanating from the Colonial Agency, but we cannot see how this fact improves the standing of the latter class. Neither were ever really issued for use and if the Colonial budgets suffered by reason of the secret printings they were most certainly not swollen to plethoric proportions by the stolen, but regularly printed, stamps.

It is not until we reach the final paragraph of the doctor’s “True story” that the real reason for its being is brought to light. In speaking of the Colonial Agency stamps, he says: “the Evrard stamps are good, recognized as having come from the rue du Mont-Thabor by the judge charged with the investigation, they are worthy, according to this decision, of figuring in the catalogues and certain varieties are very rare. The stolen stamps are not worth much.”

Interesting and ingenious logic, is it not? My stamps, although stolen and never issued are good! The other fellow’s, stolen also, are no good. In other words: the fact that I bought stamps, knowing them to be stolen and that they never were issued, is not reason why I should not be protected and allowed to reap my expected profits from them, because they were stolen by an official. But the poor workman, who adopted what was probably the only way in which he could follow the official’s lead, is to be imprisoned and not allowed to realize upon his stamps.

So far as any opinion rendered by the investigating judge is concerned, we fail to see how it can in any way affect the status of the stamps in question. Of course he recognized that the stamps came from the Colonial Agency; if he had before him one-half the evidence that is presented in the paper under consideration, he could do nothing else. That, however, is not the question; we freely admit that fact to be true. The real point at issue so far as philatelists are concerned, is: Were these stamps ever regularly issued through the post offices of the Colony? To this we answer most emphatically: No.

This fact having been fully established there remains but one course for cataloguers to pursue, and that is to completely ignore their existence.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Reunion 1939 French Revolution Issue (Scott #B5-9, CB1)

Réunion is a French island located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and south west of Mauritius. Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France. Like the other overseas departments, Réunion is also one of the 27 regions of France and an integral part of the Republic with the same status as those situated on the European mainland.

In 1939, the French celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the French Revolution by issuing semi-postal sets commemorating the storming of the Bastille. All featured the same common design, and were issued throughout their empire, usually in modest quantities. As omnibus sets go, the French Revolution set make a pretty good investment, as most of the former colonies for which it was issued are now emerging market countries.

14,972 of the Reunion French Revolution set (Scott #B5-9,CB1) were issued, with #CB1 being the key value. Scott '13 prices the unused set at $86.50 ($ 140.00 for NH) . The set has dual market appeal among collectors of French Colonies/Area and Reunion.

With about 800,000 people, Reunion benefits from its special status as a department of France, and its main industries are tourism and sugar production. The island's GDP per capita was 23,501 US dollars in 2007, the highest in Africa. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 2.7% over the last five years.

Those interested in viewing a list of scarce stamps with printing quantities of 100,000 or fewer should take a look at the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List, which currently contains over 9,700 entries.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Antigua 1932 Tercentenary (Scott #67-76)

In 1932, Antigua issued a handsome set of of ten stamps commemorating its Tercentenary (Scott #67-76). 23,640 sets were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused set at $234.50 ($550.- for NH).

The set has multiple market appeal among collectors of British Commonwealth, British Caribbean, and Ship Topicals.

A small island nation with about 85,000 inhabitants, Antigua is mainly reliant on tourism, and it markets itself as a luxury Caribbean escape. Annual GDP growth has been flat over the past 5 years, due to the effect of the global financial crisis.

Readers who are on Facebook are welcome to join the "StampSelectors" group, which focuses upon philatelic investing, the stamp market, and practical matters regarding buying and selling stamps. It also offers the opportunity to comment upon this blog and suggest future stamp investment tips.