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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: India 1997 Mother Teresa Souvenir Sheet (Scott #1658)

  In 1997, India issued a souvenir sheet honoring Mother Teresa (Scott #1658. Only 50,000 were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused souvenir sheet at $6.00.

   All Indian souvenir sheets with printings of 100,000 or fewer should be accumulated, with priority given to those issues which have strong thematic appeal. The Mother Teresa souvenir sheet has obvious appeal as a Religion/Christianity topical, and should do very well indeed. Had a souvenir sheet with a printing of 50,000 and similar appeal been issued by the People's Republic of China, it's value would be hundreds of times greater, but fortunately for the philatelic investors who read this blog, the Indian stamp market is decades behind that of the PRC's. That will almost certainly change, as India is a rapidly developing nation of over a billion people. Millions of Indian collectors will likely be converted to the insidious cult of Philately over the next decades.

 Those interested in viewing a list of scarce stamps with printing quantities of 100,000 or fewer may wish to view the StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List, which currently contains over 9,700 entries. Researching quantities issued data is vital to determining in which stamps to invest.

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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Ecuador 1944 Hospital Surcharge (Scott #B1-6/CB1-5)

   In 1944, Ecuador issued a surcharged compound set of semi-postals and airmail semi-postals to provide funds for the Mendez Hospital (Scott #B1-6/CB1-5). Only 2,500 sets were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused set at $47.00.

    The set is grossly undervalued, and should do well based upon the growth of interest in Medical Topicals as well as in stamps of Latin America in general and Ecuador in particular.  While I generally recommend obtaining expertization when purchasing scarce overprinted stamps, doing so in unnecessary in the case of this set, because it is inexpensive and not significantly more valuable than the un-surcharged sets that comprise its basic stamps.

   Ecuador, a democratic republic of 13.6 million people, is considered a medium-income country, with about 38% of its population living below the poverty line. Ecuador's natural resources include petroleum, fish, shrimp, timber and gold. In addition, it has a prosperous agricultural sector, producing bananas, flowers, coffee, cacao, sugar, tropical fruits, palm oil, palm hearts, rice, roses, and corn. While Ecuador's economy suffered during the 2008-09 financial crisis, weathering a default and repurchase of its debt at a discount, it seems to be recovering. Annual GDP growth over the last 5 years has averaged 4.5%.

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Papua 1916-31 Lakatoi (Scott #60-73)

 From 1916-31, Papua issued a colorful set of fourteen stamps picturing a lakatoi, a native boat of Papua (Scott # 60-73). Printing quantity information is unavailable for this issue, but I estimate that fewer than 10,000 sets were issued. Scott '13 prices the unused set at $311.75.

   It is likely that most of the sets were used as postage and discarded. It was issued piecemeal over a decade and a half, and the high values were expensive for the time it was in use, especially during the Great Depression. Also, it has the added appeal of being a Transportation/Ship topical.

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.           

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Phila-Trivia: Portrait of an Early Indian Stamp Dealer

The following is an interesting article written by Jal Cooper and published in the March 1944 issue of "India’s Stamp Journal" (Bombay) about M.K. Essaji - an Indian stamp dealer who sold India first issues by weight.

I introduce today to my readers Bombay’s oldest veteran stamp dealer, or rather the doyen amongst the Indian stamp dealers, in Mr. A.K. Essaji, the proprietor of the Eastern Art Galleries, 33 Apollo Pier Road, Bombay. Few dealers or collectors in any part of the world must have handled the classic materials on wholesale basis as done by Mr. Essaji. Since establishing himself as a stamp and art dealer in 1902 in the famous old Bombay rendezvous of the connoisseurs of art and curios, viz. in the Meadows Street in a small shop on a monthly rental of Rs 2/-, Mr. Essaji must have at least handled over a hundred thousands stamps of India 1854 imperforates.

In fact, Mr. Essaji had a regular wholesale expert trade with English dealers to supply India 1854 1⁄2 and 1 anna values at 6/- and 12/- shillings per 100 respectively, a price at which one can obtain today single copies of this issue! In fact, as he had no time to count up a large lot of India 1854 mixed values including the scarce 4 annas value, he had once shared a deal by weighing out the shares. This was done when he had purchased from a junk dealer in Porbandar some sackfuls of India 1854 stamps numbering about 47,000 for a princely (?) sum of Rs. 240/- in partnership with late Khan Bahadur Padamji of Bombay. As they had no time nor the necessary patience to count up the large lot, they weighed out their shares! This was not all. Mr. Essaji used to cut off the large blocks in singles to enable him to tie them up in bundles of 100 each for his export trade!! An American collector in Bombay rightly exploded when he heard this and was not slow in denouncing Mr. Essaji in round terms. “Brother, he ought to be hanged!” was his painful exclamation. But then, what do you think of a dealer in Bombay who returned to Mr. Essaji a lot of 1⁄2 anna 1854 after two days approval stating that the price of Rs. 30/- was too high for 2,000 copies!! Shades of phantom philately! I believe that this fellow ought to have been shot dead as well as hanged!

Again, what do you think of Mr. Essaji’s another most spectacular purchase of Ceylon Pence issues on original entires? They did not number a few dozens or a few hundreds. No, Sir, they just numbered about 30,000! YES SIR, THIRTY THOUSAND!! This lot was lying about in a Gujerati Bania’s shop in a wooden box which was sold out to a junk dealers’ company (they were four partners) in Parsi Bazaar Street, for a paltry sum of Rs. 5/- as there were rats in the box, and as two of the rats had decided to bury themselves in the graveyard of Pence issues originals. The box was emptied and the contents given a cleansing with phenoid and sun bath!! And in a couple of days the treasure - I cannot name the junk in any other way though they may have contained in them the plague germs which were in abundance at that time in Bombay and have not been able to ascertain from Mr. Essaji if any collector was a victim - was bought by Mr. Essaji for a magnificent sum of Rs. 800/-, as the four partners of the junk dealers’ company wanted half anna each per cover. Mr. Essaji bought the lot with Rs. 50/- down and the balance to be paid in two days - in those days the easy pay as you can installment system did not seem to exist - and the lot was removed to his home to give it a further cleansing and sort out the good ones, as if the Pence issues have some bad ones amongst them! On the very next day, Mr. Essaji sold two covers to Professor Muller of the Wilson College for Rs. 1,000/-!!! I do not know if there was any excess profit tax in existence or even the income tax in those days, because Mr. Essaji has never complained to me in the matter!
Besides these, Mr. Essaji had the good fortune to buy large collections of those days and when I say large I mean it, because once he purchased two trunkfuls of a collection as the collector had everything of philately as in those days, to wit, bundles and bundles of cards and covers and albums galore. This junk was worth in those days in the neighborhood of Rs. 40,000/-, but the price paid by Mr. Essaji was Rs. 4,000/- only, as he explained to me that in those days he never bought a stamp collection unless he was confident of securing several hundred percent profit on his deals! No Sir, he was not a profiteer but he explained that he had to base his profits in tune with his expenses for maintaining his large family. Collectors, in future make sure that you make your purchases from a bachelor stamp dealer!!

But to crown all, Mr. Essaji was the first enterprising stamp dealer to venture to have stamp auctions in India and in fact, he held over half a dozen sales which were finally given up for want of support from collectors. This humble writer acted as his secretary in conducting these sales.

Besides being a stamp dealer, Mr. Essaji today ranks as a foremost authority in Bombay in Persian carpets and Mughal early paintings. In fact, these two are his main trade activities of nearly half a century, whereas dealing in stamps is only his side line! If these were not sufficient, Mr. Essaji possesses a very sound knowledge about early Indian coins, whereas very few in India can equal him in his knowledge and experience of old China, early embroidery, in fact of practically everything which a connoisseur of art loves and respects.

I am pleased to state that Mr. Essaji in spite of his advanced age still possesses a robust constitution to attend to his shop all the 365 days and seems to be going stronger every day like the famous “Johnny Walker.”

If any readers have a doubt about Mr. Essaji’s selling early India 1854 1⁄2 anna and 1 anna values at 6/- and 12/- per 100, I can confidently assure them that it was quite possible as the Stanley Gibbons’ prices in those days were as follows: 1⁄2 anna (any die) 4d, 1 anna (dies I and II) 6d, 1 anna (die III) 5/-.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Newfoundland 1932 Dornier Flight Surcharge (Scott #C12)

  Newfoundland issued several overprinted airmail stamps that served as postage on pioneer flights, which are of great interest to Aviation topicalists  and include some of the great rarities of Aviation Philately. The rarities are unaffordable for the vast majority of collectors, but the lesser flight overprints are also quite scarce and worthy of consideration as investments.

In 1932, Newfoundland issued a $1.50 airmail stamp for use on the Trans-Atlantic Dornier Flight (Scott #C12) by surcharging 7,980 of its 1931 $1 Airmail Stamp (C11). Scott '13 prices the unused stamp at $ 275.00  ($425.-  for NH). I recommend purchase of the stamp in VF NH or LH condition, or on a Flight cover.

Many of the better stamps of Newfoundland were issued in modest quantities. I intend to revisit them in the future, as I am "doggedly bullish" (to badly mix metaphors) about better British North America in general. This area is very popular among collectors of both Canada and British Commonwealth, and the better 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.

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. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Elobey, Annobon, and Corisco 1905 Alfonso XIII (Scott #19-34)

  Most of the early definitive sets of the Spanish Colonies picturing King Alfonso XIII (as an infant, boy, or young man) are very scarce, and they are overlooked by the market because the colonies are often obscure and the sets are seldom seen. The condition of these sets is often far from ideal, and the stamps within frequently have rough perfs or poor centering. If found in F-VF+ LH condition and reasonably priced, they should be purchased and held as long-term investments.

  Such is the case with many of the sets of Elobey, Annobon, and Corisco, a group of islands administered by the Spanish which issued 60 postage stamps (all of which are good) between 1903 and 1910. The islands are now part of the nation of Equatorial Guinea.

   In 1905, the Spanish colonial administration of the islands issued a set of 16 stamps portraying Alfonso XIII (Scott #19-34). Only 2,000 of the 10p Claret high value were issued, and Scott '13  prices the unused set at $ 811.60 ($1,500.- for NH) . I recommend purchase of either the entire set or the 10p if found in either F-VF+ NH, LH or used condition.

  I view the issue as a conservative investment based on the growth in popularity of Spanish Colonies stamps. Also, though  the development of a significant stamp collecting population in Equatorial Guinea in  the foreseeable future is unlikely, should that happen, it could dramatically boost the value of all of the stamps of Elobey, Annobon, and Corisco.

   Equatorial Guinea is one of the smallest nations in Africa, with a population of just under 700,000. It is one of the richest nations on a per capita basis due to significant oil reserves; however, the the wealth is distributed very unevenly and benefits a tiny elite, and 70% of the population lives on about $2 per day. The country's brutal regime protects the wealthy and maintains the inequity, as  Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights records in the world, consistently ranking among the "worst of the worst" in Freedom House's annual survey of political and civil rights.

   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, November 8, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: El Salvador 1929 20c Deep Green Airmail, Red Overprint (Scott #C1a)

In 1929, El Salvador issued its first airmail stamp (Scott #C1), by applying the black overprint "Servicio Aereo" to a portion of its 1924-25 20c Balsam Tree stamps. However, a single sheet of 100 was overprinted in red instead of black (Scott #C1a), creating a very scarce stamp. Scott '13 prices the unused stamp at $850.00 .

In my opinion, the stamp's gross undervaluation results from its having been neglected because it's a Latin American issue, because it's a visually "boring" overprint variety, and because of the inconvenience of obtaining expertization, which is necessary when buying it since fake overprints exist. The first of these factors is gradually losing validity as the Latin American stamp market grows, and I believe that the others will also fade in significance. The stamp is at least as scarce as the U.S. Inverted Jenny, represents a market that's growing much faster, and may be had for about a thousandth of the cost.

Over the last decade or so, a "stealth bull market" has developed for better Latin American material, especially for scarce issues with wide topical appeal. Supplies have been gradually depleted, and many items which formerly retailed for about 20%-30% of Scott are now selling for 60%-80%, and their catalog values have substantially increased as well. Frequently, Michel Values, which are usually much higher than Scott for Latin America, are used by auction houses when listing this material. As the region has cast aside its authoritarian dictatorships and become more democratic, it has experienced healthy economic growth and the concurrent development of a middle class.

El Salvador, a nation of 5.7 million, is a poor though steadily developing economy, which has experienced annual GDP growth averaging just over 1% over the last 5 years. There has been a recent deceleration in economic growth due to the global financial crisis. In addition, there are between 500,000 and 1 million Salvadorans in the U.S., most of whom immigrated during El Salvador's "Dirty War" of 1979-92. Salvadorans in the United States are among the hardest-working immigrants, and send about $800 million back to their families in El Salvador every year. Although Salvadoran Americans currently toil in the lowest-paying sectors of the American economy, they work long hours, save a great deal, and are gradually becoming more prosperous.

While I believe it may take a while for a significant stamp collecting population to develop among Salvadorans, this is mitigated by the fact that many collectors of Latin American stamps collect the region generally, rather than specializing in a particular country.

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Monaco 1955-57 Birds Airmails (Scott #C41-44, C41a-44a)

I'm initiating coverage of Monaco by recommending the Birds Airmails of 1955-57. These comprise two sets of high values, the normal set (Scott #C41-44), and the perf. varieties (Scott #C41a-44a - 3 stamps). 32,000 of the first and 30,000 of the second set were issued, and Scott '13 prices them unused at $225.- and $757.50 , respectively. The perf varieties are significantly more expensive because they were initially ignored by collectors. It is likely that many of the stamps from both sets were used as postage on packages and discarded, because they were expensive when issued.

Monaco is an affluent but tiny principality of about 32,000 people, and therefore its stamps appeal mainly to French Colonies/Area collectors and topicalists, rather than Monegasques. Like the other small stamp-issuing entities of Europe, Monaco has supplemented its foreign exchange earning by issuing attractive topical stamps.

According to a recent survey, Animals are the most popular topical collecting category among U.S. collectors, with Birds coming in 7th as a popular sub-category. It is likely that this popularity is roughly the same internationally.

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, November 1, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Mongolia 1953 Marshall Choibalsan Issue (Scott #104-15)

   In 1953, Mongolia issued a set of twelve stamps honoring the first anniversary of the death of Marshal Khorloogiin Choibalsan (Scott #104-15). Only 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused set at $160.00. Choibalsan, a dictator who emulated Stalin, conducted purges against his political enemies, Buddhist lamas, the former aristocracy, and dissidents, and is believed to have killed over 30,000 people. 

The set has appeal as a "Famous Person" Topical, and should also do well based on the growth of interest in stamps of Mongolia.

I consider the scarcer issues of Mongolia to be conservative long-term plays, because I do not expect an appreciable increase in the number of stamp collectors in Mongolia in the near future. Currently, most of the demand for Mongolian stamps is founded on the interest of specialists for the earliest issues, and topicalists for the later ones. Over the next few decades, however, I feel that the number of stamp collectors within Mongolia itself will increase significantly.

With about 2.6 million people, Mongolia has successfully made the transition to democracy since the fall of the Soviet Union. The main industries remain agriculture and mining, as Mongolia is rich in natural resources. There has been some diversification into the areas of food processing and apparel production, and annual GDP growth over the last 5 years has averaged about 8%.

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.