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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Has the Bull in the China Shop Become Ground Beef?

Since October of 2010, the People's Bank of China has raised interest rates five times in an effort to combat inflation. This tightening of monetary policy has led to a deceleration of economic growth in the P.R.C., and has been a factor in the global economic recession.
Enlightened workers opposing philatelic imperialism (JK)

There have been reports that this deceleration of growth has also dampened prices for Chinese collectibles, including stamps, that the once white-hot P.R.C. stamp market has cooled somewhat, and that dealer buy prices for many items have dropped by 20%-30%.

In a March, 2010 StampSelector blog article ("General Commentary - the Bull in the China Shop"), I commented on the dramatic price         increases for P.R.C. material, and noted buy prices for several souvenir sheets and Cultural Revolution issues. In a second article (General Commentary - Has the Bull in the China Shop Met Its Matador?), I discussed the rumors of a softening of the Chinese stamp market in January, commenting that at that time, buy prices for key items had remained strong. I've re-listed these items below, along with current buy prices.

(Prices are for VF NH

1958 Kuan Han-ching s/s (Scott #357a):

2004: $ 65.00
2006: $ 75.00
2007: $ 85.00
2008: $ 130.00
March, 2010: $ 215.00 ; April, 2010: $ 340.00
September, 2011: $ 650.00
January, 2012: $660.00
June, 2012: $ 525.00

1961 Table Tennis s/s (Scott #566a):

2004: $ 180.00
2206: $ 225.00
2007: $ 225.00
2008: $ 275.00
March, 2010: $ 800.00; April,2010: $ 1,180.00
August, 2011: $ 1,500.00
January, 2012: $ 1,400.00
June, 2012: $ 1,100.00

1962 Mei Lan-fang s/s (Scott #628):

2004: $ 1,800.00
2006: $ 2,500.00
2007: $ 3,000.00
March, 2010: $ 10,000.00; April, 2010: $ 11,000.00
August, 2011: $ 25,000.00
January, 2012: $ 25,000.00
June, 2012: $ 22,500.00

1964 Peonies s/s (Scott #782):

2004: $ 400.00
2006: $ 500.00
2007: $ 500.00
March, 2010: $ 2,000.00; April, 2010: $ 3,650.00
August, 2011: $ 3,750.00
January, 2012: $ 4,100.00
June, 2012: $ 2,600.00

1967 Thoughts of Chairman Mao- unfolded strip of 5 (Scott #948a):

2004: $ 325.00
2006: $ 750.00
2007: $ 750.00
March, 2010: $ 2,500.00; April, 2010: $ 3,300.00
August, 2011: $ 5,000.00
January, 2012: $ 8,000.00
June, 2012: $ 6,000.00

1967-68 Poems by Chairman Mao (Scott #967-80):

2004: $ 475.00
2006: $ 800.00
2007: $ 800.00
2008: $ 1,300.00
March, 2010: $ 2,200.00; April, 2010: $ 3,000.00
September, 2011: $ 4,275.00
January, 2012: $ 5,350.00
June, 2012: $ 3,500.00

1968: "The Entire Nation is Red" (Scott #999A):

2004: $ 8,000.00
2006: $ 10,000.00
2007: $ 10,000.00
March, 2010: $ $ 60,000.00; April, 2010: $ 75,000.00
September, 2011: $ 150,000.00
January, 2012: $ 170,000.00
June, 2012: $ 125,000.00

1978 Science Conference s/s (Scott #1383a):

2004: $ 140.00
2006: $ 150.00
2007: $ 160.00
March, 2010: $ 400.00; April, 2010: $ 490.00
August, 2011: $ 550.00
January, 2012: $ 540.00
CHINA 1979 T 41 Study Science "Souvenir Sheet" MINTJune, 2012: $ 500.00

1979 Study Science s/s (Scott #1518):

2006: $ 510.00
March, 2010: $ 1,600.00; April, 2010: $1,950.00
August, 2011: $ 2,350.00
January, 2012: $ 2,300.00
June, 2012: $ 1,800.00

1980 Year of the Monkey (Scott #1586):

2004: $ 100.00
2006: $ 215.00
2007: $ 200.00
March, 2010: $ 800.00; April, 2010: $975.00
August, 2011: $ 1,600.00
January, 2012: $ 1,550.00
June, 2012: 1,500.00

According to my sampling, there have been  definite declines in buy prices for these key items since January, averaging just over 24%.  It  is possible that this selection of key items is not representative, or that it doesn't take into account fluctuations which may have occurred on a shorter term basis, or during months for which buy prices were not noted.

It is clear that the slowing of China's economic growth has kicked in. On the plus side, the country's central bank has finally lowered its interest rates for the first time since 2008, indicating a long-awaited reversion to the policy of stimulating the economy.

My feeling is that the most likely scenario for the People's Republic will be an economic resurgence, and buy prices for its better stamps and souvenir sheets that will well exceed the highs of 2011. However, though China is still in its "wonder years", it has a large number of rather ugly warts, and it is possible that some of them could develop into tumors.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Philippines 1928 London-Orient Flight Issue (Scott #C18-28)

The Philippines were under U.S. Administration from the end of the Spanish-American War (1899) until 1935. In 1928 , stamps of the Philippines regular issue of 1917-25 were overprinted "L.O.F." to commemorate the London-Orient Flight made by a squadron of British seaplanes (Scott #C18-28). The Philippines were an important staging post on all major world flights of the twenties and thirties and the definitive series was overprinted in connection with these events on six occasions between 1926 and 1936. 6,000 sets were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused set at $136.25 ($230.- for NH) .

The set has multiple market appeal among collector of the Philippines, U.S. Possessions, and Aviation Topicalists. Though I often counsel obtaining expertization when purchasing stamps with overprints, in this case it's unnecessary, because the set is too inexpensive to warrant it, and there isn't a huge difference in value between the overprints and the basic stamps.

As a newly democratic 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.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Zanzibar 1904 Surcharges (Scott #94-98)

In 1904, the British created a surcharged set (Scott #94-98) for Zanzibar, which was then a British protectorate, by overprinting some of the stamps from the 1899-1901 Sultan Seyyid Hamoud-bin-Mahommed-bin-Said set (Scott #62-78). Only 2,619 of the surcharged set were issued, and Scott '12 prices it unused set at $ 313.75.

While I sometimes advise obtaining certificates on overprinted stamps, expertization is not necessary in this case, because there is not enough of a price difference between the basic stamps and the surcharges to make it worthwhile.

In 1964, Tanganyika joined Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which changed its name to the United Republic of Tanzania in 1965. While it is likely that in the near-term, British Commonwealth collectors will generate most of the demand for stamps of Zanzibar, should a significant stamp collecting community develop within Tanzania, the undervalued stamps of the former protectorate will skyrocket.

Tanzania has a population of about 43 million, and its economy is mostly based on agriculture, which accounts for more than half of the GDP, provides about 75% of exports, and employs approximately 75% of the workforce. Topography and climate, though, limit cultivated crops to only 4% of the land area. The nation has many natural resources including minerals, natural gas, and tourism, and the government has instituted policies to promote development of these sectors. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 6.5% over the last 5 years.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Thailand 1986 Orchid Souvenir Sheet (Scott #1160a)

In 1986, Thailand issued a souvenir sheet picturing orchids (Scott #1160a), to commemorate the meeting of the 6th ASEAN Orchid Congress. Only 20,000 souvenir sheet were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused sheet at $110.00.-.

Aside from being an investment in Thailand's future economic growth, the sheet also has appeal as an attractive Flower topical.

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.

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Netherlands Antilles 1942 Airs (Scott #C18-42)

In 1942, the Netherlands Antilles issued a pleasant engraved set of 15 airmails. 30,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices it unused at $55.50.

I continue to favor stamps of the European colonies and possessions over the stamps of their mother countries. The quantities issued for the colonies tend to be modest, and worldwide interest in them often grows at a faster rate. For the most part, stamp of the Netherlands Antilles appeals to Netherlands Colonies collectors, but as Curacao is a popular tourist destination, it's likely that in the future, interest in its stamps will grow in the Americas as well.

With about 16.6 million people, the Netherlands is the 16th largest economy in the world. It is an affluent industrial and trading nation, with a well-educated population, and an active stamp collecting community. Its annual GDP growth has averaged about 2.5% over the last 5 years, reflecting a slowing due to the global financial crisis.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Liechtenstein 1921 Issue (Scott #54-69)

In 1921, Liechtenstein issued a set of 16 stamps, of which most of the high values pictured scenes of the principality (Scott #54-69). 65,505 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $344.95 ($1.150.00 for NH) .

Liechtenstein is one of Europe's smallest countries, but it's stamps are very popular worldwide, especially in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. I recommend accumulation of the country's better items in anticipation of the European economic recovery.

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

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Azerbaijan 2000 Reptiles Miniature Sheet (Scott #709)

In 2000, Azerbaijan issued a miniature sheet of four stamps picturing native reptiles (Scott #709). 25,000 were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused sheet at $6.50 .

The sheet makes an interesting and low-risk speculation based on its appeal as an Animal topical, and as a bet on the economic growth of Azerbaijan 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.

Azerbaijan is an oil-rich nation of about 9 million people, which also has significant reserves of natural gas and various minerals. Agriculture and tourism are also important to the Azerbaijani economy. The country shares all the problems of the former Soviet republics in making the transition from a command to a market economy, but its energy resources brighten its long-term prospects. It has begun making progress on economic reform, and old economic ties and structures are slowly being replaced. Annual GDP growth has averaged a stellar 16% over the last 5 years, largely based on the frenetic development of the country's oil wealth - an estimated 7 billion barrels of reserves.

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, June 3, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Uruguay 1933 Flag of the Race (Scott #430-40)

In 1933, Uruguay issued a set of eleven stamps picturing the "Flag of the Race", representing the Spanish "race" in the Americas and in Spain's various other colonies and former colonies (Scott #430-40). The set also honored the 441st Anniversary of the Sailing of Christopher Columbus, rediscoverer of the Americas, and the first European to bring enslavement, epidemics, and mass murder to the hemisphere. Only 10,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $35.40 .

Most were probably used as postage and discarded, as Uruguay's economy was in crippled by the worldwide Depression of the '30s, and the only Uruguayans who could afford to collect its stamps were to be found among members of the oligarchy.

With a population of about 3 1/2 million people, most of whom are of European or mixed descent, Uruguay has a stamp collecting population which will probably approach European levels in the years to come. Uruguay is one of the most economically developed, politically stable and least corrupt countries in Latin America, and is moving away from its dependence on agricultural exports and toward development of commercial technologies, especially software. Annual GDP growth has averaged a little over 3% over the last 5 years.

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 Uruguay, and includes the set 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.