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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Phila-Trivia: The Early Rift Between Beginning and Advanced Collectors

The following article appeared in "The Eagle Philatelist" (Kansas City, Kansas) for July 1892. It is interesting because it describes a critical early controversy which occurred in the philatelic community: the rift between beginning collectors, who tended to be non-discriminating generalists, and more advanced collectors, whose hobby had evolved toward more specialized collecting. The distinction between the two types of collectors is still relevant today, although the "controversy" no longer exists. The vast majority of stamp collectors in the world fall into the first type ("generalist beginners") while those who have become more advanced tend to specialize.

"The 'Common' versus the 'French' School of Philately"by Harry F. Kantner

Philatelists who have pursued our hobby for thirty years or more will possibly remember the famous controversy occasioned by the introduction of the French School of Philately. For the benefit of the younger element, I will give a brief account of the controversy and the principles advocated by the debaters on both sides.

The young collector will first be contented with the many types to be found, but as his collection becomes larger, he will find minute varieties, some stamps being exactly of the same type but may differ in the shade, the quality of the paper, the watermark, or may exist with or without perforations. Then again in some countries he may find that on a sheet of fifty or more apparently similar stamps there may be fifty or more varieties because of some minute difference in the types, due to inaccuracy in the engraving. If the collector has an abundance of the “useful,” he will usually purchase such minute varieties, often at a very high price. If he pursues this course he is said to belong to the French School of Philately, because the Parisian Stamp Collectors adopted this method as early as 1862. Their principle was “specialism and completeness, every variety and every specimen.” The collectors who disagreed with the French School were termed the Common School of Philately. Many were the arguments in the debates between the two schools, and at last things came to such a stand that the members of the French School were accused of being afflicted with soft spots on their craniums, and the collectors of the Common School adjudged by their opponents as being of the “small boy” class.
So the contest went on, all the stamp journals of the time taking an active part. At last no interest was taken in the debate, and they all with one assent agreed with Charles Mackay to
“Let the long contention cease.
Geese are swans and swans are geese.”

Many collectors may regard this controversy as being of no importance but I believe it was the cornerstone of philately. And why?
Well, had the Common School triumphed there would have been very few scientific collectors and certainly very poor, if any, philatelic literature of a scientific nature, and collectors would rarely, if ever, have become acquainted with each other had there been no stamp journals.

The collectors of the French School, while they knew there were more varieties issued than they could secure, took to a sort of specializing, the result of which lead to scientific collecting, which has laid the foundation of philatel

In the United States today there are many who do not take into consideration the qualities of the stamps. For instance, how many collectors concern themselves about the sizes of the grille in the embossed stamps of the U.S.? In revenue stamps, how many make a distinction between perforated and unperforated stamps or the quality of the paper? In U.S. envelope stamps, how many collect the various sized entire envelopes according to the Hornerian method? Very few indeed, but the few they are, are collectors according to the French School. They are
scientific collectors - philatelists. The many who do not collect thus are collectors of the Common School. They are non-scientific collectors - stamp collectors.

There is a wide chasm between the two schools which can only be crossed by study. Have you crossed it?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Canal Zone 1939 Pan-Am Clipper (Scott #C15-20)

In 1939, the Canal Zone issued a set of six airmails picturing scenes of Pan American Clipper planes flying over the Panama Canal (Scott #C15-20). The set commemorated the 10th Anniversary of C.Z. airmail service, and the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. 40,051 sets were issued, but these were in use for less than 2 years, as the sets were withdrawn in early 1941, and the remainders destroyed. Scott '13 prices the unused set at $ 86.00 .

Stamps of the Canal Zone are popular among U.S. Possessions collectors, and should continue to do well as interest both in this collecting area and in Latin America grows.

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, July 22, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Jordan 1930 Locust Campaign Issue (Scott #B1-12)

  In 1930, Jordan, then a British Mandate Territory, overprinted some of the stamps from its 1927-29 Amir Abdullah ibn Hussein issue to produce a set of twelve semi-postal stamps to raise funds to help combat a plague of locusts (Scott #B1-12). Only 1,802 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $235.90   .

 Though in many cases I recommend obtaining expertization of better overprinted stamps, it isn't necessary in this case, because the difference in value between the basic stamps and the overprinted ones is not significant. However, there are four overprint varieties within the set that should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization - the 2m and 15m inverted overprints (Scott #B1a and B6a), the 5m double overprint (Scott #B4a), and the 500m 'C' of "Locust" omitted variety (Scott #B12a). While quantities issued of these variety is unavailable, it is likely that a few hundred of the first three and fewer than fifty of B12a were issued.

The better stamps of the Mandate period have dual market appeal to collectors of British Commonwealth and Jordan.

 Jordan is a small country of 6.3 million people with limited natural resources. Nevertheless, it is an emerging market nation, largely due to its liberal economic policies and relative political stability compared to many of its neighbors, and it has maintained an annual GDP growth of 5% -6% over the last 5 years. Currently, its main industries are fertilizers, tourism, and banking, but it also has a developing "knowledge economy," which is contributing to its nascent aerospace, defense, pharmaceutical, and ICT sectors.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Dominican Republic 1937 Goodwill Flight (Scott #C24-31)

In 1937, the Dominican Republic issued a set of eight airmail stamps honoring Columbus, and celebrating its goodwill flight to all of the countries of the Americas by the planes "Colon", "Nina", "Pinta", and "Santa Maria" (Scott #C24-31). 20,000 sets were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused set at $28.55.

In all likelihood, most of these stamps were used as postage and discarded, which explains why one doesn't run across them very frequently. They're probably several times scarcer than the U.S. Graf Zeppelin set, and with far better prospects of climbing much higher than their current levels. While it may take some time for a significant stamp collecting population to develop among Dominicans, the upside to investing in Latin American stamps is that there is a tendency among collectors to focus on the region as a whole.

With a population of about 10 million people, the Dominican Republic is considerably better off than its neighbor Haiti, with which it shares the island of Hispaniola. Though long known for sugar production, its economy is now dominated by the service sector. The country has become the Caribbean's largest tourist destination. Over a million Dominicans now live in the U.S., and they send billions in remittances home to their families, amounting to a tenth of the GDP. Annual GDP growth has averaged around 6.5% over the last 6 years, although it has been uneven from year to year, and unevenly distributed. As in much of Latin America , reforms will be necessary to address governmental corruption and the gulf between rich and poor.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Albania 1924 Red Cross Semi-postals (Scott #B5-8)

In 1924, Albania surcharged stamps of its 1923 Scenes issue, issuing a semi-postal set to benefit the Red Cross (Scott #B5-8). 28,000 sets were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused set at $44.00 .

The set appeals to collectors of Red Cross topicals as well as collectors of Albania.

A nation of 3.2 million people, Albania is poor by Western European standards, but has experienced healthy GDP growth, averaging  slightly under 5% over the last 5 years. Foreign investment has increased but has been dampened somewhat by the country's inadequate infrastructure. Modernization will be Albania's main challenge over the next decade.

Those interested in joining a community of stamp investors are welcome to join the "Stampselectors" group on Facebook. The group provides a valuable forum for those who wish discuss this blog, as well as trade or communicate with stamp collectors, dealers, and investors from all over the world.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Republic of China 1955 Chiang Kai-Shek 69th Birthday Souvenir Sheet (Scott #1126a)

  In 1955, the Republic of China issued a souvenir sheet celebrating the 69th Birthday of its beloved dictator, Chiang Kai-shek (Scott #1126a). Only 20,000 were issued, and Scott '13 prices the unused souvenir sheet at $180.- .

Better stamps and souvenir sheets of the R.O.C. have done well over the last few decades, but the market has been cooler than that for stamps of the People's Republic. I believe that as capitalism and incremental democratization take hold in the P.R.C., relations between the "two Chinas" will gradually improve, as will demand for stamps of the R.O.C.. The process of thawing may have already begun: as of 2008, more than $ 150 billion has been invested in the P.R.C. by Taiwanese companies, and about 10% of the Taiwanese labor force works in the P.R.C., often to run their own businesses.

In the meantime, most of the demand for stamps of Taiwan will originate from collectors in Taiwan itself and among overseas Chinese (of which there are approximately 35 million). Taiwan, a nation of 23 million people, is one of the four "Asian Tigers," and has experienced explosive economic growth and industrialization over the last 5 decades. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 4% over the last 5 years, but this reflects the zero growth of 2009, a result of the global financial mess.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Turkey 1952 UN Economic Instruction Center (Scott #1051-54,1054a)

In 1951, Turkey issued a set and souvenir sheet honoring the United Nations Mediterranean Economic Instruction Center (Scott #1051-54, 1054a). 80,000 sets and 25,000 souvenir sheets were issued, and Scott '12 prices them unused at $8.35 and $95.00, respectively.

Though the souvenir sheet is probably scarcer, the set is also cheap, especially since a far greater proportion of the sets were probably used as postage and discarded.

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.

With a population of about 72 1/2 million, Turkey is perhaps the most culturally European of the Islamic nations, and a likely model for their modernization, economic development, and democratization. The country experienced rapid economic growth between 2002 and 2007, with GDP averaging 7.4%, but this slowed in 2008 to 5% and stalled in 2009 to 1%, due to the global financial crisis, from which the country is recovering. Hence, annual GDP growth over the last 5 years has averaged about 3%. While traditional agriculture is still a pillar of the Turkish economy, it is becoming more dependent on industry. Key sectors include tourism, banking, construction, home appliances, electronics, textiles, oil refining, petrochemical products, food, mining, iron and steel, the machine industry, automotive, and shipbuilding. It is likely that in the future, Turkey will benefit from serving as an economic and cultural nexus connecting Europe, the Near East, and the Turkic (formerly Soviet) nations of Central Asia.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Venezuela 1944 Howarth Issue (Scott #C199-205)

In 1944, Venezuela issued a set of seven airmails commemorating the centennial of the first cooperative shop in Rochdale, England by Charles Howarth (Scott #C199-205). Howarth was famous as a reformer and labor organizer. 15,000 sets were issued, and Scott '12 prices the unused set at $10.80 ($18.- for NH). Many were probably used as postage and discarded.

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.

Those interested in joining a community of stamp investors are welcome to join the "Stampselectors" group on Facebook. The group provides a valuable forum for those who wish discuss this blog, as well as trade or communicate with stamp collectors, dealers, and investors from all over the world.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Stamp Investment Tip: Falkland Islands 1898 Victoria (Scott #20-21)

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.

In 1898, the Falklands issued two high value stamps portraying Queen Victoria (Scott #21 and 22). 6,000 of each were issued, and Scott '13 prices them unused at $300.00 and $240.00 respectively.

I recommend purchase of either, in NH, LH, or used condition. These were pricey stamps at a time when the average worker made about 10-20 shillings per week. Most were probably used either as revenues or as postage on heavy packages and discarded.

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.