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Sunday, April 27, 2014

General Commentary: Is the PRC Stamp Market Bottoming Out?

It's been about 2 years since I last updated my survey of market values for popular issues of the People's Republic of China. After having taken a precipitous fall between August of 2011 and June of 2012, the market's calmed somewhat.
Happy Patriotic
Farm Worker in
the People's Republic's
Socialist Utopia
Cheerfully Displays
His Little Red
Stamp Album (JK)

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. A third (General Commentary - Has the Bull in the China Shop Become Ground Beef?) commented on the dramatic fall in values. I've re-listed the items surveyed 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 
April, 2014: $ 500.00

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
April, 2014: $ 950.00

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
April, 2014: $ 20,000.00

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
April, 2014: $ 2,300.00

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
April, 2014: $ 5,000.00

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
April, 2014: $ 3,250.00

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
April, 2014: $ 120,000.00

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
June, 2012: $ 500.00
April, 2014: $ 450.00

1979 Study Science s/s (Scott #1518):
CHINA 1979 T 41 Study Science "Souvenir Sheet" MINT

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
April, 2014: $ 1,700.00

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
April, 2014: 1,400.00

The declines in buy prices for these key items have averaged just over 5.7% for the last 2 years. The pace of decline has slowed significantly, and it's possible that the market values of better PRC stamps are nearing their bottom. Note that this selection of stamps is not representative of the PRC stamp market as a whole, anddoesn't take into account fluctuations which may have occurred on a shorter term basis, or during months for which buy prices were not noted.

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.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: U.S. 1993-Present Junior Duck Stamps (Scott #JDS 1-21)

  The U.S. Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program held its first national art contest and issued its first Junior Duck Stamp in 1993, and it has gradually increased in popularity among Duck stamp collectors ever since. More than 27,000 students enter Junior Duck Stamp art contests each year.  It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of students have been educated on the importance of waterfowl and wetlands conservation.  The winning design from the national contest is used to create the Junior Duck Stamp for the following year. Proceeds from the sale of Junior Duck Stamp support conservation education, and provide awards and scholarships for the students, teachers and schools that participate in the program.

   Technically, these stamps are cinderellas. Unlike the regular Federal, State, and Tribal Duck Stamps, the Junior Duck Stamps do not license hunters, but are issued solely as collectibles. Though I seldom recommend cinderellas as investments, the growing popularity of these stamps renders them an exception to this rule.

  I wish to thank the Federal Duck Stamp Office for has generously providing me with information as to "minimum quantities sold" for these stamps, which may be considered to be slightly less than the actual quantities sold. For certain years, no information is available, and it should be noted that the stamps are available for purchase from them for three years after issuance, so those issued from 2011 on are still being sold. I've listed these stamps, their quantities issued, and their Scott '14 Catalog Values, below:

  • 1993 $5 Redhead (#JDS1 - Unknown; CV = $85.-)
  • 1994 $5 Hooded Merganser (#JDS2 - Unknown; CV = $200.-)
  • 1995 $5 Northern Pintail (#JDS3 - 2,493; CV = $450.-)
  • 1996 $5 Canvasback (#JDS4 - 2,783 ; CV = $550.-)
  • 1997 $5 Canada Goose (#JDS5 - 2,804; CV = $500.-)
  • 1998 $5 Black Duck (#JDS6 - 223; CV = $500.- )
  • 1999 $5 Wood Duck (#JDS7 - Unknown; CV = $ 525.-)
  • 2000 $5 Northern Pintail (#JDS8 - Unknown; CV = $350.-)
  • 2001 $5 Trumpeter Swan (#JDS9 - 18,928; CV = $85.-)
  • 2002 $5 Mallard (#JDS10 - 21,667; CV = $55.-)
  • 2003 $5 Green-winged Teal (#JDS11 - 21,466; CV = $35.-)
  • 2004 $5 Whistling Duck (#JDS12 - 25,035; CV = $27.50)
  • 2005 $5 Ring-necked Duck (#JDS13 - 28,456; CV = $25.-)
  • 2006 $5 Redhead (#JDS14 - 27,720; CV = $15.-)
  • 2007 $5 American Widgeon (#JDS15 - 17,567; CV = $12.-)
  • 2008 $5 Nene (#JDS16 - 31,499; CV = $12.-)
  • 2009 $5 Wood Duck (#JDS17 - 21,389; CV = $12.-)
  • 2010 $5 Hooded Merganser (#JDS18 - 30,519; CV = $10.-)
  • 2011 $5 Ring-necked Duck (#JDS19 - 15,486; CV = $10.-)
  • 2012 $5 Northern Pintail (#JDS20 - Unknown; CV = $ 10.-)
  • 2013 $5 Canvasback (#JDS21 -  Unknown; CV - $10.- )
  From a philatelic investment perspective, the Duck Stamp collecting community is interesting because it represents an atypical crossover market which includes collectors of  U.S. stamps in general, U.S. Revenues, Duck hunting collectibles and Wildlife art. Because revenues from the sales of the stamps are used to purchase and protect wildlife habitats, it may be considered a "green" collectible, and Duck stamp collecting is actively promoted by the Department of the Interior's 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.

Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.   

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Libya 1962 Tripoli International Fair Souvenir Sheet (Scott #217a)

   In 1962, Libya issued a souvenir sheet in celebration of the Tripoli International Fair (Scott #217a).  20,000 sheets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused sheet at $65.00.

   The sheet represents an inexpensive bet on the future stability and economic growth of Libya.

   A nation of about 6.4 million people, Libya depends mostly upon oil exports, and has reserves in excess of 44 billion barrels of oil and 54 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Since the recent revolution which disposed of
dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libyans voted in  parliamentary elections and drafted a new constitution, but the country has experienced a difficult period of transition, marked by lawlessness, security issues, and regional factionalism. Annual GDP growth has averaged 4% over the last 5 years, and with a little luck, more of that prosperity will be spread among the Libyan people in the future.

  The Stamp Auction Bidders and Consignors Union (SABACU) is a forum for discussing stamp auctions, and represents the interests of stamp auction bidders and consignors in their dealings with stamp auctioneers. All stamp collectors and dealers are welcome to join.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Honduras 1953 UN Air Officials (Scott #CO60-68)


 In 1953, Honduras overprinted 10,000 of the sets of its United Nations Airmail Issue (Scott #C222-30), creating an Airmail Official set (Scott #CO60-68). Scott '14 prices the unused set at $22.20 .

The main reason that this set remains cheap is that Honduras is still a very poor country, and few of its citizens can afford to collect stamps. As far as philatelic investing goes, it qualifies as a "ground floor opportunity" (as described in one of my "general commentary" articles), for which the best strategy is to minimize risk by buying stamps of the country which have worldwide appeal, such as rarities and popular topicals, and then hope for additional increases in value as the country's situation improves. To some extent, Honduran stamp values are sustained by the tendency among stamp collectors to collect Latin America as a region, rather than focusing on individual countries.

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.

Honduras is a nation of about 7 1/2 million people, which has recently undergone a coup d'etat and constitutional crisis which threatened a reversion to dictatorship. The economy, which is largely dependent on agriculture and mining, has continued to grow, but the distribution of wealth remains very polarized, with average wages remaining low. 50% of the population still remains below the poverty line. Annual GDP growth has averaged 3.5% over the last five years, reflecting a 3% contraction in 2010 due to the reverberations of the global financial crisis.

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 Honduras. Viewing dealers' buy lists every now and then is an excellent way to keep current on the vagaries of the stamp market.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Netherlands 1951 Seagulls (Scott #C13-14)

In 1951, the Netherlands issued a pair of airmail stamps picturing seagulls (Scott #C13-14). 69,400 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $260.00.

These high-value stamps were considered quite costly at the time, especially since the Netherlands, like much of Europe, was still recovering from the depredations of World War II. Most of the sets were probably used as postage on parcels, and then discarded.

I consider the set a conservative investment, based on its appeal to both collectors of Netherlands and Animals/Bird topicalists.

With about 16.6 million people, the Netherlands is the 16th largest economy in the world and is one of the world's 10 leading exporting countries. Foodstuffs form the largest industrial sector. Other major industries include chemicals, metallurgy, machinery, electrical, goods and tourism. Annual GDP growth has averaged about 1% over the last 5 years, reflecting a 4% contraction in 2009, due to the global financial crisis.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Georgia 2004 Rose Revolution Souvenir Sheet (Scott #343)

   In 2004, the Republic of Georgia celebrated the first anniversary of the Rose Revolution by issuing a souvenir sheet (Scott #343). Only 15,000 were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused sheet at $3.75.

   This issue commemorates an important event in Georgian history, the overthrow of an unpopular and corrupt government which was tied to the old Soviet regime.  In my opinion, it is extremely undervalued.

With a population of about 4.5 million, the Republic of Georgia suffered severe damage to its economy due due to civil strife in the 1990s. With the help of the IMF and World Bank, it has made substantial economic gains since 2000, achieving robust  growth and curtailing inflation. Georgia has a sizable hydroelectric capacity, a factor that has become an increasingly important component of its energy supplies and policies. The country’s topography and abundance of hydro resources give it serious potential to dominate hydroelectric markets in the Caucasus region. Agriculture and tourism have also been principal economic sectors. Annual GDP growth has averaged just under 5% over the past 5 years.

Those interested in learning about investing in stamps should read the Guide to Philatelic Investing ($5), available on Kindle and easily accessible from any computer.   

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: Uruguay 1927 Montevideo Philatelic Exhibition (Scott #330-32)

   In 1927, Uruguay issued a set of three imperforate stamps picturing the Montevideo Post Office in celebration of the Montevideo Philatelic Exhibition (Scott #330-32). 20,000 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $14.25. The sets were issued in sheets of 4, and Scott prices these at a slight premium (#330a-32a; CV = $60.00).

  Uruguay has issued a number of undervalued sets which I intend to cover in the future. Demand for the country's stamps is boosted by the tendency of many collectors to focus on Latin America as a region.

   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.

  "The Stamp Specialist" blog will features 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.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stamp Investment Tip: New Guinea 1931 Officials (Scott #O12-22)

   In 1931, New Guinea issued a set of Officials by overprinting eleven stamps from its Bird of Paradise series  "OS" for Official Service (Scott #O12-22). Only 4,500 sets were issued, and Scott '14 prices the unused set at $266.50 .

   I believe the set to be grossly undervalued because it's been neglected as an obscure back-of-book issue, as is often the case with Officials. 

   While I sometimes recommend obtaining expertization when purchasing overprinted issues, it's not necessary in this case because the Officials set is not sufficiently more costly than the basic stamps to justify faking the overprint.

 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.

 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 averaged an impressive 7% over the last 5 years. 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.

  Those interested in viewing a list of scarce stamps with printing quantities of 100,000 or fewer may wish to check out 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.