Much of the history of stamp collecting is really the history of stamp collecting in the German speaking part of Europe. Deutschophones collect stamps at a far greater rate than any other cultural unit. At one time in Germany nearly everyone had a stamp collection with collectors numbering in the millions. This was from an innate philatelic drive (more about that in another post) and from the experiences of Weimar period inflation and WW II period devastation when stamps held their value in real terms in the first and could be bartered for food in the second. Nothing spurs a hobby more than the fact that it can help you and your family in real life.

Currently, the business of German speaking stamp dealers probably equals all the rest of the world combined. The ten major stamp auctions in Switzerland and Germany (and yes there are ten major stamp auctioneers) account for over $300 million in stamp business, whereas the ten major US auctioneers ( and we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to get more than five ) do considerably less than $100 million. And it is a good thing that there are so many German collectors. With the US and its Possession pushing perhaps ten thousand collectible varieties, the Michel German specialized catalog list over 1/2 million numbers. This is because there are so many more issuing entities in the German area and because the Germans have taken specialization to an almost pathological level, even measuring paper thickness. So as the stamp market has gotten weaker worldwide during the Great Recession, the fall off in prices of German material has fallen off even more than most other areas. As market conditions improve, German stamps should get better too, but they have a long way to go.

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