Size Matters

There are four tiny European states that maintained independence into modern times, more as an historic quirk than for any other reason. As Europe progressed through the centuries, hundreds of principalities and smaller sovereign units that had existed were merged into the German, Austro-Hungarian and Italian Empires at the end of the Nineteenth Century. This consolidation produced the geopolitical borders that we have today. Four tiny countries didn’t join (or weren’t forced to join) larger units, mostly because their isolation made them not worth the trouble. Now, they continue to exist mostly because they allow banking, tax, and sin advantages (e.g. gambling) that make them useful to the populations of the economic and military giants that surround them and which historically would have incorporated them. These four countries, which have made it into the twenty-first century, are Andorra (181 square miles, population 181,000), Liechtenstein (62 square miles, population 35,000), San Marino (24 square miles, population 30,000), and Monaco (a tiny 3/4 square miles and population 36,000).

These countries are well known to stamp collectors as their stamps are very popular among collectors. Philatelic popularity rests on only two factors. First, home country collecting strength is the most important. Probably over 90% of the collectors in any given national market collect only their own country. A large philatelic population is what makes the stamps of the United States and Germany so actively traded. But the second factor is more ethereal and relates to charm, quaintness and exoticness. It is why places like Tahiti or St. Pierre and Miquelon are popular, and it is also the reason why these four tiny European nations are popular. It also helps a country in the philatelic charm department if it is a desired and aspired to vacation destination, and these countries are winners on this score as well. This gang of four has always had great collector loyalty which has been further facilitated by collectors in the adjacent countries collecting their stamps in great number and by attractively designed and produced stamps.
There is another country that has the size factor going for it as well, though it is on the large rather than small size. It is exotic and charming, has attractively designed stamps, and is on the short list of most peoples must see vacation list. And it has the world’s largest and most avid stamp collecting population. It is for these reasons that the People’s Republic of China will continue to have some of the largest and fastest stamp price increases in all of philately.
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