Nicaragua Stamps

What Can Be Done: Philatelic interest is often inversely proportional to political and economic development. The reason is that poorer countries often cut corners in stamp production, reusing older issues by overprinting them. And it means that few native collectors put away any stocks of better stamps. There are few countries that have had worse politics and a poorer economy over a longer period of time than Nicaragua. In the late nineteenth century, Nicaragua (and a few other Central American countries) were approached by the printer/stamp dealer Nicholas Seebeck. Seebeck’s proposal was simple—he would produce Nicaragua’s stamps for free for the right to keep the plates and sell reprints (often indistinguishable from originals) to collectors. For many decades, the stink of this arrangement affected Central American philately and Nicaragua in particular. But time has been good to the memory of Seebeck. The philatelic journals of the 1920s and 1930s constantly excoriated Nicaraguan stamps and made collecting unpopular. In our time, many countries use philatelic agencies to plan their new issues. These arrangements are no different than what Seebeck did—produce stamps for a country with the printer keeping most of the profits.

Nicaragua is not too difficult to collect and complete by major Scott numbers. But it is the numerous varieties that give the country interest—there are hundreds if not thousands of them. Many of these varieties catalog for just a few dollars and yet are missing from even the best Nicaragua collections. The country presents a real challenge.

Specialty Catalogs: The Scott catalog and the Scott Classic catalog are very good for Nicaragua. There is some sense among Nicaraguan specialists that the catalog lists some varieties that have been reported but have never been seen by anyone currently collecting the country. It may be time for a good re-edit of the catalog. For the very specialized airmail issues, Scott is good. But a Sanabria specialized airmail catalog (long out of print and available from the American Philatelic Research Library) will make Nicaraguan airmail collecting even more fun.

Specialty Albums: The Scott specialty series for Nicaragua is very good. But since most specialists in Nicaraguan stamps emphasize the varieties, what many collectors do is use the preprinted Scott album and then add pages for the varieties. It’s a nice look to see a complete page of the album followed by a page or two of the varieties of the previous stamps.

Availability of Material: This is the reason that serious collectors like Nicaragua—the major Scott listed stamps are fairly easy to find. But finding the varieties (and again, most of them catalog for only a few bucks each) can be daunting.  Stamp collectors fall into two main groups. Those who like their material to be readily available, with cost being the only constraint to a great collection, gravitate to the stamps of the United States or Canada. Collectors who like their hobby more of  a treasure hunt find countries like Nicaragua to collect.

Expense: One of the best aspects of collecting Nicaragua is the disconnect between rarity and cost. Imagine owning something that there are fewer than a dozen of, for only a few dollars. Because the Seebeck situation caused Nicaraguan philately to be in such disrepute for so many years, there are few fine collections of the country.

Overall Grade: A

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