Venezuela Stamps

What Can Be Done: If you wanted to see two different models for how countries handle great natural resource wealth, look at Norway and Venezuela. The Norwegians have taken their great North Sea oil wealth and created a modern welfare state with high levels of employment, benefits, and citizen satisfaction. Venezuela has the same resources, and it has led to corruption, poverty, and political discord.

The philately of Venezuela is very difficult. The nineteenth century stamps were printed by lithography and typography, two of the easiest printing methods to duplicate, and thus forgeries are very common. Many of the early issues are counterfeited. Many of the early issues have nearly unreadable overprints, which according to the catalogs makes them different numbers. The late nineteenth century is also dense and difficult. And (this obviously being a personal opinion) the stamps are poorly designed, crudely printed, and in drab colors. Twentieth century Venezuela improves a bit, and by 1920 the country was producing attractive stamps. There is a long series of stamps from the 1950s (the airmails and regular issues comprise several hundred stamps). Basically, this is a set of six or seven more or less identical stamps the varieties of which have a different Venezuelan state emblem in the corner. This does not make for good collecting. Venezuela has some interesting local issues relating to its border with Guyana and steam ship stamps to St. Thomas, but again these have been extensively forged.

Specialty Catalogs: Scott is very confusing for Venezuela, especially in the nineteenth century.  What’s odd is that most countries and specialized philatelic areas have had a dedicated group of philatelists who have written about their stamps and promoted them. It is this group of specialists from various areas who have helped the catalog publishers refine their listings over the last century. I can’t think of a specialized philatelic area of the size and importance of Venezuela that has had fewer scholarly philatelic articles written about it. The catalog listings haven’t changed in decades, and the elimination of catalog confusion which is always a goal of the Scott editors has never occurred with the stamps of Venezuela.

Specialty Albums: The Scott specialty series is good for Venezuela as it is for all of Latin America. Davo makes a nice album, though Davo has a policy of making their album cost per volume fairly affordable but then making each volume rather small so that numerous volumes are need for the stamps of each country.

Expense: Oddly and counter intuitively, despite being one of the least popular collecting areas in the world, Venezuelan philately is quite pricey. Perhaps it’s because there are so many stamps and because so many of the early stamps are very scarce, especially if they are genuine. Until oil was discovered about 1910, Venezuela was a very underdeveloped, agricultural commodity country, producing coffee and cocoa. The population was small. This made the internal demand for postage stamps small, and many of the earlier Venezuelan issues are quite scarce.

Availability of Material: Modern Venezuelan stamps are plentiful. Classics are very hard to find. Be careful to avoid forgeries. One of the factors that lessens the appeal of collecting Venezuela is not only the number of forgeries but the number of relatively modestly priced stamps that have been forged. In most collecting areas, you are pretty safe buying stamps under $100 (for two reasons—first, the supply of forgeries from the “Golden Age of Forgeries”—roughly 1880-1920, when forgers like Fournier flourished, have mainly been culled from the market. And second, forging stamps takes time and is expensive, and modern forgers don’t bother much with cheap stamps). But in Venezuelan philately, even cheap stamps present a forgery problem.

Overall collecting Grade: C-

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