The Best Financial Stamp Collecting Bet for the Future

There are many reasons why philatelists pick the specialty that they do. Many collectors have an ethnic or nationalistic aspect to their collections. You see many Americans collect United States stamps and many Germans collecting Germany and this holds especially true for ex patriots who tend to collect their home country in greater proportion to retain a sense of identity. Many people choose their specialty for financial reasons. All of our stamp budgets are limited and many collectors choose what they specialize in so as to get the most bang for their philatelic buck. Collectors of Latin America can get the pleasure of the chase and the pride of owning many very rare items at a very small percentage of what stamps of comparable rarity would sell for if they were issues of major counties. Collectors who like the joys of completion often choose smaller colonial areas to collect where only a few hundred stamps and a equivalent number of dollars are needed to complete the country. And many collectors choose thematic or topical stamps. Topicals can be as simple or complex a niche of our hobby as the collector desires. Collections of “shells on stamps” are simple. Collections of  say “the evolution of postal service” are much more complex, encompassing postal history and even technological change in stamp printing itself, as well as stamps illustrating different classes and different types of service.
The history of the last one hundred years in our hobby has been one of steadily increasing stamp prices. But prices never rise equally. The stamps of Russia and China were much cheaper fifty years ago relative to the broad basket of philatelically traded items than they are today. It is hard to pick the next China. India and States might be a good bet, though prices for this material has already increased. I think that Indonesia and Bangladesh might well do well too. But all of these “next China” prognostications rely on the idea that a rising home market due to great internal economic growth will drive up the popularity and price of these stamps.This is true, but it is a more limited strategy than one that emphasizes collecting an area that has broad international interest and which has continued to rise in popularity throughout philatelic history, and which has a proven history of rapid price rises in times of economic chaos.
Traditional European philately has declined in popularity relative to other areas in the last thirty years. There are many reasons for this including currency issues and economic competitiveness. But the main reason is that for the first hundred years of our hobby, European collectors dominated philately. Europe was where stamp collecting started and by far the majority of collectors were European. Stamp collecting is much more world wide now and that has caused the relative decline in importance of  the collecting of Western European stamps. The other traditionally popular area of philatelic, British Empire stamps, have continued to be popular and have increased greatly in collector esteem in the last twenty years.
British Commonwealth collecting to 1953 (the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II ) has always been one of the most popular specialties and if I were making my guess for the area that will perform best over the next fifty years this would be it. British Commonwealth obviously resonates with the collectors of Great Britain, but it has the advantage of being the second most important collecting area in just about every philatelic market. Americans are avid collectors of British Empire issues, as are Europeans and Third World collectors. British Empire stamps don’t rise and fall in price with currency fluctuations. When the value of the Euro goes down, British Empire stamps are sold more to the Pound and Dollar zones. Countries where currency controls exist, such as China and Russia, are big British Empire buyers as such stamps provide hard currency liquidity and are easily movable. And most importantly, from a philatelic point of view, the stamps are beautiful, well designed and for the most part well priced. If you are considering a new collection or are just entering (or reentering) the hobby, the stamps of the British Empire to 1953 are a wonderful area to collect.

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