As world trade has narrowed the income gap between the industrial and third world countries it stands to reason that the stamps of some of these countries may also reflect this change. After all, these are some of the most populous countries in the world so it would not take too many collectors to cause significant price rises. Japan was one of the earliest to develop economically followed by South Korea and Taiwan, but it was the rise of China which was the most closely followed by the stamp market as prices rose in spectacular fashion. Without going too far back in time, lets take a look at what is hot today.
The accompanying table shows the price movement of investment caliber stamps, i.e. those priced above $25 and issued up to 1950 by my definition. They represent the money stamps both in terms of market dollar volume and where dealers make the most money. The lack of price movements may reflect either a lack of interest or a failure to update by Scott, which maybe a blessing in disguise for dealers given the overall market.
Afghanistan – Only a handful of price changes were registered but it has a surprisingly large number of high priced items. It’s a hard country to collect due to the crude local printing in only the local language.
Burma – Here too we see few price changes other than in the WWII occupation issues.
Ceylon – This former British colony has a large number of trophy stamps (defined here as cataloging over $1,000) which were left out since they distorted the results. They totaled 57 mint stamps cataloging $441,525 and appreciated 7.6% and 21 used stamps cataloging $73,250 and appreciated 4.8%.
China Old – While we are used to seeing significant rises here over the last decade, the performance for the non-trophy shown had a surprising zero appreciation for mint and only 2.8% for used stamps. The trophy like items did continue to rise, albeit at a slower rate with 158 mint stamps which catalog for $4,493,620 appreciating 6.6% and 96 mint stamps cataloging $1,732,965 appreciating a healthy 23.6%. Expect to see continued price rises here with healthier increases in the stamps below $1,000. The need for an underground currency in China has been made obvious by the recent bribery prosecutions of politicians and businessmen. Prosecutions made possible by a banking system which is transparent to the government, so other means such as stamps will be used to conduct business as usual.
China PRC – Since my cutoff year for stamps is 1950, few PRC issues are included. Scott reports significant price declines here which may reflect currency movements rather than price swings. Stamps represent a vibrant and fast moving industry in China so one needs to look at what is happening there to get a fuller picture of market prices. A most active player here is Interasia Auctions which has regular sales in Hong Kong. Their auction results are the best guide for serious buyers.
China Taiwan – There are almost no price changes for Taiwan. As with the PRC look to the Interasia Auctions though few investment caliber stamps are at issue due to the 1950 cutoff date.
Hong Kong – The price change here are the result of a significant number of individual price changes, but in both directions, for mint stamps resulting in a net 0.6% rise. Used stamps saw very few increases but numerous decreases resulting in a net -6.3% decline. I do note that the Stanley Gibbons catalogs for the last 5 years show few changes as well, but to the upside. Neither Scott nor Gibbons appear to have revisited the extensive treaty port stamps. The Gibbons prices are generally 25% higher than Scott.
Japan - There were numerous price changes for Japan which favored mint over used stamps. What is unusual here is that the average mint stamp was $628 versus $46 for the average used. This is an extraordinarily low average value for used stamps both generally as well as relative to the average mint stamp, a ratio of 13.6 times. By way of comparison, the average ratio for the entire market is 1.3 times. I would expect that in the coming years, classic used Japanese stamps will be more positive performers provided they can overcome the negative population demographics of the country.
South Korea – Price increases of 8.2% for mint and 14.6% for used were rates of growth well above the average for the market as a whole. That 5 year growth for some 75,000 items was 3.5% for mint and 3.8% for used stamps.
Nepal – The stellar performer for the region was Nepal with spectacular growth of 60% for mint and 79.1% for used stamps, practically every stamp issued up to 1950 showed an increase. It is likely that Indian and Chinese collectors are the reason for this rise.
Philippines – Only a handful of price changes were shown by Scott Catalogue. What is interesting is the large number and high value of investment quality stamps for this country. That may be due to its roots to Spain as well as to the United States and its geographic proximity.
Thailand – The stamps of Thailand took a major jump two years ago in an across the board manner. Two thirds of the 205 mint items showed sizeable increases. Thailand is fairly prosperous and its stamps may just be benefiting from the increased prosperity in the SE Asia region along with India.
As we can see, China is not the only good luck stamp story in Asia, just the largest. And while it has some $6 million in cumulative high value items, it still has a long way to go to overtake the $16 million in catalog value for the aggregate of USA items. However, in this case we wish them success.
|ASIAN STAMP 5 YEAR PERFORMANCE|
|COUNTRY||# MINT||$ VALUE MINT||APPREC.%||# USED||$ VALUE USED||APPREC. %|
|* Excludes stamps valued over $1,000.|