Those interested in stamps with investment and appreciation potential should look at India. Economic factors play a big role in the outlook for this nation. It has a population size next to China’s with projections that it will overtake China by about 2050. It has a democratic form of government making it attractive to investors. And it has a rising middle class, who form the heart of any collector community. Its progress has not evolved as quickly as China’s principally because it spent much of the 1980s allying itself with Russia and thinking this was a viable model for governance, a model which stalled their economy for a decade. Now they are seen as the counter weight to China in an area where fear of Chinese dominance. Its stamps have not exploded in price as much as in China, but this is more a matter of timing than probability as I will soon clarify.
Indian stamps have shown mixed performance to date for a variety of reasons. The British Empire issues of India proper have had a significant rise in the last 5 years with appreciation of over 38% for both mint and used. Note that my analysis deals with stamps cataloging $25 or more and issued up to 1950. As I pointed out in a previous article, stamps are a bifurcated market where investor interest is focused on such higher priced stamps; which is why they consistently outperform the market as a whole.
When analyzing the performance of the convention and feudatory states, the picture becomes much more complicated. These stamps exist in smaller quantities and have already had a much higher appreciation rate, and for more stamps, than those of India proper. So, does this mean they will not rise as rapidly? The answer is a definite no but requires some explanation. First of all, the Scott catalogue has not revised the pricing for the Indian states in at least the last 5 years. The Stanley Gibbons catalog, which shows substantially higher prices is a better guide given recent auction results which equaled even those prices. Hence, serious collectors will need to see actual market prices of recent transactions to get a feel for the correct valuation. Indian states have already experienced significant appreciation, rising an average of 378% over the last 25 years, even with the lag in price updates by Scott. Since India’s empire issues appreciated an average of 718% in this same time period, I think this is a good indicator of the future pricing for Indian states.
Since most dealers benchmark their pricing off Scott, look at their pricing as an opportunity to buy these stamps at a significant discount from future pricing. One caveat about the state issues, only buy the higher priced items certified. A certificate will only enhance a stamps value and avoid a costly mistake in a difficult area. There are many stamps with reprints, errors, color varieties and dubious provenance. Another complication is that many stamps were issued without gum and are imperforated and not well centered. While these impair pricing for most countries, they are of little consequence here since they are the rule rather than the exception.
We are likely to see explosive price appreciation for India and Indian States stamps in the coming decade for three additional reasons according to Sandeep Jaiswal of Stamps Inc, an Indian stamp specialist. Inheritance taxes in India provide an exemption for family heirlooms, something which stamps can easily provide. Also, stamps are subject to an antiquities law that bans the export of stamps over 100 years old. This thus includes most Indian states stamps. Sandeep also points out that Indians have an instinctual desire to collect things, something we stamp collectors can relate to.
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