It is almost ancient history now, but the issuance of the 1989 Scott catalog almost caused the demise of stamp collecting. New editors of Scott felt that the traditional discount structure of our hobby needed to be changed, though this system had served the hobby well for decades. Then as now stamps sold at discounts from Scott value. High quality stamps from popular countries would sell at high percentages but off quality stamps, collections and unpopular material then (as now) would sell at substantial discounts. The Scott editors felt that the Scott catalog should be a true retail catalog and they slashed the catalog values between the 1988 and 1989 Scott, sometimes as much as 75%.
Everyone except the editors of Scott had been comfortable with the previous pricing structure and knew how to buy and sell
Among the most interesting specializations in our hobby are the stamps of Canada and especially the issue of 1880-1890 that are called the "Large Queens". The name that philatelists have given this set refers to their physical relationship to the set of stamps that came after them. These stamps are large-the next issues was much smaller. Large Queens have several interesting philatelic points going for them, primarily
The first stamp issued in the world portrayed the ruling monarch of the issuing country (Great Britain Penny black). After that it became protocol to use the portrait of the ruler of a country on postage stamps or in the case of the United Sates to use a deceased president or statesman. Some countries without a strong national ruler might use a national symbol as in the case of the first issues of Canada which show a beaver. Many European countries, such as Russia and many of the German States showed the Coat of Arms of the ruling family. But France began what what was to be a tradition on most of her nineteenth century stamps by using a allegorical image, which on the first stamps was the goddess
We are so used to enormous technological change impacting our lives that we have become quite casual about it. But major technological change was more unusual a century ago, and no technology ever seemed as liberating as the first manned flight. Soaring like the birds has been the aspiration since Icarus, and the Wright's feat was hugely important. Early on, philately cashed in on the popular
Revenue from the sale of stamps fund many worthwhile projects. Early in the twentieth century, the first philatelic exposition souvenir sheets were issued to help pay for some of the world's first stamp shows. Most European countries today issue semi-postals
There are several factors to take into account when evaluating the challenge of collecting any given country. First, how difficult is the country to complete using the major catalog for that country? Second, how pricey is the material from that country?
Much of the history of stamp collecting is really the history of stamp collecting in the German speaking part of Europe. Deutschophones collect stamps at a far greater rate than any other cultural unit. At one time in Germany, nearly everyone had a stamp collection with collectors numbering in the millions. This was from an innate philatelic drive (more about that in another post) and from the experiences of Weimar period inflation and WWII period devastation when stamps held their value in real terms in the first and could be bartered for food in the second. Nothing spurs a hobby more than the fact that it can help you and your family in real life.
Currently, the business of German speaking stamp dealers probably equals all the rest of the world combined. The ten major stamp auctions in Switzerland and Germany (and yes, there are ten major stamp auctioneers)
The unimaginable has begun to happen. After growing at rates approaching 100% per year the last few years, the market for better People's Republic of China stamps has cooled, and prices are down as much as 30% in the last few months. There are several reasons for this. First, the Chinese economy has definitely slowed this year with growth rates half of what they were in years past. In part, this is because the Chinese economy is being impacted by the worldwide recession which the Chinese have been fortunate enough to avoid up until now. Second, the Chinese property and stock markets have fallen back, and much Chinese money that was coming into stamps was speculative money
Considering their rarity and value, Stradivarius violins seem to be the most carelessly handled items in the world. There are about 600 of them, and in the last three years, one was left in a cab and two on trains (the latest story of lost and found is here). The stories follow a pattern