Friday, May 20, 2016

Canada's New Star Trek Stamps - A Good Investment?

One topic that comes up in the minds of people who know about stamp collecting centres around what stamps are ultimately worth on the resale market. This is yet another benefit to being a stamp collector: while enjoying your hobby, you can build a property of significant resale value. However, it is by no means guaranteed that this will happen.

How do you as a collector decide what to buy in order to make a gain later when the time comes to sell? Well you have to buy a stamp item that has a scarcity factor and then you have to be lucky enough to see the demand for that stamp go up.

For a long time, the new issues released by post offices around the world since about 1960 have not been considered as a good investment. Why? Well the main reason is that the printing quantities of most issues up to the 1990's was in the tens or hundreds of millions, and sometimes even more, for very large countries like the US. These quantities were more than enough to meet collector demand many times over. Indeed, the conventional wisdom even well into the 1990's was that if you were collecting material issued after World War II, you should only consider it a hobby and not an investment.

However, one interesting thing began to happen around that time. The postal administrations have drastically cut issue quantities for everything that isn't the regular definitive issue. Instead of tens or hundreds of millions, it is not uncommon to see issues where the quantity released is less than a million, and sometimes less than 100,000. Comparatively speaking these are minuscule quantities. So many of the new issues, especially those in the last 10 years do have a scarcity factor. The question is, will demand ever pick up to the point that the issues become scarce to rare?

My own feeling is that it will, for the issues that speak to the younger generation. The new stamps celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Star Trek Series are an example of an issue that I can see having a lot of appeal among younger people. Below is an image of a stamp booklet that Canada Post has issued this month:

Star Trek Stamps Canada Post 50th Anniversary Postage Stamps x 10 Booklet

Stamps that depict popular culture are where its at for the younger generation I think, and thankfully, the postal administrations are beginning to realize this. They are resisting the many protests of the older collectors who generally loathe these types of issues and are finally issuing stamps that younger people potentially would actually be interested in collecting.

However, they are not doing it in very large quantities.A quick check of Canada Post's website reveals that they have only issued some 300,000 of the above booklet and something like 170,000 of the souvenir sheets of two stamps and another 300,000 of the lenticular souvenir sheets. Lenticular stamps are those whose design changes as the stamps are tilted back and forth in the light - a really cool new innovation. Well actually, not so new, as Bhutan was issuing lenticular stamps in the 1960's, but certainly new for a major western country like Canada.

It is hard to say whether these will ever be valuable. On the one hand, I can see with the immense popularity of this series, that many of these items will be bought up and saved, which means that they will be popular but not rare. On the other hand, Canada Post has, in my opinion gone overboard and issued something like 20 different variations of collectible. As a stamp dealer, this hit me when I went to go place an order for stock. I wanted 5 of everything and only 1 of the uncut press sheets. The bill came to almost $900 and I abandoned the purchase. I suspect that most people will want one of everything, but will find that they can't afford everything. In that case, people will choose that which is most cool to them and ignore the less cool items. It is those less cool, or harder to find items that I think you should buy because I think people will overlook them. In this regard, my picks are:

  • The Lenticular poster, as there are only 3,500 issued. Yes it is bulky and will not fit in a standard album, but because it costs a whopping $140, I don't think many will sell and they will become quite rare. 
  • The sealed pane of 5 stamps. This has already sold out at Canada Post because only 75,000 were issued. I think they have been bought up by dealers and collectors, but because of the very low issue quantity and the number of Canadian stamp collectors around the world, this one is going to go up in value for sure. 
  • The coil stamps. These are the closest thing to regular stamps, so I don't think people are going to bother with them. My understanding is that there are only 50,000 rolls of 50 being issued, which is nothing for a coil stamp issue. Since the only people that usually buy coils are people who mail a lot of letters, coils usually get used up fast, making mint ones scarcer. Usually for most definitive issues, the quantities are so large that most coils never become rare, but in this case, the quantity - 2.5 million stamps all told is about 1-2% of the normal issue quantity for a coil stamp. So the chances of this becoming a better item are pretty good. 
The other items I would buy just to have for the hobby aspect, but I wouldn't get your hopes up of seeing any major appreciation in value. Let's see what happens. 

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