THE PHILATELIC MARKET TODAY.
According to an analysis from London-based Seymour Pierce, Stanley Gibbons of London estimates the worldwide annual stamps sales volume at USD $10 billion which is echoed by the World Association for the Developpment of Philately. That includes all retail store sales, as well as proceeds from online and public auctions. The American stamp industry is pegged at $1.18 billion according to a 2007 Linn’s Stamp News survey. In a 2007 interview, Mike Hall of Stanley Gibbons estimated that “in the $10 billion-a-year stamp market trade annually, about $1 billion are rare stamps.”
The number of collectors worldwide was estimated at 30 million in 2004. In 2009, Adrian Rose of Stanley Gibbons estimated the figure at 48 million including 18 million in China.
The value of collectible stamps of all classes has proved remarkably resilient to fluctuations in the broader economy over the years. The SG 100 index is a broader basket of collectable stamps, and is verified by Bloomberg each year. It has risen 245 per cent over the 10 years in which it has been in existence. The success of stamps at holding their value reflects in part why collectibles, art and wine included, tend to react to the broader market more slowly than other assets. Collectors by their very nature tend to be passionate to the point of obsession about the things they collect, whether they be rare stamps, coin, fine art or vintage wine. While an investor will fall out of love with a share very quickly if it falls in value, a collector’s desire to own the things he treasures remains undimmed regardless of how little money he has.
The growth of the Internet in recent years has meant that collectors and dealers no longer have to depend on stamp shops, auctions or local associations to buy or learn about stamps. Blogs offer hobbyists news and information about stamps, while sites like eBay and dealers’ personal websites give collectors access to thousands of stamps from vendors around the world. Internet has driven changes in the market: some items that were never offered for sale by dealers or auctioneers are now available on line and this expanded offering made for a growing demand for all those things that you were unable to sell before. I remember having had for many years in my inventory at Stamp Shows, Griqualand Revenues that interested nobody. Years later, when I proposed a few of them for sale through eBay, I saw many bids on them and achieved their sale with very high closing prices that were much more than what I could imagine.
The shift in the stamp market from actual shops to the Internet has leveled out some prices. Demand for high-end material escalated. The demand for collections of stamps has never been higher due to the liquidity brought about by eBay and the new Internet dealers that need products to sell. The North American market is clearly slowing, but the international stamp market is growing very fast, as countries with growing middle classes, such as China, jump into the fray.
The Asian marketplace is a great example of the strength of younger generations collecting and investing in stamps. The Hong Kong and PRC Philatelic Exhibitions often draw 300,000 to 500,000 enthusiasts over a 5 to 10 day show. “The last couple of years we have adjusted many of the values for China upward rather substantially,” said Charles Snee, editor of the Scott catalogs, which publish market rates for stamps around the world.