Once considered a hobby to be displayed at drinks parties, stamp collecting has morphed into a sound investment strategy that provides investors with a generally appreciating asset. Because of the volatile equities market and the run on precious metals, more people than ever participate in the stamp, or philatelic, market. Unlike equities and precious metals, stamp investment is a difficult market to measure. However, most of the leading philatelists agree that the market is estimated to be in the billions of pounds. The reason for the uncertainty is the stamp market is not driven by an organised, formal marketplace. Stamp transaction, especially for rare British stamps, takes place informally by mail order or over the Internet.
While the Internet provides an abundance of rare British stamp sellers, the most popular online venue for consummating rare British stamp transactions is on eBay. Buyers who have done their stamp research can find sellers who offer authenticated rare British stamps from the Victorian, Edward VII, or George VI eras. Buyers who are interested in purchasing rare British stamps should first receive an overview of the stamps before learning about the benefits of owning and how to value rare British stamps.
Rare British Stamp Overview
When collectors and investors discuss rare British stamps, they typically begin their conversations by referencing the Victorian Era. Not many stamps from the Victorian Era have retained mint condition status, but that has not dampened the value of most stamps originating from the era. In fact, investors can find rare British stamps on eBay. Some of the rare stamps sold on eBay are what stamp collectors and investors refer to as error stamps. The printing process of old error stamps included cutting the stamps with scissors. The lack of automation led to cutting errors that negatively affected rare stamp centring. Moreover, many error stamps possess printing errors that have increased the stamp's value.
Beginning with the Victorian Era, stamp collectors and investors should consider the first stamp issued anywhere in the world, the One Black Penny stamp. Issued in 1840, the stamp features the bust of Queen Victoria, and buyers can find numerous sellers of this rare British stamp on eBay. The Mauritius stamps of 1847 presented the words "Post Office" instead of the commonly printed "Postpaid". The British government initially issued the Mauritius stamps as one penny and two penny definitive stamps. Historians claim the error was made by a jittery stamp designer. While not issued in Great Britain, the British Guiana 1-cent Magenta stamp is in high demand within Great Britain. As purported to be the world's rarest and most valuable stamp, counterfeits have surfaced in the rare stamp market since the stamp's inception.
Benefits of Buying Rare British Stamps
Rare stamp investments, especially investments in rare British stamps, have steadily increased since the worldwide financial meltdown that occurred in 2008. Equity markets from London to Hong Kong to New York have not provided investors with the type of profits that investors realised before the meltdown. Consequently, investors have turned to tangible asset investments, such as gold, silver, and rare stamps. Rare British stamps purchased on eBay may seem to be a peculiar way to enhance personal wealth, but the stamps offer investors numerous benefits that include a consistent increase in valuation.
As opposed to security investments, rare British stamps are not directly related to other investment forms, which diversifies an investor's portfolio. Unlike gold and silver, rare stamps, if stored properly, can be easily transported within a country or across national borders. The growing number of rare stamp collectors, due in part to the aging population, has increased the demand for rare stamps. Combined with a finite supply of rare British stamps, increased demand should cause rare British stamp prices to soar over the next 20 years. Another benefit of investing in rare British stamps through eBay is that investors do not have to publicly register their rare British stamp investments, as they must do for equity investments. Finally, as an appreciable tangible asset, rare British stamps cannot go out of business as many companies have since 2008.
How to Determine the Value of Rare British Stamps
The most important facet of buying a rare British stamp on eBay is to understand how to assess rare British stamp value. While there may be some disagreement on the finer points of rare British stamp valuation, virtually every collector and investor analyses the same stamp valuation indicators.
The first step in attaining rare British stamp value on eBay is to research the stamp in a stamp catalogue. The best research tool is called the Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue. Rare British stamp philatelists can find rare British stamp photographs and prices, which the Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue sorts by issue date. Before buying a rare British stamp online at eBay, you can also refer to stamp guides.
After identifying a rare British stamp, the next step, and the first step towards calculating the stamp's value, involves determining the centring. This important grade measurement determines how balanced the stamp's design is in relation to other parts of the stamp, such as the print margins and perforations. Philatelists have not established a standard for centring measurements, and thus, most stamp investors eyeball to determine a stamp's centring. While the process is subjective, philatelists garner more accurate results by turning the stamp over and focusing on the stamp's design.
Despite the best intentions of rare British stamp collectors, many of the rare British stamps they preserve degrade because of storage problems. Moisture and exposure to air can fade colours and designs, while improper placement inside of an album can lead to tears and indentations. Philatelists utilise a condition grading system that encompasses extremely fine, very fine, fine, good, average, fair, and below average stamps. Rare British stamp value decreases whenever a stamp experiences missing perforation teeth, creases on the stamp, and discoloured designs. Stamp investors should be able to recognise any rare British stamp imperfections by looking at eBay seller product photographs.
Every stamp sold on eBay has some type of adhesive for securing the stamp to a flat surface, most likely an envelope or postcard. The adhesive is most commonly referred to as stamp gum, which stamp producers apply to the back of stamps. Even rare British stamps that date back more than 100 years must have the original and fully intact gum to be considered mint condition. The back of a stamp does not possess gum skips or heavy gum creases. Stamp collectors pay a premium for stamps that have mint condition gum. Any unused rare British stamps that affix to a stamp album from the use of a hinge lose value. Philatelists classify stamp gum as used, unused, and never hinged.
Stamp collectors can discern used stamps by searching for the cancellation mark. Cancelled stamps can be lightly, moderately, or heavily cancelled. With lightly cancelled stamps, stamp collectors should see the main design. Heavily cancelled stamp designs are barely visible to the naked eye. The more a stamp appears cancelled, the less value it holds.
Stamp rarity is one of the terms abused by aspiring stamp collectors and investors. Simply put, stamp rarity is a direct function of market visibility, or the amount of the stamp's supply. For instance, the Victorian Era One Black Penny stamp receives the rare designation because very few of the stamps remain for sale in the open market. The law of supply and demand dictates that rare British stamps sit on the expensive end of the stamp cost spectrum.
How to Buy Rare British Stamps on eBay
Stamp transactions are so popular on eBay that the online marketplace devotes an entire category to stamps. However, you want to specify which type of rare British stamp you want to purchase, and you accomplish that by specifying the keywords you type into eBay's comprehensive search engine. You can specify by era with a "George V" search engine submission, or you can enter another parameter, such as "line-engraved Victorian Era British stamps". Your rare British stamp search on eBay is only limited by the search criteria that you input into the search engine. Once you find the right rare British stamp seller, the time has come to scrutinise the seller's product page.
The most important element of the seller's product page is the first thing you see after accessing the seller's page. You can review an enlarged photograph of the rare British stamp and ascertain the identity, condition, cancellation, and centring of the stamp. The game changer may transpire when you come across a rare British stamp seller who also presents a photograph of the back side of the stamp and describes the gum condition. This should demonstrate the acumen of the rare British stamp seller. Other information to review on a seller's product page include: stamp origin, how the stamp was preserved, and accepted methods of payment.
As rare British stamps prove, stamp values can accumulate over the years to provide collectors with a substantial portfolio of tangible assets. Collecting and preserving stamps as a hobby has changed into a vibrant market where stamps are sold in estimated amounts that exceed five billion pounds. The primary reason why stamps have become an investment has more to do with the tumult in equities and commodities markets, yet supply and demand plays a significant role in determining rare British stamp values.
The definition of a rare stamp is often in the eye of the beholder, but the underlying definition states any rare stamp that is in low supply. For rare British stamps, it can mean a variety of stamps that originated during one of the ruling eras. Of the ruling eras, Queen Victoria stamps, especially the Old Black and Red Penny stamp, represent the rarest of all British stamps. To ascertain the value of a rare British stamp, a buyer must first identify the stamp, and then judge the centring, condition, gum, and cancellation of the stamp. Then, the buyer must decide how rare a stamp is before proffering an offer to the rare British stamp seller.