why are the 1967 EFTA Presentation Packs so popular?

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I must admit I am not an experienced stamps collector and I only have very limited knowledge on stamps, especially the British stamps, but because of that, it always gives me an encouragement to seek for professional advice and to find out what I am unsure, and what I don't understand about stamps.

There are two types of stamps collectors – one collects stamps for hobby, and another one collects stamps for living/investment. 

I collect stamps as a hobby. I have been collecting British stamps since the late 1990s. I did wonder if my stamps collection could give me a small fortune one day in the future, but I never dream of my collection making me a millionaire or close to a millionaire. 

I met a Brighton-based stamps dealer in August this year. He gave me a different view of collecting stamps. He told me, instead of spending lots and lots of money on collecting every single stamps, I should focus on some specific stamps which contain high value of investment. He started his lecture with the 1964 Forte Road Bridge presentation pack. It has a value of £400 currently. He wouldn't recommend me to buy one due to the extremely high cost, but he suggested me to buy some recent ones which are more affordable and have a good investment value in the future. I took his advice and when I got back home, I started treasure hunting on eBay.

Without a doubt, I could find plenty of these 'potential' stamps for sale on eBay, some were listed very low price but some were ridiculously shockingly expensive. I don't quite understand why some sellers would list these stamps so expensive, I simply cannot see anyone would go and buy them. 

While I was happily building up my 'stocks' here, I started to do a research for any unusual hidden gems that I could include in my treasure box. I have been monitoring eBay and other auction websites last 6 weeks, I noticed a presentation pack issued in 1967 about EFTA (European Free Trade Association) has become very popular. This presentation pack only contains two stamps - face value at 9d and 1/6d. Judging the look of this pack, there is nothing special at all. To make sure I was not missing anything, I checked on the latest copy of Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue, and it does say on page 81 that this presentation pack is valued £3.50 only. 

I still wasn't sure I have got the right information, so I decided to browse on the internet to try to learn and understand about this EFTA presentation pack. I came across a well-known British stamps website saying the high demand of this specific pack coming from China and far eastern buyers. The website also mentioned that the EFTA packs were produced around four times more than the Forth Road Bridge pack, as a result the EFTA pack has become a very collectable item.

After reading this piece of information, I started to think, perhaps I should get myself at least one EFTA pack. I searched everywhere on the internet, every shop that sells this EFTA pack asks for a minimum of £30 for it. I then had a terrible thought that I didn't want to spend £30 on this presentation pack now, and later I discovered this was really worth £3.50, just like what the Stanley Gibbons catalogue shows. I searched further on the internet about this EFTA pack and found a dealer based in Coventry has also asked why this EFTA pack was so popular on a forum. So I thought I could write to this dealer for his comments. Basically the dealer replied to me to say he hasn't figured out what made this EFTA pack so special, but he reckoned it was a rumor about this EFTA pack being rare.

I agreed with the Coventry dealer that there was nothing special about the EFTA pack, and if there was, why would Stanley Gibbons mark the pack worth £3.50 only? If this pack is really that rare, why has it never been at a high value until now? What has happened to it in the last 45 years? I made up my mind not to add the EFTA pack into my collection, and it was a month ago.

On Friday (5 Oct 2012) last week, while I was leaving a feedback to one of my sellers, I discovered my seller has sold one EFTA presentation pack a week ago. I was kind of curious to know how much the pack was sold for, so I clicked on the link of the pack and I was shocked to know the pack was sold for £40.  I was then curious to know who bought the pack, so I went back to the seller's feedback history and found the name of the buyer. I clicked on this specific buyer's feedback history, I was amazed and couldn't believe that the buyer has bought quite a lot of these EFTA presentation packs.  I couldn't help myself to contact this buyer, based in Essex, to ask why the EFTA presentation packs were so popular. This buyer replied to say the EFTA packs only have four times more quantity than the Forte Road Bridge packs, he believed it was a potential investment if the Forte Road Bridge packs are now worth £400 each. I went though the buyer's feedback history again, I counted this buyer has bought 29 EFTA presentation packs on eBay since September 2012. He paid an average of £40 for each EFTA presentation pack. He spent a total of £1,160 on this specific presentation packs.

I was getting more curious about this EFTA presentation pack, so I decided to send an email to two eBay sellers (who also sold a EFTA pack recently) and Stanley Gibbons to ask the question. Both sellers got back to me to say they had no idea what made the EFTA presentation pack so expensive. But interestingly, Stanley Gibbons gave me a rather straightforward answer.

Mark Facey, an account manager at Stanley Gibbons wrote: 

"Thank you for your email. The answer to this is that the price for this item is being manipulated on Ebay by a speculative wholesaler who is trying to create a false price as he has plentiful stocks. His intention is that we will then re-price the item accordingly in our catalogue. As we are aware of this we will maintain our catalogue price at a more realistic level. I hope this helps."

After reading Mark's reply, I feel satisfied that I have finally found an answer for something stuck in my mind last 6 weeks. Obviously Stanley Gibbons has already got their eyes on the market seeing someone tries to create a false price for the EFTA presentation packs. I am so pleased that I did not fall into this dodgy trade trap to spend a hell of a lot of money for a £3.50 presentation pack. Going back to this Essex-based buyer who has spent £1,160 on 29 EFTA packs that are only worth £101.50. I am not sure how he will react when he realises he has made such a wrong investment – a £1,058.50 lost. I wish I had 29 of these EFTA packs to sell to this buyer!!! I suppose we all learn new things every day, but to some people it may be a very expensive new thing to learn!!

I hope you have found this guide useful, but more importantly I also hope you have found this guide before you place a high bid for a EFTA presentation pack. Don't get fooled by speculative wholesalers!

PS: Interestingly someone has already bet me for writing an article/forum discussion about EFTA presentation packs on eBay. And with this article/discussion, the eBay ID of the Essex-based buyer has been reviewed there. To read more, go to: www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=39999
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