Stamp market commentary
©2001, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada
Commentary No. 25 - 17 September, 2001
Canadian Stamps In and Out of Favour
This is the fourth in a series of articles to be presented
for collectors who would like to learn more about
the tools for building a more complete collection.
When collectors and dealers gather at a Canadian stamp auction these days, the types of stamps they bid on can be quite different from those they would have bid on a decade or two ago. Things keep changing. It's like the length of a lady's dress, the number of buttons on a man's jacket or the price of gasoline.
It's not that collectors are fickle; it's just that change is a normal part of life. Without it, things would be pretty boring.
Some things clearly never change. A beautiful five-cent Large Queen with large borders and nice even perforations will always attract a host of bidders. But how often are stamps as rare as this ever offered? Only very seldom! Thus, an important part of what influences the popularity of a particular stamp is its supply. It's the old law of supply and demand. But that's not all.
The Canadian Post Office issued millions of Admiral stamps in the 1911 to 1925 period, in some cases even billions. Now that's a good supply. However, almost all of those Admirals were off centre. At the time they were issued, collectors usually hinged their stamps. In those days, premiums were not paid for unhinged stamps. Few people cared. Fortunately, many people collected the Admirals series in blocks and didn't hinge all the stamps in the blocks when placing them in their albums. Today, there are many unhinged Admirals (pardon the pun) available from these blocks but few are well centred. There are enough that are fairly well centred to allow many collectors to collect them, but the really good ones that are very well centred and unhinged still attract the top bidders. The Admirals are definitely in favour these days.
Twenty years ago, collectors went wild over Canada's modern $1 and $2 stamps. These stamps were the object of much speculation. The collectors of that day acquired those stamps by the hundreds. Now, the same stamps, for which there is little demand, are being used for postage or are being sold at auction at the depressed prices. Twenty years ago, the definitive sets of the 1930s and 1940s were also all the rage. Now they are in the basement.
Today the no-hinged well-centred stamps from the sets issued between 1912 and 1926 are very hot. They should be. It takes years of regular bidding at auction to accumulate them and this can be very costly. The thin supply of top examples of each set is sought after actively by most of the top bidders. Many leave the auction frustrated because the prices reached levels they consider too high.
So people are turning elsewhere, seeking those areas where only a few stamps exist. This means they look at Canada's imperforates stamps, back of the book stamps and postal history. They are accumulating the modern varieties that have appeared at auction during the past decade such as the new imperforated stamps, stamps printed on gum, stamps with missing colours and those with missing printing.
There are currently a number of areas that are clearly out of favour. Few premiums are being paid these days for booklets, coils, official stamps or just about anything issued after 1930. Even nice looking stamps issued after 1900 will receive little notice at auction these days if they have a hinge mark. It's a shame, it's wrong, but that's the way it is.
Are there some bright spots in the past fifty years? If it's anywhere, it's with Canada's definitive sets. These are popular because there are so many varieties. This includes varieties of colour, size, paper and perforations to name but a few. In particular, the stamps from the two definitive sets issued in 1987 and 1991 [Scott 1155 to 1194C and 1349 to 1396) are in great favour and demand. Varieties from these sets are still being found. Only a percentage of these varieties have as yet been listed in the Scott catalogue.
Fashions come and fashions go. Stamps are no exception. The one constant is that regardless of changes in the current stamp fashions, there's only a limited supply of stamps.
How does one take advantage of these changes in fashion? It is extremely difficult. The problem is that these changes do not take place overnight, but over decades. Generally with a country like Canada whose stamps are popular with collectors in many countries, the best bet is to acquire stamps that have been issued in low quantities and always stick to quality. It's been said over and over and it's true.
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