I’ve always had a soft spot for stamps. My father collected them and as I’ve grown older I’ve found myself slowly building up my collection. My own personal favourite strategy – probably a stupid one – is to invest in defunct countries. Zanzibar, Gilbert and Ellis the Confederate US. I also have soft spot for Chinese stamps, especially from the empire and the nationalist regime plus the Northern liberated areas of what became the Peoples Republic. I’ve always felt slightly ambivalent about this last obsession – especially given how virulently anti-communist I am – until I heard that the public intellectual Jordan Peterson (and convinced anti-communist) liked to collect old Soviet memorabilia for the same reasons I do: a fascination with the totalitarian aesthetic.
Anyway, I’m not entirely convinced that stamps are a great investment despite a smattering of academic papers that suggest they might be but I’m also of the view that they are probably not a terrible investment either. If they hold their value against inflation I’ll be happy.
So, this preamble comes a something of background to a quite fascinating experiment that has launched this week. Stanley Gibbons recently bought what seems to be the most expensive stamp in the world –the 1c Magenta – and is now turning it into a fractional ownership project through a new venture called ShowPiece. You can see it online here: https://showpiece.com/
For full disclosure I am a NED on the investment vehicle that is involved – Castelnau – so I’ll refrain from making any value judgements, but it is interesting to see how the price of this legendary stamp has changed over time (courtesy of a useful chart on the website). The stamp was first valued at $32,000 in 1922 and by 1970 it had increased to $280,000 : by 1980 $935k, 2014 $9.5m. It was last sold for $8.3m. If we use the trusty Bank of England inflation calculator website we can surmise that $32,000 would now be worth $1.859 million, which suggests that the increase in value has been just over four times inflation. Then again this is the most valuable stamp in the world so presumably, it has prestige value. What interests me is that the rate of growth in capital terms has recently seen to level off which is I suppose the big challenge for all stamp weirdos/investors: have we well and truly passed peak stamp as the average age of clients inexorably increases.
Who knows, but it will be interesting to see how this experiment in fractionalisation goes – I note with interest that Showpiece plans to “provide a marketplace before June 2022 through which collectors will be able to purchase/sell pieces of their Showpieces amongst each other”. If you’ve preregistered you can buy one fraction until the end of today for £90 and then from tomorrow it goes up to £100. More fractions, more perks.
Vote for me
Next up apparently I’ve been nominated – not by me or anyone I know – for some Investing awards and if you feel so disposed, please do vote for me online at https://investingreviews.co.uk/awards/personal-finance-nominees/.
It’s all free and there’s none of the usual flim flam that accompanies this stuff.
Last but by no means least I was astonished to see the results of a readers poll for Prospect Magazine on whether we should despise billionaires. You can see original debate between the free marketeer Deirdre McCloskey and socialist Paul Mason here: https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/up-front/the-duel-should-we-despise-billionaires
I think Mason made some perfectly cogent arguments though on balance I tended to side with McCloskey but nevertheless it was a spirited debate. But an astonishing 77% of Prospect readers – who are overwhelmingly middle class, policy and business-oriented, probably liberalish – agreed with Mason. This I find amazing especially given that I suspect most Prospect readers probably thought that the last Blair government was sensible even though that administration was allegedly intensely relaxed about getting filthy rich.
Frankly, I find it terrifically worrying that more than three-quarters of an educated, smart audience DESPISE billionaires. This to me suggests that the upper, educated middle class in the UK has a real problem with wealth creation. This also rhymes with something else I have noticed which is that large parts of the intelligentsia is utterly obsessed with inequality and is mouthing many of the platitudes trotted out by Marxist influenced socialism, especially the stuff coming out of academia (which is now overrun by hard-left thinking to the point that you are probably an outlier now if you are just old fashioned left-liberal). I count myself as part of this bunch – which is why I read the otherwise excellent Prospect magazine – but I find this singular lack of interest in wealth creation and enterprise astonishing and deeply worrying. We can all harbour some ill feelings towards spiteful, mean billionaires who do diddly squat for society but to despise billionaires as an aggregate!