Knowing that stamp collecting is a hobby of mine, a friend asked me to pen a few words on my thoughts on whether I regard stamp collecting as a hobby or investment since I have spent a not too insignificant amount of hard-earned money on this hobby of mine.
An English schoolmaster, Rowland Hill, invented the adhesive stamp in 1837 and the first issued postage stamp, the British Penny Black stamp, was released on May 6, 1840. The Penny Black may be the first issued, but it is not the most expensive as one could buy a good one at about £200-£300 from any good store selling stamps in the United Kingdom. The 1885 Swedish ‘Treskilling Yellow’ mis-print is now considered by many as one of the most if not the world’s most expensive stamp when sold in 1996 at £1.59 million. That being the case, should one consider serious stamp collecting a hobby or investment?
My interest in stamps goes back to the days when I was a little boy admiring the beautiful little pieces of paper stuck on the top right hand corner of an envelope. Ignorant as I was then, I would just peel the stamps off the envelopes, often tearing bits off it in the process, and keep the stamps in a shoe box. Not that I have a lot them, but I needed a big box to store the envelopes prior to peeling off the stamps.
As I grew to take a more than cursory interest in stamps, I discovered that I was doing it all wrong in the way that I went about collecting stamps. Books on stamp collecting for beginners were practically non-existent in bookstores in the town where I lived and so it was a difficult learning process that I had to go through to learn the finer points in stamp collecting. As my stamp collection grew in quantity and quality, especially after I started earning an income and thus able to buy the stamps I fancied and could afford, I discovered the ordeal of having to store the stamps. No longer was I collecting stamps only, but also First Day Covers and other philately materials of interest. Shoe boxes were no longer the correct storage media and substantial funds (based on my meager income then) had to be expended to buy stamp albums and other paraphernalia essential to properly collect, store and display stamps.
Fast forward to the present time, my stamp collecting hobby has now been transformed from a small boy’s fancy in beautiful pieces paper and collecting all sorts and sundries to a more specialized and intentional effort in collecting stamps based on selected countries and themes. The opportunity to work internationally afforded me the access to build my collection at a faster and less costly rate and I believe I now have a notable collection by my standard (bearing in mind I am only an amateur collector with limited funds) that includes a priceless collection of a particular country’s stamps. Priceless because I cannot put a price to it because very few have interest in that country’s stamps in the early days and the only other similar collection I have seen is in a museum.
So, would one consider my interest in stamp collecting a hobby or investment? I would reckon it depends on one’s intention with regards to the collection. Will I be selling it anytime soon or never, as it is intended to be a family heirloom? Also, is my collection investment grade and will there a buyer interested? The jury is still out and details pertaining to serious stamp collecting for investment purposes will need to be left for another day. In the meantime, I am enjoying stamp collecting as a hobby that could possibly turn out to be a highly profitable investment.