Specializing in Philately – An Introduction

If philately can command one’s attention into the second year, probability is high for the collector to be on course into specializing in some way. The rationale being it is overwhelming to collect everything. Countries have steeply increased stamp issue rate - from tens of different stamps per annum in the early part of the 20th century, to be in the hundreds now - a rate that makes it trying for philatelists to keep up for various reasons. Philatelists on their part started specializing. The types of specializations a philatelist can branch-out into are:

Thematic: These are collections based on some theme. Catalogs and albums geared towards thematic collectors abound. Thematic can be classified broadly into :
  1. Topicals: They are categories based solely on the design in stamps. The most common topical categories are Agriculture, Aviation, Birds, Carriages, Castles, Children, Coat of Arms, Dance, Defense, Fairs, Flags, Great People, Insects, Kings, Maps, Marine Life, Nobel Prize, Olympics and other International Games, Philately, Queens, Railways, Red Cross, Religion (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramzan, etc), Ships, Sports, and Stamps on Stamps.
  2. Other themes: Varied areas as First Day Covers of specific countries and/or sub-themes such as Airmail FDCs, UNICEF, UN, Plate Blocks, Sheets, Europa, Classic (stamps issued prior to 1940 only), Covers of specific countries and/or sub-themes, Overprint, Interesting cancellations, UPU (Universal Postal Union) collections, etc belong to this category.

Country: Specializing by country is high in the popularity list. Usually, gathering stamps from one’s native country or countries to which an individual has some connection (adopted country, a country in the same region as you reside, country where you work or have worked before, country whose causes you support etc.) are obvious choices. Another alternative is to accumulate stamps from countries that are a challenge to come by due to political or other grounds. Those include collecting stamps from areas that ceased issuing stamps. Some of the more popular areas for serious collectors include:
  1. German States (Baden, Bavaria, Bergedorf, Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Hanover, Lubeck, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, Prussia, Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Thurn and Taxis, Wurttemberg, and North German Confederation),
  2. Canadian Provinces (British Colombia and Vancouver Islands, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), etc.
  3. Australian States (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia),
  4. Indian sub-continent (Chamba, Faridkot, Gwalior, Jind, Nabha, Patiala, Alwar, Bamra, Barwani, Bhopal, Bhor, Bijawar, Bundi, Bussahir, Charkhari, Cochin, Dhar, Duttia, Faridkot, Hyderabad, Idar, Indore, Jaipur, Jammu and Kashmir, Jasdan, Jhalawar, Jind, Kishangargh, Las Bela, Morvi, Nandagaon, Nowanuggur, Orchha, Poonch, Rajasthan, Rajpeepla, Sirmoor, Soruth, Travancore, Wadhwan, and Bahawalpur).
  5. South African sub-continent areas of Cape of Good Hope, Transvaal, Natal, etc.
Other options include collecting occupation issues, offices abroad, etc.


Last Updated: 09/2015.

Triple Leveraged ETFs - An Introduction

The Triple Leveraged ETFs which debuted in November 2008 is still considered as a relatively new product from Direxion. Direxion is a 1997 private enterprise focused in specialized investment products. Below is a list of some of the most popular Direxion Triple Leveraged ETFs:



ProductTicker SymbolPerformance Benchmark
Direxion Energy Bear 3X SharesERY300% the inverse of the return of an investment in the Russell 1000 Energy Index.
Direxion Energy Bull 3X SharesERX300% the return of an investment in the Russell 1000 Energy Index.
Direxion Financial Bear 3X SharesFAZ300% the inverse of the return of an investment in the Russell 1000 Financial Services Index.
Direxion Financial Bull 3X SharesFAS300% of the return of an investment in the Russell 1000 Financial Services Index.
Direxion Large Cap Bear 3X SharesBGZ300% the inverse of the return of an investment in the Russell 1000 large-cap index.
Direxion Large Cap Bull 3X SharesBGU300% of the return of an investment in the Russell 1000 large-cap index.
Direxion Small Cap Bear 3X SharesTZA300% the inverse of the return of an investment in the Russell 2000 small-cap index.
Direxion Small Cap Bull 3X SharesTNA300% of the return of an investment in the Russell 2000 small-cap index.


The 300% leverage is achieved by using futures contracts and swap contracts. Below is a look at how the expenses associated with leverage affects the overall performance (taken from Direxion leveraged fund introduction sheet):



ProductFormulaExpected Return Sample
3X Bull FundsDaily Benchmark Return * Daily Beta - Daily Interest Expense – Daily Fund Expense Ratio2.00% * 3.0 - 0.03% - 0.005% = 5.965%
3X Bear FundsDaily Benchmark Return * Daily Beta + Daily Investment Income – Daily Fund Expense Ratio2.00% * 3.0 + 0.06% + 0.005% = 6.065%


The expected return sample assumes a benchmark return of 2% for the bull fund and a -2% return for the bear fund. As shown, the impact of expenses is minimal on a daily basis – in fact, for the bear fund, there is investment income associated with creating the leverage as opposed to an expense for the bull fund because, the bear fund uses short-selling which realizes income that can be invested to produce daily income.

The question to help figure out the risk associated with the leverage is: What happens to an investment in one of these funds (either bull or bear), if the associated index goes up more than 33.34% one day and follows it up with a 33.34% down day? – The answer is that your investment will go to zero – the up-day will wipe out the bear fund while the down-day will wipe out the bull fund. Such an outcome is unlikely but helps demonstrate the fact that in volatile markets that lack direction, these investment options can lose value very quickly. A more realistic example in a market that lacks direction using FAS and FAZ and assuming FAS and FAZ along with the associated index value is all at 100 at the start of the first trading day:




End of Day
Index Performance PercentageIndex ValueFAS ValueFAZ Value
One-3.0097.0091.00109.00
Two+3.0099.9199.1999.19
Three-5.0094.9184.30114.07
Four+10.00104.41109.5979.85


So, over the course of just 4-days, there is an underperformance - FAS should have been at 113.23 and FAZ should have been at 86.77. Another example that uses FAS and the same assumptions in a market that is in a steady up-trend follows:



End of DayIndex Performance PercentageIndex ValueFAS ValueFAZ Value
One+3.00103.00109.0091.00
Two+2.00105.06115.5485.54
Three+5.00110.31132.8772.71
Four+4.00114.72148.8163.98


In this scenario, there is an outperformance when compared to the target index value at the end of the fourth day – FAS should have been 144.16 and FAZ should have been at 55.84. Similar outperformance exists in a steady down-market as well.

Summary:

It is critical to understand the use of leverage and how it impacts the performance of the funds over a period of time. Since these funds track the performance of the associated index at 3 X (or inverse) leverage on a DAILY basis, it is not possible to mimic the performance of the associated index over a period of time. As the latter spreadsheets indicate, if one can guess the market direction correctly, the funds can provide outperformance over the period of time anticipated. Conversely, in a market that lacks direction, these funds are unsuitable.

The legitimate question that begs is if one can get 3X leverage using these funds, why not funds that have leverage 5X, 10X, 100X, etc. Presumably, one can strike gold overnight by guessing the market direction correctly for a single day by holding a 100X leveraged fund. While the advantage is undeniable, technically it is impossible to increase leverage much further – margin requirements limit the amount of leverage possible. A commonly overlooked factor is that the chances of these funds going to zero over a short period of time increases as the leverage increases. Looking at the performance of FAZ/FAZ since its inception should make this pretty obvious - both these indexes show large negative returns over the few years since inception, indicating a strong possibility of both going to zero eventually.

We have nibbled a few times on FAS/FAZ per our previous tweets and blog posts. Following the March lows, we entered FAS for four days realizing a good return and followed it up with a few intra-day round trips that had a net effect of a small positive return. Our opinion is that these products are suitable for the following scenarios:
  1. The benchmark index is at extremely overbought levels. Entering the bear-funds at such levels should prove beneficial over the short-term (a few days).
  2. The benchmark index is at extremely oversold levels. Entering the bull-funds at such levels should prove beneficial over the short-term (a few days).
  3. You anticipate a steady bull/bear market for the benchmark index. Entering the bull/bear funds during such market conditions should prove beneficial over the anticipated period (longer term).
  4. Day trading – when the benchmark index is extremely volatile, there is an opportunity to do roundtrips to realize small profits (intra-day).

Because of the leverage and associated risks, the above strategies should only be used with small portions of your overall portfolio. But, the risk-reward ratio is good assuming your strategies are sound and comfortable to work with.

Related Posts:


1. Mutual Funds and Exchange Traded Funds - An Introduction.
2. Triple Leveraged ETFs - An Introduction.

Last Updated: 10/2011.

eBay Stamp Lots - An Introduction to Bidding

Many philatelists resort to bidding on eBay and/or other online forums at some point to add on to their collection. For a novice, to avoid getting fleeced it is best to be familiar with the terms used as well as with the tactics employed by both dealers and bidders. This post focuses on how to bid successfully on eBay lots while steering clear of the gotchas.

The following guidelines can be handy when purchasing stamps on eBay:
  • Buy It Now: Touted as the no-hassle way to buy something on eBay, availing of this option is unfortunately the most expensive way to purchase from eBay. For a small percentage of eBay lots, the Seller sets a sale price (Buy It Now price). To buy the item bypassing the bidding process, all that needs to be done is to use the ‘Buy It Now’ button and pay the asking price.
  • Buy it Now or Best Offer: This is a variation of ‘Buy It Now’ but with a little spin - the buyer can provide a counter-offer stating the amount he is willing to pay for the item. The seller can choose to either accept the highest offer or list the item again. Again, the buyer is at a disadvantage as there are no guarantees on getting the item even if one is the highest bidder.
  • Reserve vs. No Reserve: Certain lots on eBay have a reserve price indicating the seller’s unwillingness to part with an item below a certain price. The reserve price is not published, but once a bid goes above the reserve price, the listing will reflect that the reserve has been met. This is one way sellers protect themselves against low-ball winning bidders.
  • Free Shipping: This is an incentive from the seller’s part but is usually limited to local (within the same country) shipping.
  • Guesstimating the number of stamps in kiloware lots: A good rule-of-thumb to go by: Off-paper: 1 kg – 20K, 1 lb – 8K, 1 oz – 500, 100 gm – 2K, On-paper: 1kg – 4K, 1 lb – 1.6K, 1 oz – 100, 100 gm - 400. Always ensure that the listing calls for close-cut single-paper or off-paper kilo ware lots. Other alternatives are less desirable as the weight of the paper shipped will far exceed the weight of the stamps.
  • Watching Items and History Search: It is good strategy to research items of interest before actually bidding on them. Any item on eBay can be placed on one’s watch list. Carefully analyzing the bidding history for items in the watch list can position one better when it comes to placing a bid. Another approach to track similar lots on eBay is to search for the item using the ‘Advanced Search’ option and then selecting the ‘Completed Listings’ check box. This will provide a result set of the price realized for completed auctions of the searched term.
  • Bidding Strategies: Employing proxy bidding is the best overall strategy for eBay stamp lots. The strategy involves bidding with the maximum price you are willing to pay for and the high bid will be listed as one increment over the existing high-bid or the starting price whichever is higher – Proxy bids happen automatically until your maximum bid is reached as others bid on the same item. This strategy helps avoid several pitfalls: a) Shill bidding – an illegitimate strategy used by sellers to artificially inflate the price of a listing by self-bidding by means of a separate ID or similar tactic, b) Bid Shielding – another illegitimate strategy where three or more IDs are used – the first places a low ball bid while the others place artificially high bids. The high bids are retracted just before the end of the auction, leaving the low-ball bid as the winning bid, c) Sniping – a proxy bid placed seconds before the end of an auction. This is a legitimate strategy although some consider it unfair. There are online services like gixen.com that automates sniping for you, and d) Incremental Low-Balling – a legitimate strategy used mostly by greenhorn eBayers whereby they bid just enough to lead the auction but continue doing so every time they get outbid. A variation of the same is when experienced buyers do incremental bidding but with bigger chunks to discourage incremental low-balling.
  • Dealer Strategies: Since buyers do not see the item physically, the bid is based on the Images, Title, Description, and Quality rating. Alas, technology favors the dealer – it helps enhance desirability by disguising the true nature of the item. Carefully consider the feedback of sellers to alleviate potential problems.
  • High-values: This just implies that the face value of stamps when purchased from the post-office is high. For Used stamps, having this description does not enhance the value of the listing and so categorizing them as ‘High-Value’ is deceitful. In contrast, for MNH listings, this is useful information.
  • Re-listings: These happen when buyers do not honor their end of the bargain; mostly it is failing to pay for the items they bought.
  • Second-Bid Offers: These are offers from eBay sellers soliciting you to buy the item as the owner of the second-highest bid because the highest bidder backed off. It is illegitimate to do so per eBay rules and chances are high for the solicitation to be a scam.
  • Retracting: For certain special circumstances eBay permits retracting a bid. But, this option should be avoided as far as possible and the onus is on the buyer to perform due diligence on EVERYTHING before placing a bid.
In general, being aware of strategies used to gain an advantage in the bidding process and having a clear-cut proxy bidding strategy should help avoid paying more for items you want to bid. We still recall our misery when our winning bid on one pound of High-values turned out to include nothing other than used $1 stamps and that too the same stamp.

Update: Stamps shipping from China now have very modest shipping charges as there is a shipping agreement between eBay and the postal services of USA & China. This is something to be aware of when bidding for lots shipping from China.

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Last Updated: 09/2015.

Mutual Funds and Exchange Traded Instruments (ETFs, ETNs, and CEFs) – An Introduction

Mutual funds (open-end fund) draw on money from investors to acquire stocks, bonds, or other assets. In return investors receive shares of the mutual fund proportional to these invested assets. The funds are considered open-end for the reason that shares can be continually issued or redeemed based on investor demand. Also absent for mutual funds is the secondary market– Investors buy shares from the mutual fund and redeem it by selling it back – no trading occurs between investors. On the other hand, with exchange traded instruments (ETFs, ETNs, and CEFs), shares outstanding increase or decrease less frequently and only in large chunks (multiple of “creation units”). They are called Exchange Traded as there is a secondary market for these instruments where they can be traded identical to any other stock.

The spreadsheet below compares the features of exchange traded instruments with mutual funds:








































Comparison TermMutual FundExchange Traded Instruments
Trades in an ExchangeNo – bought/sold from/to the mutual fund companyYes – Trades just like a stock.
PriceNet Asset Value (NAV) at the End of the Trading DayMarket Value that varies through-out the day. Could trade at a premium or discount to NAV.
Purchase CostsMore – except no-load mutual funds that do not have front and back-end loads – they still charge a small fee in most casesLess – Brokerage fees and the bid-ask spread which is both relatively small.
Ongoing FeesMore – Actively managed funds have much higher fees while index mutual funds have lower fees although usually not as low as comparable Exchange Traded InstrumentsLess.
Automatic Dividend ReinvestmentYesNo
OptionsNo – not traded in stock exchanges at allYes
Granular Purchase OptionYes – you can buy for any amount as long as minimums are metNo – you have to purchase whole shares (not fractional).
Minimum Investment RequirementsMostly YesNo with some exceptions
Portfolio TurnoverMore – no protection against other investors redeeming shares thereby forcing the fund to realize capital gains/lossesLess – Immunity from tax consequences due to other investor activity
Capital Gains TaxesYes – ongoingNo – only when sold.
Cash Drag (Performance impact due to holding cash instead of other investments)More – mutual funds usually hold more cash to satisfy on-going redemptionsLess – with certain exchange traded instruments that are structured as Unit Investment Trust there can be a cash drag because of a regulatory requirement to hold dividends in non-interest bearing accounts until distribution.


The three types of Exchange Traded Instruments (ETF, ETN, and CEF) can be summarized as:

ETF:

- With an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), assets are acquired by selling large blocks of shares called “creation units.” Selling large blocks is a regulatory requirement and allows for the formation of a secondary market. Since no money is exchanged in the primary market (creation units are exchanged for large blocks), there is no tax event at that level. The creation units are sold, after being separated into a large number of individual shares, thus forming the secondary market.

ETN:

- Exchange Traded Notes (ETN) is structured as a debt instrument. Debt instruments by nature are prone to credit risk – risk involved with the debtor (in this case the entity that issues ETNs) not honoring the obligation. This situation arises if the issuing entity goes bankrupt or runs into financial trouble. ETN’s promise a return tied to an index or other market benchmark (less fees). As with ETFs, “creation units” and secondary market creation are applicable to ETNs too. However, ETNs are a riskier investment option due to the added credit risk involved – this risk is somewhat mitigated by the fact that issuing agencies usually have good credit ratings.

CEF:

- Closed End Funds (CEF) are launched through an Initial Public Offering (IPO) process and the funds realized are then invested. Shares are traded in stock exchanges thereby forming the secondary market. Since a fixed amount of money is raised at IPO, shares outstanding remain stable.

Below is a spreadsheet that summarizes how they differ from each other:


































Comparison TermETFETNCEF
Investor HoldsShares that represent assets heldShares that represent a Senior Debt ContractShares that represent assets held.
RecourseAssets HeldIssuer CreditAssets Held
RiskMarketMarket & IssuerMarket. The portfolio may use leverage which is an additional risk.
Institutional (multiple of creation unit) RedemptionCustodianIssuerNA
Benchmark Tracking ErrorYesNo – it is a prepaid contractYes
ValuationNet Asset Value (NAV) – usually trades close to this valueIndicative Value based on associated benchmark levelNet Asset Value (NAV) – can trade at a significant premium or discount.
MaturityNone – investors can redeem anytime at multiples of “creation unit”Varies – can be a few years to 30 years or more – investor receives cash that conforms with the investment return promised (benchmark return minus fees) None, although there are exceptions
DistributionsYes - dividendsNoneYes - dividends
Tax TreatmentDividends taxed on an on-going basis. Capital gains taxed when sellingNo on-going taxes. Capital gains taxed when sellingDividends taxed on an on-going basis. Capital gains taxed when selling



Summary:

There are several thousands of mutual funds with more than ten trillion in assets under management. This compares to around thousand exchange traded instruments with close to a trillion in assets. Even so, exchange traded instruments offers far more flexibility and the fees on the average are fewer explaining the faster growth of exchange traded instruments compared to mutual funds. There are distinct structural differences within the three exchange traded instruments with associated differences in their investment and risk profiles. As with any investment vehicle, careful consideration needs to be given to these factors before committing money.

Related Posts:

1. Mutual Funds and Exchange Traded Funds - An Introduction.
2. Triple Leveraged ETFs - An Introduction.

Last Updated: 06/2009. 

Swagbucks - A Frugal Take

A 101 primer to bring to speed those not familiar with Swagbucks, - it is a search engine that promises “swag bucks” as gratis for conducting searches using their search engine interface. These swag bucks can then be traded for gift cards and other products available at the Swag Store – buying power varies – an Amazon.com $5 gift card can be purchased with 45 swag bucks while an iTunes $15 gift card costs 145 swag bucks. Swag bucks are sometimes referred to as digital dollars which is a misnomer – one swag buck dollar roughly equates to 12-15 cents and cannot be converted to real money – merchandize or gift cards has to be purchased from the site to realize the value.

Swagbucks the brainchild of Prodege LLC, is an LA startup specializing in “branded search engines”. Branded search engines allow for swag bucks to be earned and exchanged in the “store” portion of the site to buy brand related merchandize. Akin to the Google or Yahoo search toolbar, a branded search engine tool bar can also be downloaded and plugged into the browser for single click searches allowing for easier use. Other popular such sites include searchwithkanyewest.com, searchwithbeyonce.com, and searchwithrandymoss.com. The home page for Swagbucks is comparable with its branded counterparts where users accumulate credit and redeem them on a variety of merchandize.

The business model of Swagbucks is not complicated. Search interfaces like Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Yahoo clearly differentiate between organic and sponsored search results. It is this distinction that holds supreme the search engine’s ranking of the importance of a page based on the search string – interleaving this result set with sponsored links defeats this purpose. This is the niche exploited by the likes of search engines as Prodege: they return interleaved results and rewards users for that inconvenience. They license the search technology from two of the big search engine providers but the licensing fee, rewards to users, and the company’s business profitability are supported through sponsored interleaved links in the site. Hinged on this interleaved nature of the links is the expectation of much higher and relevant click-through rates and fees. The screen shots below display how Swagbucks search engine result screen compare to that of Google for the same search string:

SwagBucks Top Five Results Display for "Investing 101" search:


Google Top Five Results Display for "Investing 101" search:


Summary and Recommendation:

Our history with Swagbucks is now in its fourth month. Google is still our primary search engine, but we frequent the Swagbucks toolbar we have in place. In these four months, we earned close to 250 swag bucks and availed Amazon.com gift cards from the site – please refer to our tweets at twitter.com for a history of our gift card redemptions and earnings pattern. The reward is indeed a draw else there is little rhyme and reason to venture past one’s primary search site (Google or one of the other big search interface providers). There is no denying that additional time is spent on sifting the organic results in the site and the time value of money may not be justified in the earnings through Swag Bucks. However, with buying decisions, Swagbucks searches can be complementary – in the research phase of a buying decision, the primary search site can provide relevant material quickly and once the buying decision is in place, Swagbucks turn interesting as they also deliver vendor offerings in an interleaved manner.

To recap, the inclination to use the Swagbucks site for routine daily searches for information is best curbed at the very onset as significant time can be spent sifting through sponsored results. Likewise, in the research phase of a product buying decision, a better option is the primary search engine. However, once a buying decision is made, our recommendation is to use both search engines to arrive at the best deal possible. We will continue to use Swagbucks in this manner…

3/2010 Update: As of 2/25/2010, SwagBucks was inflated by 10 times. Previously, you needed 45 SwagBucks for a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card. Now, it will take 450. The good news is that your existing SwagBucks and new awards are also inflated by 10 times and so there is no real change.

Last Updated: 3/2010.





Common Philatelic Terms

The postings over the last few weeks focused on the vocabulary used for stamp varieties, nicknames, errors and other famous stamps. This post is more of a glossary of popular terms every promising philatelist should know. Below is our list:



TermExplanation
AlbinoA stamp with die colors completely missing

Bank Mixture
Stamps usually on paper sourced from a financial institution.
BourseA stamp show or marketplace where stamps are bought & sold.
Boxed PostmarkA rectangular postmark as opposed to the normal circular ones.
BridgeA small band of paper between perforations in sheets of stamps.
Bull’s EyeStamps with cancel with date right in the middle of the design.
Catalogue ValueThe retail value of postage stamps as mentioned in one of the major stamp catalogues
CenteringPosition of the design of the stamp in relation to the paper it is printed on
Circular Date Stamp (CDS) PostmarkA circular cancel that shows date & place of mailing.
Compound PerforationStamps with different perforations on the sides
Crash coverA letter salvaged from a wreck that has been delivered with a postal mark explaining the damage
DieThe metal on which stamp designs are made (engraved or etched) for production
Die CutMachine cut applied between self-adhesive stamps that keeps the backing paper intact
Double ImpressionTwo impressions of the stamp design on a stamp
Duplex CancelsA stamp with two cancels – one indicating location & date and the other a mark that obliterates the design.
Face Value or DenominationThe amount of money paid when purchasing a stamp from the postal service
Fancy CancelA cancel that has a pictorial design of its own.
First-flight CoverA cover that was carried on a first flight opening a new airmail route – a cachet describing the event is usually part of the cover design
GutterThe space between two adjacent stamps in a sheet
HandstampedCancelled by hand using a rubber stamp or similar device
Imperforate betweenTwo stamps attached together with perforations on all sides but either the vertical or horizontal middle perforations missing
ImprintAny information printed on the selvage of a stamp sheet.
Laid paperA type of paper used to manufacture stamps characterized by parallel lines (horizontal or vertical) visible when held against light
Lightly Hinged (LH) Hinged so that the hinge mark is barely noticeable.
VarietySame stamp but with differences in color, perforation, watermark, etc
MicroprintingPrinting made of tiny lettering on some postage stamps used as a security device, part of the design, and/or identification
MintStamps that were not used for postage
Mint, never hinged (MNH)An unhinged uncanceled stamp
Mission MixtureStamps usually on paper sourced from a charitable mission.
MuteStamps with no identification markings. Also applies to cancels as in “mute cancels” when the cancellation doesn’t have any information
Numeral CancelationsCancelations that use numbers to identify mailing office
Offices AbroadStamps of one country used in another country characterized by overprints
On coverStamps collected on the original envelope.
OxidizedA stamp that has changed color due to oxidation.
Pen cancelationA cancelation applied by pen
Pictorial CancelA cancelation with a distinct design
PlateA sheet of metal on which stamp design is engraved for printing
Plate NumberA number shared by all sheets of stamps run through a given plate.
QuadrilleA type of stamp album page that have ruled squares that help with arranging stamps in the page.
RegummedStamps with gum applied after issue usually to defraud collectors.
RoulettingSlits between certain types of stamp sheets that facilitate separation.
Safety PaperSpecial paper used by postal authorities to make stamps that make it difficult to forge
SelvageThe portion of a stamp sheet that is not part of a stamp.
Service InscriptionA stamp design in which the type of service is indicated as part of the design.
ShadeMinor color freaks.
SheetA set of stamps joined together produced from a single plate
SilkA special type of paper used by postal authorities for stamp production in which silk threads are included as part of the paper making mixture used as a security measure to prevent forgery.
SlabbingThe procedure of encasing stamps in tamper-protected casing, usually after grading/authentication.
Socked on the noseA cancel that obliterates the design in a stamp.
StainPaper discoloration in a stamp.
Straight EdgeA stamp with no perforations on one or more sides (but not all)
Tagphosphor coating on stamps that aid with automatic mail handling
Tēte-bēcheA pair of stamps connected together, but with one upside down
ThematicsCollecting by a theme
Tied to coverA cancelation that ties a stamp to a cover. Relevant when a particular collectible cover is valuable with the original canceled stamp on it.
UngummedStamps that were issued with no gum by the postal authority
UnhingedStamps that were never hinged
UsedStamps that were used for postage
Universal Postal Union (UPU)International postal body that standardize postal usage across countries.
Wove paperA smooth paper used in stamp production


Though this word list is not all encompassing by any measure, they do rank high in popularity. As always, if you are aware of a term that you believe should be in this list, please comment or let us know by using the “Contact Us” link and we will be sure to incorporate it.


Last Updated: 09/2015.

Famous Rare Stamps - Introduction

This post is the finale in the series of famous and rare stamps. Though these stamps lack a specific nickname per se, they are renowned and of exceptional value. They are referred to by the year, denomination, and country - the first stamp in the below list is popular as the 1850 2-cent British Guiana or simply the 2-cent Guiana. Any such list based purely on value will have a high concentration of stamps from the USA. US collectors are a majority in the serious stamps collectors sector and tend to specialize in US stamps. Below is our list of famous rare stamps:



StampExplanationSample or Copy in the same series
1850, 2c – British Guiana Only few copies known to exist. Sometimes called 2c circular Guiana.

1858, 81p – MoldaviaFirst stamps of Romania – Only a few 100s were ever sold and fewer still remain. The 27p, 54p, and 108p versions in the same series are also very rare.

1860, 3c – TuscanyVery few issued because of its relatively high face value – hence, very rare. It depicts the arms of the House of Savoy.

1878, 1d – TransvaalSome of the 1d, red on blue stamp of this series has an error – the name is spelled ‘Tranvral”. Occurs only in the first printing and so extremely rare. There are also Tete-beche pairs in the same series which are also very rare.

1859, 4p Imperforate – CeylonThe rarest of Ceylon’s first stamps that include 8p, 9p, 1s, and 2s in the same series

1948, 10r Gandhi “Service” OverprintOnly 100 copies exist – issued exclusively for the use of the Governor General – so extremely rare & valuable.

1896, 1p TrinidadFew copies have the denomination overprint missing making them extremely valuable

1869, 30c – USADepicts Shield, Eagle, and Flags – there is an inverted flags error in a few of them which make them extremely rare

1869, 24c – USADepicts signing the declaration of independence in the center – there is an inverted center design error in some of them that make them extremely rare

1869, 15c – USADepicts “landing of Columbus” as the design in the center – some have this design inverted making them extremely rare

1851, 12p – CanadaDepicts Queen Victoria in Black




There are several other stamps that have errors that make them extremely rare. Rare examples from each country will be covered in future posts on country profiles.


Last Updated: 09/2015.

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