Stamps as Investments
Rare stamps are among the most portable of tangible investments. They take up little space but require careful storage as condition is one of the most important factors in determining the value of a stamp. Interest in stamps as an investment tends to increase when traditional investments are not doing well, causing investors to seek alternatives. The increasing age of the population in western countries has also been credited with a resurgence in interest in stamps.
As investments they tend to do better over the long term. For example, according to well-known British stamp dealer Stanley Gibbons, the top 250 Great Britain stamps over the last 10 years make up the GB250 Index as listed on Bloomberg (STGIGB25 Index), who are independent and unbiased with no relationship to Stanley Gibbons. Since 1991 this index has shown a compound annual growth rate of 13.4% and has not dipped in that time. You’d be hard pressed to find another asset class demonstrating that level of consistency and stability.
However, keep in mind that investing in rare stamps requires a high degree of expertise and can be very risky for the novice.
Here are some good references about stamps as investments:
StampAuctionNetwork Market Guidelines for Investing in Rare Stamps - Excellent comprehensive and current guide to everything about investing in rare stamps.
Philatelic investment - A good Wikipedia article
Most collectors do not have the budget to invest in very rare stamps so if you are not prepared to pay literally thousands of dollars for a particular stamp, it is probably not the place to be. That being said, some stamps within the reach of many collectors do increase in value over the years but not at the rate of the stamps mentioned above. They are often stamps with limited print runs, errors, or for various reasons, highly sought after by other collectors.
Anyone reading this page should be aware that most accumulated collections are not considered investments and are rarely worth more than the face value of the stamps themselves. Please see our Collection Evaluations page for more information.
Certainly one thing that should be made very clear is that most collections accumulated over the years by someone's parents or grandparents are typically not worth much more than the face value of the stamps so anyone inheriting such a collection should never be expecting a windfall. A proper appraisal by a knowledgeable and trustworthy collector or dealer is necessary to determine true value.