This is the 4th Italian speculation that I have experienced over the past 25 years. It is very exciting to watch prices double and triple. At this time, a lot of people are making lots of money, but caution is warranted.
Since all booms eventually come to an end, we must be very careful not to get stuck with stamps that will be impossible to give away. My market intuition is telling me to be careful. Why am I writing this now when the bulk of the U.S. public still doesn’t even know there is a boom in Italy? Well, here are the facts:
This boom started just prior to “Roma 85”, a large philatelic show held in Rome in 1985. A buying syndicate was formed and a selective number of post war Italian issues were sought at or above current wholesale prices. After questioning my Italian dealer contacts about the syndicate, the reaction I got was that the syndicate is weak, has no capital and will shortly fall apart. In 1985, dealers believed that the Italian market was in the depths of a depression with no sign of hope.
Over the next 3-4 years, the syndicate continued to advertise to pay higher and higher buy prices. In 1989 and 1990, other Italian dealers started to advertise their buying needs. Catalog publishers released monthly price increase information. Today, more and more Italian dealers are again coming to the U.S. on buying trips. Italian auctions are hotter than ever, attaining higher and higher prices. Now Italian dealers are openly admitting that the market is great.
This is exactly the reason to be concerned. The boom started in 1985 amid depression, but now there seems to be almost too much optimism. Prices will still increase, probably with at least one more big surge. Once this occurs, this may very well signal the end of this great boom.
My own belief is that this boom will end in conjunction with the major stamp show which will be held in Genova in 1992. What should you do at this time? We can recommend a number of prudent things. First of all, if you have quantities of mint NH sets from the Italian Kingdom and Republic, consider selling them on a slow basis over the next 3-6 months. Since Vatican prices have not yet experienced major speculative moves, I would put money into NH mid-priced and expensive issues. Already there are signs that Vatican prices are set to shortly take off.
The stamps of Trieste are also a good investment at this time. Strong increases are expected across the board.
Italian Colonies are even better! With printings of 10,000-100,000 sets, large quantities of this material are just not to be found anymore. Unlike Italy, Trieste, Vatican and San Marino, Italian dealers are eager to buy LH sets of the Colonies, realizing that NH sets are virtually impossible to find.
Other “safe” investments that can be bought from the Italian Area (stamps that will not collapse in value once this boom ends) include:
Errors and varieties: Although prices are considerably higher than 2-3 years ago, errors from the Vatican, Italy, Colonies and AMG/Trieste are highly sought after. Also included within this category are gutter pairs, inscription blocks, revenues, etc.
Covers and postal history: There is an extremely strong demand for just about all covers from the Italian Area. However, this demand is for commercial covers and as yet has not spread to FDC’s and Postal Stationery.
Flight Covers, Zepps, Balbos, etc.: These always attain good prices at Italian auctions. You can be sure that prices will not collapse on such scarce material.
This has been reprinted from Global Stamp News – February 1991 – Issue #4