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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Scarcity of Nigerian Stamps Part 2

In my last post I discussed the relative scarcity of selected Nigerian stamps from the pre-1914 period. But I did not discuss the scarcity of Nigerian stamps and postal history in general. What I would like to do now is to address the general scarcity of Nigeria and then to talk about overall trends affecting the scarcity of certain issues or collecting fields.

To illustrate the relative scarcity of Nigerian stamps, I would like to tell the story of how I came to choose this country. It was 2008 and I had just sold my Canada collection. I had been yearning to find an area which was rich in varieties and could offer lots of scope for the specialist, but not be so overwhelming as to be unmanageable. I wanted the material from the area to be genuinely scarce, and not merely expensive due to popularity, and yet affordable. Above all, I wanted to choose an area that had future growth potential - one in which the possibility of expansion in demand was possible, but by no means certain. I wanted to collect a country in all its aspects - stamps, proofs, cancels, different printings, covers - everything.

So rather than jump into one of the popular countries that sprung to mind - i.e. Great Britain, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Western Europe, etc, I decided to do some research. To begin with I googled a list of countries with a population of over 50 million. My thinking was that although there are some cultural differences that make collecting stamps more popular in some countries and not others, the personality profile of most philatelists is fairly similar accross most cultures. Over the years it has been my observation that most philatelists will collect the country they are from. Many will venture out into other collecting fields, but a particular country's material is almost always most popular in the home country. Thus, the population  of one country relative to all others will to some extent also dictate the relative size of the collector market. We have seen this happen with People's Republic of China, where prices for stamps are continuing to grow exponentially, as demand outstrips supply. We are also beginning to see it with India.

Once I had the list of countries, I started looking to narrow it down. I eliminated China right off the bat because it is too expensive, and I know nothing about Chinese philately, so the risk of being taken in by bogus material was just too high in my opinion. Then I considered India, but eliminated it because the scope of that country is just too vast to be able to cover it in all its aspects, and I wasn't that interested in the designs of their stamps.

Then I started looking at auction catalogues for the next year and a half to see how many large collections were offered. My thinking was that if I could spend myself broke on a particular country in nearly every auction I looked at, then I could safely conclude that while that country may have some genuinely scarce stamps, that the material for the country as a whole could not be said to be scarce, since I could buy it all the time. I also took abundance of material as an indication that it might be too overwhelming a task to try and specialize in all aspects of that country. On this basis, I discovered that I could pretty well eliminate every popular country out there - Great Britain, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, USA.

Then I was left with a handful of countries where the depth and range of material offered for sale was much more limited:

1. Pakistan
2. Indonesia
3. Mexico
4. Nigeria
5. Brazil

I found that I liked the stamps produced by all these countries, and the populations are such that all of them could become very much in demand if a strong collector base were to develop. Pakistan was the least appealing to me merely because it does not start until 1947, and I wanted a country that had some classics. All the others have a classic period and the stamps are all very attractive. Brazil is actually quite expensive, and so I eliminated it on this basis.

With the last three countries, I noticed that while I did ocasionally come accross dealer stocks of Indonesia and Mexico, as well as large collections, I almost never saw large accumulations of Nigeria. I would see the occasional set or single stamps, but generally no collections. When I considered that the population of Nigeria is larger than Mexico and the economic prospects for Nigeria are better than Indonesia, my decision was made.

So that illustrates the process that I went through to conclude that Nigerian material as a whole is scarce.

Next I will discuss trends that affect the scarcity of specific Nigerian stamps and postal history.


  1. This is great advice for the begginer philatelist! Thanks! Great blog.

  2. Thanks very much! I'm glad you think so.:) What do you collect?