How to Invest - Terminology


  1. Investment tangible asset rarities include:
    • World class extreme rarities
    • Attainable seldom seen scarce issues
    • Premium quality specimens of highly coveted issues
      (the acquisition of the finest known, even if a common issue could be extremely rare and desirable)
  2. Collector based rarities include:
    • Highly specialized key issues, varieties, errors, postal uses, premium quality key and semi-key issues

For investment purposes rarities are assumed to be of some value, only when validated by an open market.
For collectors it is possible to encounter very rare, even unique, material that may have very narrow or limited interest.
In every case, popularity is the fuel that powers each and every market sector.

Extreme rarities are driven primarily by their provenance and/or history. As a distinct classification, extreme rarities form their own unstructured index, insulated from typical criteria that lends value to other lesser asset classes. Extreme rarities are not as dependent on trade frequency as are the more attainable classes. The more valuable a rarity is, the lesser its sensitivity to regular market exposure. Both core collector markets as well as peripheral portfolio diversification contribute significant investments in rarities. There is currently a high incidence of investment in rarities by first time fresh-to-market individuals as well as funds completely unfamiliar with stamps.


Graded stamps offer consistent industry standard equivocation.
Graded stamps offer significant financial opportunity to investors and considerable personal gratification for collectors.
A keen eye with a serious appreciation for grading can turn a stamp worth mere pennies into thousands of dollars.

As with all grading systems for every grading authority in every collectibles sector such as stamps, coins, sports cards, and comics, the scale that is used by the grading authority establishes a constant industry standard. However, the method by which the numeric designation within that scale is ultimately arrived at, is not a commonly accepted standard. Every stamp issue ever produced exhibits its own variable peculiarity. Paper quality, margin size, centering, etc are all variable relative to the issue in question. Each individual grading authority determines the relevant adjusted designation.


A population report is a fluid work in progress census of quantitative or qualitative data, from the number known to best in class condition. Population reports are important tools to help determine target interest windows of opportunity and can help better provide an understanding of general and specific issue price guide evolution.

Investors and collectors should strive for a well educated buying decision that includes a basis of historical price performance when compared to standard catalogue values and/or graded price guides, and population data.


Another term for non graded stamps is reoccurring anomaly. Philately is as much an art form as it is a science. With respect to the human pursuit of passion, variables become a matter of personal choice. For some, non graded stamps may provide an even more compelling allure. On a certain parallel some collectors may find the inconsistencies and eccentricities in raw material of more interest than a formulated report. Stamp collecting is an adventure for enthusiasts that holds new possibilities. Every new visit to the collection different than the last with each turn of the page.

There are many levels of distinction for non graded stamps beyond centering and gum condition. Freshness, color, intensity, usage, and strike are but a few of the many variable characteristics that shape the unique nature of eye and emotional appeal between one specimen and another outside the parameters of graded numeric designations.


Certificates are expert opinions regarding authenticity. There are many hundreds of reputable specialized philatelic experts throughout the world, each recognized and proficient in his own field. Several philatelic societies depend on consensus of more than one expert, often by circulating specimen submissions either in-house or by remote post. Certificates certainly increase the value of successful candidates, where appropriate. However, the vast majority of stamps do not necessarily require a certificate to provide assurance of its authenticity. Often a reputable seller may provide just as much assurance depending on the issue. In some cases, certificates may become outdated and require reaffirmation of opinion or condition by a philatelic expert.