Listen — I can make the (very easy, pretty obvious) case for why you should invest in stamps.
I can give you all the cold, hard facts about returns. (The exact number depends on how big a window of time you’re looking at, but the absolute worst figure is 9.7% gains annually.)
I can bring you articles written by some of the world’s foremost experts. I can give you interviews — conducted on-site at some of the largest stamp exhibitions — to put stamp investing into perspective.
I can even write up a thick report (which you can grab free here) teaching you absolutely everything you need to know to make wise investment choices for your stamp portfolio.
But at the end of the day, these aren’t virtual investments.
They aren’t pixels dancing around computer screens, with imaginary gains coming and going as sentiments shift every few microseconds.
These are rare, tangible assets.
With the real thing, talking and writing can only do so much. At a certain point, you want to actually see, feel and touch it.
You need to experience a thing to get the complete picture.
Largest Show in the States
I bring this up because — in about a month — we’re going to have the largest stamp show and exhibition in the States this year.
Aptly named Chicagopex (“pex” is short for philatelic expo), this show will take place Nov. 22–24 in the Windy City. It might only be a drive away for some of you.
And if you have an opportunity to go — you should.
Of course, there will be a wide variety of stamps on display — many of which will be so rare, you won’t have any other chance to see them.
Of course, there will be plenty of stamps for sale — with prices more negotiable (and often more affordable) than you’ll find elsewhere. After all — the vendors have to bring their wares to the show. The more they sell, the lighter their load at the end.
But — perhaps even more importantly — the real reason you should get to Chicagopex, or a show like it, is all the expertise, the knowledge and the stories.
When I went to Stockholmia last year, I learned plenty from Mike Hall and Geoff Anandappa (our resident stamp experts).
But I learned just as much from unexpected sources as well.
I learnt about Bandō — a prisoner-of-war camp in WWI. Run by the Japanese, the inmates were captured Germans who had been stationed in China.
Bandō was an unusual POW camp. The director believed in humane treatment and followed the Hague Conventions, then relatively unknown in Japan. (The Hague Conventions were the forerunners to the Geneva Conventions.)
The prisoners, nearly 4,000 in number, were even allowed to form their own orchestra and played for the local populace at a nearby temple. In fact, they were responsible for the very first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the country.
At the end of the war, nearly 100 prisoners chose to stay in Japan and make it their home.
What does this have to do with stamps? Well, as far as most people know — nothing.
But one dealer at the Stockholmia show knew the story of Bandō well — and collects covers and stamps made just for the POW camp.
That’s right, the Bandō POW camp had its own stamps — which are very rare today. You can find covers and postcards on eBay for a few hundred dollars, though I haven’t seen a stamp yet.
I want one.
It’s rare, it’s valuable and it’s got a story that reaches me in a few different ways. At one point, living out the rest of my days in Japan was a very real possibility.
But I’d never even have known it existed if I hadn’t gone to the Stockholmia show.
Chicagopex will deliver the same sorts of stories… the same sort of insider knowledge… and the same sorts of hidden opportunities you simply won’t know exist if you aren’t there.
If you never see yourself investing in stamps, that’s fine. Skip it. If you’ve got extended Thanksgiving plans that will get in the way — or you live a long trip away — that’s OK. There will be other shows. (Check the American Philatelic Society calendar to find one near you.)
But sooner or later, if you’re serious about collecting, investing in and making money from stamps, you’ll want to get yourself to a stamp show.
For my money — next month in Chicago is your best chance.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. The next-best thing to attending a stamp show is discussing and learning about stamps at the virtual exhibition hosted by JustCollecting in their forums. This platform is free to use and participate in — and when you’re ready to make a purchase yourself, there’s no better place to start an investment-grade stamp portfolio. Get started today.
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...