Today is Veterans Day — a day to celebrate and commemorate all the brave folks who have served in uniform, helping to keep us safe, free and fed.
But do you know what today was — before Veterans Day? Armistice Day.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — 101 years ago to the hour — World War I drew to a close. There were still some skirmishes — and a formal peace treaty wasn’t signed until the next year — but Nov. 11, 1918, is considered the informal end of the war.
Armistice Day was renamed after World War II ended — when The Great War no longer seemed such an outlier.
On this somber day, it feels right to commemorate our military in our own unconventional way — with a look at military stamps.
Skip the Celebration
You can find plenty of stamps that have been mass-produced to commemorate important battles, dates, moments in history — you name it.
Indeed — Canada just had a bunch of Armistice Day stamps celebrating the centennial.
The truth is you want to avoid any stamp that’s been made as a commemoration.
They are usually printed in huge numbers, they don’t have good stories attached to them (they are telling a story, not part of one) and they aren’t popular with collectors.
These sorts of stamps are fine to use for their original purpose — mailing letters. But the demand isn’t there from collectors, and the supply is huge — they are never going to be worth much.
They are fine to have for your own collection, if you want as many stamps having to do with WWII as possible, say. But they don’t have the cachet — or the scarcity — to ever become rare, valuable stamps.
Even the Losers Get Lucky Sometimes
Stamps from failed states can wind up being very valuable.
For one thing, they have some built-in scarcity — the Habsburg Empire is never going to print another stamp.
For another, they can have some extra scarcity thanks to wars. After all, if you’re on the losing side, odds are good you’re short on materiel during wartime. During the Civil War, the Confederate army struggled to find enough shoes — you can bet printing postage stamps was a relatively low priority.
Not to mention supplies of stamps can get sunk, blown up on trains, knocked out of the sky… Supply chains are constantly under attack during war — and postage stamps are in that supply chain.
That’s not to say that all wartime stamps from the losing side will turn valuable. Rarity and errors still rule the day. But you’re beginning at a better starting point.
Pay Attention to the Collectors
The final arbiter of value is always the market. So grabbing stamps from popular, interesting or important wars will usually prove a good overall strategy.
For instance, the U.S. had two wars that defined the nation more than the others. Modern postage stamps didn’t exist during the Revolutionary War — so the Civil War gets most of the attention.
Given their poorer position, the fact that they only existed for a few years and a strain of antebellum nostalgia in the South, stamps from the Confederate States of America tend to be in greater demand.
Few people are nostalgic about WWII, but the war was such a stark battle between ideologies — with the fate of the entire world in the balance — that fascination with the war is intense.
That’s especially true of the Axis powers. There are innumerable dystopian creative projects that ask what the world would be like if the Axis had won. Horrors would abound… but it’s like the car crash you can’t look away from.
Consequently, collectibles from WWII always garner interest — including stamps.
Now, to reiterate this important point: You can’t find investment-grade stamps simply by theme.
Certain military stamps — like some of those we’ve talked about today — will draw interest from collectors…
And states that are no longer around come with a certain amount of scarcity — which will grow over the years, as old stamps get lost or destroyed by age…
But rarity remains the biggest key.
Celebrating wars feels off… but venerating the sacrifices that came before is not just appropriate, it’s the right thing to do.
There are plenty of ways to do that. Choose whichever feels right for you.
For me, it’s finding something linked to those sacrifices — something that I can hand down for generations as it grows in importance.
Importance and value.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. Have an interest in certain wars, battles or other historic events? Talk to the experts at JustCollecting to find out which rare, investment-grade stamps are in your price range that are virtually assured to gain value. No matter your budget, they can find you something that fits here.
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...