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"Treasure Hunt": 100 Greatest American Stamps

DentuckDentuck Posts: 3,811 ✭✭✭
This week Peter Rexford (longtime stamp and coin columnist) reviews 100 Greatest American Stamps (by Janet Klug and Donald Sundman) in his syndicated column "Treasure Hunt."

Read the online version here....


  • planetsteveplanetsteve Posts: 1,425 ✭✭✭✭
    In reading the second half of the article, I found it pretty hard to believe that the Graf Zeppelin set is overvalued at $3k/$4k/$5k in 85/90/95. The $16k price does seem high, but that is asking price and it probably comes out near the inflation-adjusted value of $8k cited for the early 80's (which may well have been for less than 98-quality copies).

    Does anyone think that Zepps are overpriced right now? SMQ prices seem to be leveling off after a big jump last year, but I can't see these as being losers.
  • The Zeppelins are the rarist of the airmail series. If you want to have a complete set of airmails, you must have a set of ZEPs. According to the PSE, there are about 19 possible sets of Zeppelins rated 98. There are over 100 million households and around 70 percent own a house with a median home price of over $200,000. Many of those homeowners have the financial capability to own one of the finest sets of Zeppelins in the world. How many of those homeowners would need to be interested in buying one of these 19 sets for the price to go absolutely through the roof. I would imagine somewhat less than 100 interest parties would do it. I have one of those 19 sets and I paid considerably more than $16000 for it and consider myself lucky. I have collected Zeppelins for several decades. Zeppelins rated 98 that I now own bear no relationship to the quality of the ZEPs I was able to find many years ago. If you submit a zeppelin that you think is not hinged with a rating of 95 to the PSE you will find that it comes back to you rated as a "hinged" stamp rated at 80 or less.
  • Blueangel - There may be 19 Zepp sets graded at "98" now, but I would expect that number to increase to well over 1900 sets as people start sending in more and more stamps to be graded. These aren't like coins where everything good has already been submitted - it is a new phenom. Unlike many 19th century stamps that are very rare (fewer than 20 known including those that haven't been submitted yet) in the highest quality grades, the Zepp set in not that rare in "98" quality - it is a commodity item - market for them has always been an easy target for market manipulation.
    Richard Frajola
  • Richard, thanks for the input. I was 52 when they started grading at the PSE. Now I am 59 and they have found 22 C15's rated 98 and 1 C15 rated 100j. How old do you think I will be when they have finally rated 1900 sets of Zeppelins 98. Right now there is one C15 and one C13 rated 98 or above for sale by dealers on stampwants.com and every so often you see one or two at auction. Jay Parrino has a set of 98's available for $17500. If Zeppelins rated 98 or above are truly a commodity item, you might want to tell Jay, I'm sure he would love to stash away a few more Zeppelins with a 100 or better rating.
  • I am confident that my estimate of Zepp sets that would grade 98 is accurate. The grading is new, the hype, and the market volitility is not - I was there when Zepp sets went from $10,000 ca. 1980 to $2,500 ca 1985. I make no predictions regarding future ups and downs of value. If certain "new" stamp dealers, and collectors, want to ride the roller-coaster, that is their business.

    For myself, I prefer classic items that are actually rare.
    Richard Frajola
  • Really you have to be inteligent about it. Some of the prices for common stamps from the 30's and later paid a few years ago sell for much less now. There are common MNH 98's left and right on ebay starting at a buck. Personally I can't afford earlier MNH stamps graded 98 and 100 anymore so I went with used which in higher grades are rarer still. SO...I can't spend too much because I can hardly FIND anything in higher grades(95+), that Nick Kirke hasn't already bought. It's funny though speaking of classic issues or at least pre 1890, it seems I can find 90 and up grades(used) much more easily than say 1890 to 1920!(Which is the time period I'm generally interested in)
  • KentuckyJKentuckyJ Posts: 1,871 ✭✭✭

    I think it highly unlikely any of us posting today will live long enough to see a PSE pop report of 1,900 zeps in PSE 98 NH. I don't dispute that many nice Zeps may be out there, you would know better than I, but to see such a total in the PSE census .... again, it's not going to happen in our lifetimes.

    The Zeps strike me as very much like the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent. Many high grade 1909-S VDB PCGS coins exist but the coin is so much an icon held dear by collectors that prices remain much higher than what a casual reading of PCGS census numbers would indicate.

    And, to blueangel, welcome to the forum

    Is it fair to extrapolate you have the Blue Angel Collection PSE registry sets? I wish you would open your sets for viewing. It looks like they must be comprised of some very nice quality stamps.


  • KJ, thanks for the nice welcome to the forum. I would like to open up my sets for viewing, however I am not quite ready at this time. Your point about stamps and coins that are held dear by collectors was a good one. Demand is as important as supply and I've got to say that there is something about those Zeppelins that reminds me of beach front property. I never get tired of looking at them and I am sure glad that there are more than a few of them. I would feel cheated if I didn't have a few of the best of them in my collection rather than available only for special viewings at the Smithsonian in a secure location.
  • Warning - This may seem like a strange post. I want to try to put my thoughts on Zepp stamps into a rational and clear form and this post is partially to see if I can accomplish that.

    There are many layers to stamp collecting. Some more accessable than others to beginners (I sincerely hope that some of the problems relating to that aspect of the hobby can be mitigated with a new catalog numbering system. To that end, I have worked with others in the simplified numbering system shown here).

    Certain US stamps have long been the target of market manipulation partially because they can be easily be understood by novices. These are usually the easier 20th century stamps (non regular issue) where there are fewer problem regarding authenticity, re-perforating, and quality and some exist in limited numbers. Scarcer stamps such as the Zeppelins are high on the list of stamps that have historically been held to a greater degree by investors, dealers, and those collectors who rank investment potential high on their list of reasons for collecting. As a result, when the prices go up, people holding those stamps tend to sell.

    The strength of the underlying stamp market has always been that the majority of items are held by collectors who are not sensitive to market considerations. That is, they don't sell just because the prices increase dramatically. Many collectible markets have the same strength. In general, most sectors of the US coin market do not have this strength. As a result the market for Zepps appeals to those who like the adrenalin rush of the trade - buying and selling. It makes those collectors who want to build a collection for the long haul crazy.

    So, as I said in a earlier post, enjoy the roller-coaster ride if that is your preference. You won't find very many long-haul stamp collectors in the next car.

    Richard Frajola
  • Thanks for the warning. All I can say to that is different strokes for different folks. Since I am a private pilot, I love the airmails as well as a few other rather narrow philatelic categories like Shanghais, Parcel Post, Trans Mississippi and miscellaneous back of the book issues. Unless you know something I don't it, is kind of difficult to acquire a decent airmail registry set without buying the ZEPs. I'll let my heirs worry about the price fluctuations. In spite of your reservations, I think they will become more valuable over the long haul because of the same reasons you discussed. They are simple, beautiful, available in perfect condition, they capture the interest of those who have a love of aviation, and now they are graded and encapsulated by the PSE. There are alot of paper dollars floating around in the system, and good old Bernanke is prepared to drop more of them out of helicopters if need be. All of the ZEPS that will ever exist are currently held by somebody and no more are being printed. I am betting that rare stamps are going to do better than paper money and if they don't, I don't care as long as I have some of the best copies of my favorite stamps. There are alot of people out there that are loaded with US paper money that aren't buying houses anymore. How much of those trillions of dollars does it take to soak up the available supply of rare PSE stamps that are rated 98 and above?
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