Stamp Market Tips: Look for 1982 Ethiopian set

Demand for the Ethiopian 1982 Tuberculosis Vaccination Centenary set (Scott 1043-1047) in mint never-hinged condition is driving the price up to multiples of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue value of $5.85.

The United States 2009 42¢ Edgar Allan Poe mint pane of 20 is in demand and is a good buy in the $12 to $15 price range.

By Henry Gitner

Ethiopia — Ethiopia is one of those exotic countries with a small but dedicated and enthusiastic following in the United States. There are also avid Ethiopian collectors in England, the Scandinavian countries, Germany and France.

Ethiopia has a long and fascinating history. It is mentioned in Biblical accounts and was one of the first countries in the world to convert to Christianity.

It also was one of only two African countries that were independent in the 19th century. There is collector interest in all periods of Ethiopian stamps, from the first issue of 1895 to modern new issues.

Disaster struck in 1974 when the Derg, a communist junta with international communist backing, deposed the long-reigning Emperor Haile Selassie and imposed a one-party communist state. At least 500,000 Ethiopians died in the Red Terror and enforced famine.

After the Soviet Union withdrew military and economic support, the communist government collapsed in 1991. The leader of the Derg was convicted of genocide in 2006.

While the communists were in power, there was generally less interest in new Ethiopian issues.

Once the communists had been ousted, many collectors began looking for the sets they had ignored while the communists still held sway. Most are still very affordable, but prices have been rising for some.

One such is the July 12, 1982, set of five commemorating German bacteriologist Robert Koch and the centenary of his identification of the tuberculosis bacillus (Scott 1043-1047).

The United States National Institutes of Health reported in 2010 that Ethiopia has had a long struggle with tuberculosis. The Centers for Disease Control noted in 2012 that Ethiopia has one of the highest tuberculosis mortality rates in the world.

The 2014 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue values the stamp set in mint never-hinged condition at $5.85.

I recently saw a set sell in an online auction for $24.50 after spirited bidding from five bidders.

A Linn’s editor found this week’s recommended stamps on the zillionsofstamps.com website at the following price ranges:

Ethiopia, 1043-1077not found;

United States, 4377$10-$14.95, very fine, never hinged.

Tip of the week

United States — Saving full mint panes of 20 seems to be the way to go for many modern U.S. stamps, especially those issued in panes with large pictorial selvage to one side.

A good example is the 2009 42¢ Edgar Allan Poe stamp (Scott 4377).

The 2014 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers values the mint pane of 20 at $23.50 against a face value of $8.40.

There is some demand for this mint pane in the aftermarket, and dealers’ stock are very thin. I have seen this pane offered for as much as $26, but if you shop around, I think you can find it in the $12 to $15 price range, and it is a good buy at that price.

Published 1/17/2014 8:04 AM