US Stamps

When your U.S. collection stalls, look for Canal Zone stamps: Tip of the week

Apr 30, 2021, 6 AM
The 1939 Canal Zone set of 16 Construction and Operation of the Panama Canal stamps (Scott 120-135) is in demand and selling for $100 to $150 in mint never-hinged condition and for $75 to $80 in unused lightly hinged condition.

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

The Canal Zone was a strip of territory about 552 square miles in area roughly paralleling the Panama Canal. The canal across the Isthmus of Panama was engineered, constructed and operated by the United States.

The Canal Zone was under U.S. jurisdiction from 1904 to 1979, and under joint U.S. and Panama jurisdiction from 1979 to 1999, after which it reverted solely to Panama. 

United States authorities issued stamps for the Canal Zone from 1904 through 1978. Many U.S. collectors, when they have gone as far as they can with their U.S. collections, turn to the Canal Zone.

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Canal Zone stamps are especially popular with collectors who worked or lived in the Canal Zone during the U.S. administration.

On Sept. 1, 1939, the Canal Zone issued a pictorial set of 16 stamps (Scott 120-135) showing various scenes of the canal before and after construction and in operation. This is one of the most attractive and popular sets of Canal Zone stamps.

We previously tipped this set in a January 2007 Stamp Market Tips column, but it is time to tip it again.

The 2016 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers values the set in mint never-hinged condition at $162.75. 

The set is in demand and selling in the $100-to-$150 price range. Sets in unused lightly hinged condition are also a good buy at around $75 to $80.

Avoid sets with serious natural anomalies like gum skips and creases. Minor gum bends are acceptable.