Discerning investors offered new stamping ground
Local investors have a new place to park their money: rare Chinese stamps.
A new index tracking their value was launched yesterday.
The China Stamp Index Company released its China 100 Stamp Index, comprising 100 stamps or sets of stamps, selected and rated by the company according to their rarity and popularity, historic background and prices fetched in auctions.
Similar to the stock index, the stamp index serves as an objective and systematic indictor of the Chinese stamp market, according to CEO Ricky Tam Siu-hing.
One of the most expensive items - the 1980 Red Monkey full sheet - was priced at almost HK$1.5 million last year at auction, soaring 130,000 times since its launch.
'Compared with the various funds of red wine, stamps and artworks available on mainland China, investors in Hong Kong usually select from a limited range of investment vehicles,' said Tam. The CEO is popularly known as a stock investment expert and chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Investors.
'Local investors tend to invest in the stock market, without realising that precious Chinese stamps can offer them a way out of this single-framework market and is basically not affected by local or outside economic situations,' he added.
He said Chinese stamps were a long-term investment option with steady appreciation and few fluctuations.
Executive director Sam Chiu cited the Red Monkey full sheet, the auction price of which rose about 50 per cent in the past two years.
The Red Monkey pristine sheet may not be ancient or especially rare but the stamps are popular and once dubbed 'the king of stamps in China' by stamp experts. It is partly because of its appearance - black monkeys on an auspicious red background - and partly because they were issued in 1980 - the year of the Golden Monkey
Once banned by Chairman Mao as a bourgeois activity, stamp collecting has become increasingly popular in China. Stamps are usually keenly contested by room and phone bidders at international auctions.
Stamps produced during the Cultural Revolution period are also highly sought after.
The '1968 The Whole Country is Red' was sold for HK$200,000 in 2009 and jumped to more than HK$600,000 in value last year, according to research by the China Stamp Index Company.
'Prices of Chinese stamps are therefore expected to rise steadily as Hong Kong is on its way to becoming the world's largest Chinese stamp auction centre,' said Chiu, also CEO of David Feldman (Asia), one of the world's leading philatelic auction houses.
The auction house set up its only office in Asia in Hong Kong last March to take advantage of the growing market.
Cheng Po-hung, local investor and stamp collector, is also bullish as Beijing's tightening monetary policy pushes mainland collectors with excess income to invest in alternatives.
The China Stamp Index Company said the China 100 index was now this high, up from the base 100 set in March 2009