Stamps market: 2012 auction review

According to the SG100 Stamp Index, which tracks the performance of the top 100 investment-grade stamps in the world, the stamp market is up 7.3% from January to August 2012. Despite a mixed year in auction sales, stamps remain one of the solidest forms of alternative investment.

The biggest news stories of the year have come from Chinese stamps, as the country's wealthy middle class continue to look towards collectibles to protect their new found wealth. The Whole Country is Red stamp, which is the nation's most valuable, has shown an average annual growth rate of 133% from 2006 until 2012, according to the China Rare Stamp Index.

Top sale

China stamp world record
The stamp features errors in its map, including Taiwan being coloured white

A mint condition 1968 The Whole Country is Red single, one of the most famous errors in Chinese philately, brought $1.15m to a May auction. In doing so, it became the most valuable single Chinese stamp ever sold at auction.

New records in 2012

1941 $2 Dr Sun Yat Sen centre invert
The record for Republic of China was broken twice within the same year

A magnificent 1941 Dr Sun Yat Sen inverted pair became the most valuable Republic of China lot ever sold at auction, when it made $707,700 in October. The pair beat the previous record of $500,000, which was set by a single Dr Sun Yat Sen invert in March.

The record for any item of Sinkiang postal history was broken by an 1879 cover, sent from the Chinese province to Russia, which sold for $791,260 in December.

The same auction saw the world record for Mongolian philately set by a 1920 cover from Ulyasutai, which sold for $541,317. The previous record was set at $540,000 in April by a 1916 envelope from the same region.

It was a breakout year for…

1849 40c carmine David Feldman
The 1849 40c carmine block provided a further highlight from the Karpov collection

Belgian stamps. Our interview with David Feldman saw the renowned expert cite Belgian stamps as a robust investment area, and his sale of the Anatoly Karpov collection certainly testified to this. The auction, which featured some of the country's rarest stamps, was highlighted by an 1849 cover that sold 20.1% above estimate.

A year to forget for…

The Inverted Jenny. One of the world's most famous stamps, the Inverted Jenny always creates excitement when it appears at auction. However, when the stamp from position 48 of the only sheet ever discovered was offered at a New York auction in November, it failed to meet its modest $450,000 valuation.

One you may have missed…

It was announced at the beginning of December that the Falkland Islands collection of John Du Pont, an eccentric millionaire and convicted murderer, is to be sold at a March 2013 auction. Featuring some of the finest examples from the Falklands, it provides an early highlight in the new auction year.

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