Prices continue to go through the roof for MNH, Superb stamps graded 98 or higher by the PSE. The May 29, 2006 issue of Linn's Stamp News carried a story about a Scott #821 (cat value of 90¢) selling for $920 and a Scott #745 (cat value of $1.10) selling for $1265. Both stamps came with PSE certificates graded Superb-98.
As I've said previously, it's too early to tell if this is a fad that is going to fade out over time or not. Some of you will remember the late 1970s and early 1980s when speculators entered the hobby buying stamps for "investment" purposes as a hedge against inflation or as assets in their retirement portfolio. For example, a MNH set of Graf Zeppelins (Scott #C13-15) brought as much as $8,000 to $10,000 at the height of the market.
By the mid-1980s, the market corrected itself. Some investors were caught with their pants down and soon found that their $10,000 investment in Graf Zeppelins was now worth a paltry (but more normal) $1500 for a set. Ouch!
In any business, the key is to buy low and sell high. Will the investors/collectors of today get caught again with these high prices for MNH Superb material? I can't guarantee it, but I think they will.
It's a matter of supply and demand. How many MNH perfectly centered $5 Columbians (Scott #245) are there? Only 25,000 were printed and some were destroyed after they went off sale (experts vary on the exact quantity that reached the public). In 1893, perforating machines were only 40 years old and not precise. I bet that the number of Superb (PSE-98 or higher) $5 Columbians is a dozen or two at the most. Such a stamp would bring well over catalog value when offered for sale. There are so few copies out there in that condition. Demand is high and the supply is low.
How many Superb copies of Scott #745 do you think there are? There were 30 million printed. Perforating machines weren't perfect yet. But after 80 years of issuing perforated stamps and experimenting with various machines, paper content, and other stamp production factors, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was producing a much better looking and consistent product in 1935 than they were in 1893.
Just because PSE has only issued a half dozen or less certificates for a Superb-98 copy of Scott #745 doesn't mean that's all there is. Lots of copies are sitting in dealers stocks and collections. When will those items get submitted for certificates? Then what? I expect there are at least a few hundred Superb-98 or better copies of Scott #745. As the supply goes up, the price should fall.
I think the market will remain strong for XF and Superb material for pre-1920 and especially pre-1900 material. Quantities issued were lower and stamp production methods were not very refined. The supply of those stamps is smaller. I would expect prices to meet or exceed catalog values on a consistent basis for this era of material.
For material from the 1930s and onward, I just don't see the market maintaining these prices that are through the roof. Stamps were issued in the millions for most Scott numbers. Stamp production methods kept improving. The supply is much larger for this time period.
Would I pay 10 or 20 times catalog for a post-1930 issue that is Superb-98? Perhaps. Would I pay 1000 times catalog for that same stamp? Personally, I wouldn't.
I encourage people to collect what they want and to have fun. I never try to dictate what to collector or not collect. Stamps are a hobby and you should enjoy them. If you don't understand investments or you don't have the time to closely follow the market, it's probably best to leave this area alone. Otherwise, chances are you will get burnt.
Stay tuned. Time will tell what happens with this craze for MNH Superb material.