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Ex post: The investment performance of collectible stamps 1865-2008

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This paper uses stamp catalogue prices to investigate the returns on British collectible postage stamps over the period 1900–2008. We find an annualized return on stamps of 7.0% in nominal terms, or 2.9% in real terms. These returns are higher than those on bonds but below those on equities. The volatility of stamp prices approaches that of equities. Stamp returns are impacted by movements in the equity market, but the systematic risk of stamps remains low. Stamps partially hedge against unanticipated inflation. Estimates of average after-cost returns for individual investors show that stamps may rival equities in terms of realized performance.

JEL classification: D14 , G1, N24 , Z11. Keywords: Alternative investments; Indexes; Long-term returns; Philately; Stamps.

This talk is part of the Financial History Seminar series.

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