Rare stamps and coins are increasingly being included in self-managed super funds (SMSF) and this has become a growing opportunity for philatelic dealers and auction houses. London specialists Stanley Gibbons, established in 1856, set up a designated Investment Department in 2003 to deal with an increased number of clients wanting to invest in rare stamps. They now have a "want list" valued at more than £12 million.
Stamps and coins are an increasingly popular asset for SMSF funds, although the revised regulations for these and other "exotics" - including works of art and jewellery - are complex.
The most contentious regulation is that these assets can't be stored on the owner's property. Buyers planning to add these to their fund's assets will need to have insurance and storage solutions in place before they buy, then keep written records of the documentation for the next 10 years.
Most players in this new market have no affinity with stamps but many appreciate the fact that they can own something real, something tangible, with its own history. Some even become collectors. As an example of the value of history, in 2012 an Australian investor paid £550,000 for one of the most valuable stamps ever handled by Stanley Gibbons, the 1864 Plate 77 Penny Red. This is a perfect case history for what makes a stamp rare and valuable.
Penny Reds, the successor to the famous Penny Blacks, were produced in their millions but a small number of printing plates were faulty so stamps from these were not supposed to be released. Plate 77 was one of these but a handful of stamps found their way into the public domain. Four mint stamps and five used examples are now known to survive.
It was the fifth used example that Stanley Gibbons sold to the anonymous Australian investor. It was described as "unquestionably the finest used example in existence inside or outside a museum".