The Inverted Jenny (or Jenny Invert) is a United States postage stamp first issued on May 10 1918 in which the image of the Curtiss JN-4 airplane in the center of the design was accidentally printed upside-down; it is probably the most famous error in American philately. Only 100 of the inverts were ever found, making this error one of the most prized in all philately; an inverted Jenny was sold at a Robert A. Siegel auction in November 2007 for US$977,500. A block of four inverted Jennys was also sold at a Robert A. Siegel auction in October 2005 for US$2.7m. In December of 2007, a mint, never hinged example, meaning one not previously affixed to a stamp album, was sold to an unidentified Wall Street executive for $825,000. The broker of the sale says the buyer is a collector who lost the auction the previous month mentioned above.
- Country of Production = United States
- Location of Production=
- Date of Production= May 10 1918
- Nature of Rarity = Invert error
- Number in Existence = 100
- Face Value = 24¢ US$
- Estimated Value = US $300,000
During the 1910s, the nited States Post Office had made a number of experimental trials of carrying mail by air, and decided to inaugurate regular service on May 15, 1918, flying between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City. The Post Office set a controversial rate of 24 cents for the service, much higher than the 3 cents for first-class mail of the time, and decided to issue a new stamp just for this rate, patriotically printed in red and blue, and depicting a Curtiss Jenny, the biplane chosen to shuttle the mail.
The job of designing and printing the new stamp was carried out in a great rush; engraving only began on May 4, and stamp printing on May 10 (a Friday), in sheets of 100 (contrary to the usual practice of printing 400 at a time and cutting into 100-stamp panes). Since the stamp was printed in two colors, each sheet had to be fed through the printing press twice, an error-prone process that had resulted in invert errors in stamps of 1869 and 1901, and at least three misprinted sheets were found during the production process and were destroyed. It is believed that only one misprinted sheet of 100 stamps got through unnoticed, and stamp collectors have spent the ensuing years trying to find them all.
Initial deliveries went to post offices on Monday, May 13. Aware of the potential for inverts, a number of collectors went to their local post offices to buy the new stamps and keep an eye out for errors. Collector W. T. Robey was one of those; he had written to a friend on May 10 mentioning that "it would pay to be on the lookout for inverts". On May 14, Robey went to the post office to buy the new stamps, and as he wrote later, when the clerk brought out a sheet of inverts, "my heart stood still". He paid for the sheet, and asked to see more, but the remainder of the sheets were normal.
Additional details of the day's events are not entirely certain—Robey gave three different accounts later—but he began to contact both stamp dealers and journalists, to tell them of his find. After a week that included visits from postal inspectors and the hiding of the sheet, Robey sold the sheet to noted Philadelphia dealer Eugene Klein for US$15,000. Klein then immediately resold the sheet to "Colonel" H. R. Green, son of Hetty Green, for US$20,000.
Klein advised Green that the stamps would be worth more separately than as a single sheet, and Green went along; the sheet was broken into a block of eight, several blocks of four, with the remainder sold as individuals. Green kept a number of the inverts, including one that was placed in a locket for his wife. This locket was offered for sale for the first time ever by the Siegel Auction Galleries Rarity Sale, held on May 18 2002. It did not sell in the auction, but the philatelic press reported that a Private Treaty sale was arranged later for an unknown price.
A center-line block catalogs for $600,000.
A rare swapBill Gross. Shortly after purchasing the Inverted Jennys he proceeded to trade them with Donald Sundman, president of the Mystic Stamp Company a stamp dealer, for one of only two known examples of the USA 1c Z Grill. By completing this trade, Gross became the owner of the only complete collection of U.S. 19th century stamps.
In November of 2006, election workers in Broward County, Florida claimed to have found an Inverted Jenny affixed to an absentee ballot envelope. The sender did not include any identification with the ballot, which meant the ballot was disqualified.
In a review of a digital photograph of this stamp, Peter Mastrangelo, director of the Pennsylvania-based American Philatelic Society said, "It is our opinion, from what we've seen, that this stamp is questionable, and we are of the opinion at this point that it appears to be a reproduction." He said an in-person review was needed to be sure, but that all indications are that the stamp is a counterfeit. "The perforations on top and bottom do not match our reference copies." Mastrangelo said. "The colors of the blue ink are consistent with the counterfeit."
On November 13 2006, an elderly Sarasota, Florida man contacted SNN News 6, claiming to be the man who mailed the ballot. Dan Jacoby says the stamp he used is a commemorative stamp that is worth about 50 cents.
On December 4 2006, it was confirmed that this stamp used on the ballot was a counterfeit. Inside the Broward County Elections Office in Florida, experts studied the stamp and decided that the method used to print it and the perforations along the sides were evidence of the stamp being fake.
This story recalls a plot point from the 1985 movie version of Brewster’s Millions, in which a man named Brewster (played by Richard Pryor) was challenged to spend thirty million dollars in thirty days. One of the many things he did in his attempt was to use an Inverted Jenny to mail a post card.
- Amick, George. The Inverted Jenny: Mystery, Money, Mania. Scott Pub Inc Co (May 1 1987). ISBN 0-89487-089-0
- Smithsonian Institution article on the Inverted Jenny on display at the National Postal Museum
- Rare stamps