Inverted Jenny

Inverted Jenny

common_name = Inverted Jenny

country_of_production = United States
date_of_production= May 10 1918
nature_of_rarity = Invert error
number_in_existence= 100
face_value = 24¢ US$
estimated_value = US $300,000

The (C3a) 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 one pane of 100 of the invert stamps was 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. [ [ Robert A. Siegel, sale 946a] ] In December 2007 a mint, never hinged example (one not previously affixed to a stamp album), was sold for $825,000. [ [] ] The broker of the sale said the buyer was a Wall Street executive who lost the auction the previous month. A block of four inverted Jennys was sold at a Robert A. Siegel auction in October 2005 for US$2.7 million. [ [ Inverted "Jenny" Plate Block Sells for $2.7 Million hammer!] ]


During the 1910s, the United 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 swap

. By completing this trade, Gross became the owner of the only complete collection of U.S. 19th century stamps. [cite news
url =
date = 2005-05-25
title = Rare and Costly Stamps to Go on Display
accessdate = 2006-08-08
publisher = Washington Post

2006 Find

In November 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. [cite news
url =
date = 2006-11-14
title = Stamp thought to be rare Inverted Jenny is probably a fake, U.S. expert says
accessdate = 2007-01-15
publisher = CBC.CA

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." [cite news
url =
date = 2006-11-15
title = Stamp with ballot may be a fake 'Jenny'
accessdate = 2007-01-15
publisher = Herald Tribune
] 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. [cite news
url =
date = 2006-11-13
title = Sarasotan: 'Inverted Jenny' stamp on ballot not what it seems
accessdate = 2006-11-14
publisher =

On December 4, 2006, it was confirmed that this stamp used on the ballot was a counterfeit. [cite news
url =
date = 2006-12-04
title = Stamp used on Florida ballot a fake
accessdate = 2007-01-15
publisher = Reuters
] 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 without having anything to show for it (i.e. without accumulating assets). One of the many things he did in his attempt was to use an Inverted Jenny to mail a post card.

ee also

*CIA invert
*Invert error
*List of notable postage stamps
*Philatelic investment
*Stamp collecting
*Pan-American invert

References and sources


*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]
* [ "Yahoo News 'Jenny' Stamp on Ballet Is Likely a Fake"] November 14 2006 Date accessed: 2006-11-15 (Link dead as of 05:02, 15 January 2007 (UTC))

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