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Errors, Freaks, and Oddities (EFO): Inverted Jenny

Author: Emil Drkusic
Date: 19/05/2021

Inverted Jenny is one of the most famous postage stamps and one of the most famous stamp errors and therefore one of the most valuable stamps in the world. But what is the story behind it? We’ll find out that today.

Jenny stamp USA

“Regular” Jenny

“Regular” Jenny (Inverted Jenny’s good sister:) by design is just one usual stamp from that period. While, it’s a pretty one with several details, it’s not so special when we talk about the number of stamps issued and their value. There is a number of them out there in the market and for a few hundreds of dollars, you can easily get yourself one of them or even a block.

It was planned to be used starting from 1918/05/15 to commemorate but also to pay for the cost of the first airmail service. This airmail service had been established between Washington, Philadelphia, and New York.

“Regular” Jenny

Jenny was the USA airmail 24¢ stamp issued on 1918/05/10. It was one of the two-color postage stamps. Printing stamps in one color was cheaper, so two-color engraving/printing had been reserved for more valuable stamps. The whole idea was to print one color on one machine and then insert the paper and print the motif on the next machine.

Note: The motif on the stamp is U.S. Army Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane and that is where the name of the stamp originates from.

You could insert paper as it should be or the other way around. If you’ve inserted paper in the press in the wrong manner, the result would be an error (one of the common error issues from that time). And that’s how Inverted Jenny was born.

Inverted Jenny stamp USA

Inverted Jenny

Inverted Jenny is just like „Regular“ Jenny, except the fact it's inverted and several thousand times more valuable. A total of 7 sheets with 100 stamps each were printed. 6 sheets were withdrawn and destroyed by USPS leaving only 100 of these in circulation. And 1 collector purchased them all.

Inverted Jenny

This is the short history of how Inverted Jenny went to market:

  • William T. Robey was a collector focused on inverted stamps. On May 14, 1918, he went to the post office and purchased the whole sheet of 100 Inverted Jenny stamps. At that moment he knew there was no other such sheet in existence. He paid $24 for them - a lot of money at that time but still...
  • The post-office clerk asked William to give him the sheet back after he confirmed that was the only such sheet. As you could guess, that hasn’t happened.
  • William sold the sheet to Philadelphia dealer Eugene Klein for US$15,000.
  • Eugene immediately re-sold the sheet to Colonel H. R. Green for US$20,000. He advised Green to split a sheet into blocks and individual stamps because he'll earn more that way.
  • Owning and Inverted Jenny today is equal to owning a real treasure. In November 2007, an unidentified bidder paid $977,500 for just 1 stamp. In late October 2005, the unique plate number block of four stamps was purchased by a then-anonymous buyer for $2,970,000. On 15 November 2018, position number 49 stamp was auctioned by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries for the sum of US$1,593,000 (record high at that time).

Take a closer look at your collection. Maybe you're a multi-millionaire and you don't even know that.

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