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History, intrigue and a misprint combine to cause a single stamp to sell at auction for $2 million.
What is this? Well, basically it’s a US postage stamp from 1918. But this stamp has a story, baby.
- The design – which normally shows the “Jenny” Curtiss biplane the right way up – was already important because it was used on the stamps of the world’s first regular government postal service.
- What makes this particular stamp notable is that, in the stamp-making rush to fame at the time, the workers printing this sheet accidentally placed the Jenny upside down.
- The single sheet of 100 so-called “Reverse Jennys” was sold before anyone realized the mistake, and they have since become valuable collector’s items.
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So it’s a big problem? It is “the icon of philately,” according to Scott Trepel, president of Siegel Auction Galleries in New York and an expert in the field of stamps.
- He says to keep in mind that airplanes were not particularly common in 1918: “People didn’t know what they looked like, and so the inverted airplane on the stamp escaped the inspectors, the clerk of the post Office. And even he said, you know, “Look, don’t blame me. I don’t know what a plane looks like, so I didn’t recognize it when I sold it. »
- Trepel says this one is very special because it is in very good condition after being stored for decades: “It has never been exposed to light. The colors were beautiful. The paper was glossy. The back of the stamp , the eraser had never been articulated and put in an album.
Want to know more about the story? Listen Consider this on the typically American tradition of hot dog eating contests.
And now ?
- Although there are still other inverted Jenny stamps floating around (one was stolen in the 1950s and has yet to resurface), Trepel says this one, recently sold, named ” Position 49″ for its place on the original sheet of 100, is the cream of the crop.
- “We rank stamps from one to 100 in terms of centering the design with the perforations around it. And this one is a 95, and there’s no better. There’s no 98. There’s no 100. This 95 is the best there is. Jenny will ever have it.”
- And if this story gave you FOMS (Fear Of Missing Stamps), there are delightful Strega Nona-themed stamps available for just 66 cents each.
The radio version of this story was produced by Gabriel J. Sánchez, Kat Lonsdorf and William Troop, and reported by Ari Shapiro and Ailsa Chang.