The “Inverted Jenny” airmail stamp, which pictures the biplane flying upside down, is one of the few rare U.S. stamps that even non-collectors have heard of. Printed in error in 1918, only one sheet of 100 stamps ever made it to the market. That sheet was purchased by William T. Robey, a Washington DC collector and sold shortly thereafter to Eugene Klein, a Philadelphia dealer. Klein sold the sheet to the well-known (and rather eccentric) collector Col. E.H.R. Green, who broke the sheet up into singles and blocks.

Col. Green kept a few of the stamps and sold the rest into the market. In the ensuing century, the movements and owners of each of these stamps and blocks has been scrupulously followed. All auction appearances have been tracked, and despite some thefts and disappearances, all but two of the stamps had been located. Two of the positions (Nos. 49 and 79) had not been seen since the sheet was broken up. Then last year, Position 79 turned up in a private collection where it has resided for nearly 100 years. Click To Tweet

The family sent the stamp to the Philatelic Foundation in New York City to be authenticated, and now it will be offered to the public at a February 15 auction in Chicago by the firm of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

Inverted Jenny No. 79
Inverted Jenny No. 79

This example is well centered with large margins, and presents quite well. Unfortunately, it has been previously hinged (in an album) and the removal of the hinge disturbed the gum somewhat and resulted in a few small paper thins. An impression of a paper clip is also visible at the right. Despite these minor defects, the stamp is expected to sell for at least a quarter of a million dollars and quite possible could go considerably higher than that.

In May 2016, one of the finest known examples, Position 58, was sold for just over $1.3 million by the New York firm of R.A. Siegel Auction Galleries. The owner of that firm, Scott R. Trepel, is the nation’s leading researcher of the Inverted Jenny stamps. Last year, Trepel established the website invertedjenny.com, which pictures and traces the pedigrees of nearly all the known examples of this famous rarity. In fact, on that site, he has even “recreated” the original sheet by assembling photographs of all known remaining singles and blocks.

The lower of the two empty spaces can now be filled in with the recent discovery of Position 79.

The original sheet of Inverted Jenny Stamps as reconstructed by Scott Trepel on invertedjenny.com.
The original sheet of Inverted Jenny Stamps as reconstructed by Scott Trepel on invertedjenny.com.

It is interesting to note, that for a purchase of $24 in 1918, the combined worth of these stamps today is on the order of $24,000,000. That represents an increase of 15%, compounded annually, for 100 years! Makes you wonder what Messrs. Robey, Klein or Green would think today if they were alive to see it. Click To Tweet

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