To the average person, the words Inverted Jenny might evoke thoughts of an upside down donkey, but for philatelists from all walks of life, they carry a much different, and greater, meaning.
In case you don’t know the story, the Inverted Jenny is an historic stamp—actually, 100 of them—that are the spawn of one sheet’s misprint in 1918. They show an airplane, a Curtiss Jenny, flying through the sky, which is surrounded by a typical looking frame, and standard text that reads “U.S. POSTAGE. 24 CENTS.”
Except there’s one peculiar thing about the scene: The Jenny is upside down.
Ever since the sheet was discovered, Inverted Jenny stamps have become some of the most popular—and valuable—items in philately history. Most of us can only dream of havinga few in our stamp albums, but nevertheless, her history is fascinating!
Why a Plane to Begin With?
Remember, in 1918 we were still in our formative years of aviation. The Post Office had piloted a program to deliver its mail by air, and to commemorate it, they rolled out a series of stamps depicting a Curtiss Jenny (which was the model used by the USPS at the time)—carrying mail high through the sky. Interestingly, back then, air mail was novel and expensive, and so too were the stamp prices. While a regular First-Class stamp would cost three cents, its air mail counterpart ran for a whopping $0.24.
What They’re Worth
When they first came off the presses, collectors knew there would be a high potential for inversion and misprint, so many people went hunting with their fingers crossed. A man named William Robey was among those men and women on the hunt, and won the proverbial lottery when he stumbled into a Washington, D.C. Post Office to discover what would be the only inverted sheet in existence.
He quickly sold it (for which he paid $24 at face value) for $15,000 to a single investor. From there, the stamps made their rounds through history, gaining in value all the while.
Before the last recession, Inverted Jennies peaked in value, with some sets selling for millions. Today, they’ll typically fetch several hundreds of thousands of dollars, but as the economy stabilizes, they’re speculated to start increasing again.
After the stamps were inevitably split, Inverted Jennies went on down a variety of individual paths, and were owned by a plethora of investors, collectors and even thieves. They lived disparate lives, with some finding safe and happy homes in the collections of philatelists, and others enduring great strife—like the Blitzkriegs of WWII, or massive flooding back in the States.
One famous example stems back to 1955. Four Inverted Jennies were stolen from a stamp collectors’ convention in Virginia, and proceeded to disappear for decades. Two were recovered in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but the remaining pair were still nowhere to be found, and deemed extinct. Amazingly, one of them resurfaced last month, and it can provide helpful clues for recovering the last missing Jenny.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to own an Inverted Jenny. If such is the case, you’ll definitely need better hingeless stamp albums and various other stamp collecting supplies, so be sure to head on over and browse our inventory!