Cherrystone auctions 'most famous stamp in the world' the Inverted Jenny

Following its $50,000 sale of the rare Italian (via China) 1920 ultramarine & rose 5 Lire stamp from the famous collection of King Carol of Romania, earlier this month (November 11), auctioneer Cherrystone has some even more valuable stamps lined up for its next sale.

What's more, the projected star lot in the sale isn't just one of the most valuable stamps on the market, it's also one of the most recognised and desired rarities in all of philately: the erroneous version of the 1918 24c carmine rose and blue, aka the Inverted Jenny.

The stamp is an invert error, meaning that its Jenny aeroplane design was printed upside down. Invert errors typically occur because stamps with complex designs, involving more than one colour, may require two or more trips through the printing machine.

If a tired worker places the stamps the wrong way round after its initial processing, an invert error is produced.

The 1918 24c carmine rose and blue, aka the Inverted Jenny

The Inverted Jenny's legendary status - which happens to include a cameo appearance in an episode of The Simpsons - began the day after the stamp was issued in May 1918. That day, buyer William T. Robey purchased an entire sheet of 100 at the New York Avenue Post Office window in Washington DC.

Within one week Robey sold the sheet for $15,000 to the well-known Philadelphia stamp dealer Eugene Klein (an impressive return on his initial $24 investment).

Mr Klein then sold the sheet to the renowned, yet eccentric, collector Colonel Edward HR Green for $20,000. Col. Green asked Klein to break up the sheet for him into singles and blocks, then instructed him to sell all but the few key position blocks.

To date, no examples of the Inverted Jenny have been found which did not come from Robey's original sheet.

Yet what is puzzling is how, given the immediate attention created by the spectacular new error in May 1918, so many of the stamps from the sheet have been poorly handled and stored over the years.

In fact, there are at least six examples whose whereabouts are unknown and presumably lost to philately. A great many of the known copies have varying degrees of faults, some are without gum, or have been repaired. In addition, improper hinging has caused a significant number of additional faults, such as thins and creases.

Consequently, the price at which Inverted Jennies have been sold has varied depending on quality, but the top price for a single was achieved in November 2007 when $977,500 was paid at auction for a single stamp.

Elsewhere, a block of four Inverted Jennies was famously sold by billionaire collector Bill Gross in 2005 for $2.7m - still the World Record price for a US philatelic item. Gross later swapped the stamp for a Z-Grill rarity to complete his world-renowned collection of US stamps.

Even though it's not the rarest stamp in the world, as the classic example of an invert error, the 'Jenny' still captures the attention of philatelists everywhere.

The "fine-very fine" example offered here is one of the desirable completely sound, original gum examples available to collectors. Formerly of the Keith Wagner collection, it will appear in Cherrystone's auction with a catalogue price of $500,000.


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