1918 Inverted Jenny
See also : Stamps
2021 SOLD for $ 4.9M by Sotheby's
May 15, 1918 is a historic date for the civil aviation : the first regular airmail service is inaugurated in Washington DC by President Wilson. It connects New York to Washington and return, with a change of plane in Philadelphia.
Mail shipping was set at 24c and the two-color stamp was available since the day before. The blue center features the biplane model selected for this service, a Jenny, nickname for the Curtiss JN-4. The preparation of the stamp was made in a hurry. The die for printing the plane had been completed only six days earlier. The engraver added in the picture the serial number of the aircraft scheduled for the official inaugural flight, 38262.
After the inverted images in bicolored US stamps of 1869 and 1901, philatelists hoped that the inverted error would also affect that new bicolor issue. In the morning of that first day, May 14, the administration is informed that a full sheet with the upside-down plane has been sold to a customer in a post office of Washington DC.
The discoverer, William T. Robey, had rushed at the opening of the post office while one of his friends was doing the same in Philadelphia. Warned after the transaction when Robey was asking for another similar sheet, the employee had not been in position to prevent it.
In the afternoon of the same day, the sale to the public is suspended for two hours in Philadelphia, New York and Washington for an inspection of the stock and the scrap of the defective sheets. In order to standardize the shipment, the production process included a trimming of the top edge where both plate numbers, 8493 for the blue and 8492 for the carmine rose, had been printed. The error sheet was an exception where the blue plate reference was left untrimmed, on the opposite edge.
We are still in the heroic time of aviation. The President is upset : he is wasting his precious time. 38262 takes off southward instead of going toward Philadelphia. The pilot tried to land in the countryside and bogged down in a swamp this plane carrying the first mailbag of the new service. Fortunately in the opposite travel on the same day the first north-south transfer is successful.
The reaction of the administration after the Inverted error discovery had been extremely rapid. For the following runs, the word TOP is added at the top edge of the sheet and is checked in a specific production control. On May 21, when the dealer Eugene Klein buys for $ 15,000 from Robey this Inverted Jenny sheet paid for $ 24 six days earlier, it already appears that the additional checks have been effective and that this example will remain unique.
A few hours later, Klein sells the complete sheet to the rich and eccentric collector Colonel Green. The unpleasant trimming had intentionally removed the top and right margins and damaged he perforations in their adjacent stamps. Green does not want to keep the whole. He will only accept the best positions for his collection and entrusts the sale of the rest to Klein. It is at this point that Klein numbers each stamp from 1 to 100 on the reverse of the sheet to record the original position of each stamp before dividing the sheet into singles and blocks.
The blue plate number is printed in the otherwise blank element below position 97. One of the elements kept by Green is a block of eight, 85-88 and 95-98, with its sheet margins, therefore including the plate number.
The quality of the eight stamps was uneven. In 1944 a new owner removed individually the four stamps on the left, which had gum defects and thinning. This rework was judicious. The remaining block, consisting of positions 87, 88, 97, 98 plus the two sheet margins including the plate number below the 97, is extremely fine for the paper, colors, perforations, thickness, original gum and centering.
The unique Inverted Jenny plate block was sold for $ 1.1M by Christie's on October 12, 1989, for $ 2.97M by Robert A. Siegel on October 19, 2005 and for $ 4.9M by Sotheby's on June 8, 2021, lot 2.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
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Block of Four
2019 SOLD for $ 1.74M by Spink
After the Green sale, the block of eight is separated into a very fine block of four, retaining the inscribed bottom margin, plus four single stamps.
On September 27, 2019, Spink sold for $ 1.74M as Lot 1 one of the blocks of four from Green's selection, consisting of the central positions 45, 46, 55 and 56 of the original sheet. This block is in very fine condition with a small disturbing to the original gum which is common in the Green collection.
2018 SOLD for $ 1.6M by Robert A. Siegel
The mapping of the original separation is now complete. The last missing position, 49, surfaced in a bank vault. From the region of the sheet that displayed the best centering, this stamp had been hoarded as soon as it was purchased.
Found by a descendant of the original investor, Position 49 had never been handled during these one hundred years of storage away from light. It has very fresh colors and never had a hinge. It is the best specimen with an intact gum, graded Mint Never Hinged Extremely Fine 90 by the Philatelic Foundation. It was sold for $ 1.6M by Robert A. Siegel on November 15, 2018, lot 644.
The grading of Position 49 did not overcome the best specimen from that sheet, Position 58, graded 95 Between Extremely Fine and Mint - Previously Hinged.
It should be noted that all of the best specimens come from the six lower rows and the four right columns of the original sheet.
2016 SOLD for $ 1.35M by Robert A. Siegel
The best Inverted Jenny is Position 58. It is graded by PSE XF-Sup 95 Mint OG, meaning between extremely fine and superb, not canceled, keeping its original gum (with minor hinging traces). Its centering with wide full margins contributes to its grading at 95. Very fresh, it has the most beautiful front side. A trace of hinge prevents it from reaching the top grade.
Robert A. Siegel sold it for $ 580K on June 3, 2005 and for $ 1.35M on May 31, 2016, lot 275.
2007 SOLD for $ 980K by Robert A. Siegel
2007 SOLD for $ 825K by Heritage
2014 SOLD for $ 575K by Spink
On May 21, 2014, Spink sold for $ 575K the Inverted Jenny from the Safra collection, position 77. Graded 85, it was the best among the very few never hinged Inverted Jennys until Position 49 resurfaced in 2018.
Its margins are wide and regular and the perforations have no damage. The colors remained very fresh on this stamp which neighbored on the original sheet with the plate block of four (87-88-97-98).
2013 SOLD for $ 575K by Robert A. Siegel
The never hinged Position 68 is graded Very Fine 80. It is very fresh but less centered than the 58. It was sold for $ 575K by Robert A. Siegel on October 9, 2013.
2019 SOLD for $ 425K before fees by Spink
This rare example of a single Inverted Jenny from the selection of Colonel Green had certainly been retained by him for its perfect centering. It is in very fine condition with a tiny hinging trace on its original gum.