24c Curtiss Jenny invert block of 4 seen at WestPex

24c Curtiss Jenny invert block of 4 seen at WestPex in 2013. Value $2 million

by Marsha Brandsdorfer

On May 14, 1918, twenty-nine year old William Thomas Robey went to his local post office in Washington, D.C. He was a stamp collector and he was ready to spend his $24 on a sheet of the new two color 24 cents airmail stamps commemorating the biplane called “Jenny.” The Jenny would be the first plane used to fly the world’s first regularly scheduled transportation of mail by air from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia and New York. Robey was looking forward to adding these stamps to his collection.

When the post office clerk sold him the sheet of 100 stamps, Robey noticed that on the stamps the Jenny biplanes were printed upside down. The sheet must have acquired its error when the paper was turned the wrong way on the printing press when it was time to apply the second color. Robey recognized right away the value of this special find. Robey asked to see other sheets to see if there were more and went to another post office nearby, but he could not find another sheet with the rare errors.

Robey was so proud of his find, he told a coworker about the inverts. The coworker, possibly jealous, told a local post office of Robey’s discovery, which informed postal inspections to make a visit to Mr. Robey, threatening him that the government would confiscate the sheet of inverted Jennys. Robey decided that he needed to sell the stamps quickly. He was concerned about the postal inspectors and also believed that if more error sheets did show up, it would lower the value of the one he had.

He contacted several dealers and collectors and finally sold the sheet of inverted stamps for $15,000 to Philadelphia dealer, Eugene Klein. Klein lightly numbered each stamp on the back in pencil so that future philatelist researchers could trace the ownership of each stamp, before selling it for $20,000 to philatelist Colonel E.H.R. Green, who inherited his fortune from his mother, Hetty Green, who before her death was considered the richest woman of her time.

Over the years, the stamps have been sold and resold and for the most part the prices for the inverts often continued to rise. The Jenny invert, perhaps one of the most famous stamps of the world is an attraction to investors, as well as people who just want to own the celebrated stamp.

The U.S. Post Office Department has since created die proofs of the error in the original colors. These die proofs were later used to print the 2013 two dollar stamps commemorating the Jenny inverts. Several international stamps have also reproduced the inverted Jenny, and I have seen the inverted Jenny illustrated on mouse pads, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and other memorabilia.

To learn more, I recommend the book: The Inverted Jenny: Money, Mystery, Mania by George Amick.