By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent
“One million, one hundred seventy five thousand dollars,” announced Scott R. Trepel, barely concealing his delight as he brought down the gavel on America’s next top stamp.
Trepel, the president of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, had just called the sale of one of the highest-graded examples of the 100 Inverted Jenny airmail errors, issued in 1918.
Adding in the 15 percent commission that Siegel levies on all lots brought the final realization to a whopping $1,351,250.
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The stamp is considered the finest graded example, having received a grade of extra fine-superb 95 from Professional Stamp Experts.
The price represented a record result not only for the 24¢ misprint, listed as Scott C3a, but for any United States stamp, surpassing the previous record set by an Inverted Jenny, in 2007, by nearly 50 percent.
The last auction result for this particular example, position 58 from the original sheet, was $577,500, realized in 2005. All of these sales were also called by Trepel.
Trepel had spared no expense to promote this auction, which he believed had the potential to break records.
He went so far as to organize the bringing of an actual Curtiss Jenny aircraft to the Javits Center, site of the once-a-decade World Stamp Show–NY 2016, and persuaded the granddaughter of the error stamps’ original discoverer, William T. Robey, to attend the sale as an honored guest.
On May 14, the anniversary of the day the stamps went on sale, the Siegel firm launched a slick new website, invertedjenny.com, devoted to Scott C3a and all its past sales results, including extensive historical material describing its discovery and rise to philatelic legend.
The efforts paid off handsomely. The auction room was crammed and the crowd overflowed into the hall outside. The buzz was comparable to the start of an important derby race.
The action started at $400,000. In addition to a “book” bid, placed before the sale, there were seven live bidders, both in the room and remotely.
Bidding took off briskly, with Trepel calling the increments so softly that some in the hall didn’t realize the race was underway.
The pace seemed to flag briefly around the $850,000 mark, before picking up again and surging past a million dollars. In the final stretch, there were just two bidders competing at the seven-figure level.
As the applause died down, Trepel allowed himself a broad grin. “I’m delighted,” he said.