US Stamps

USPS denial of FOIA request overturned; Linn’s given initial $2 Jenny sales figures

Sep 12, 2014, 7 AM

A Freedom of Information Act request that Linn’s filed almost a year ago eventually led to the Postal Service’s disclosing the initial 30-day sales figures for the $2 Jenny Invert pane that was issued Sept. 22, 2013. A total of 112

Sometimes persistence does pay off.

In late October 2013, Linn’s Stamp News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the United States Postal Service.

The request specifically asked for sales figures for the $2 Jenny Invert pane during the first 30 days after its Sept. 22, 2013, issue date.

Our request was denied in November 2013 (written documentation of the denial was received in late December), and we appealed in January.

In late August, we received a letter from the Ethics & Compliance branch of the Postal Service’s Office of the General Counsel, stating that the denial of our request had been overturned.

Included with the letter were the sales figures initially requested, along with sales figures for the Jenny Invert collector’s set during that item’s limited sales period, Aug. 9, 2013, through Oct. 15, 2013.

During the initial 30-day sales period, the Postal Service sold a total of 112,605 Jenny Invert panes of six $2 stamps.

This represents slightly more than 5 percent of the 2.2 million panes of six that were printed.

Although the Postal Service produced 1,900 Jenny Invert collector’s sets, only 1,464 were actually sold.

All told, these initial sales generated revenue of somewhat more than $1.64 million for the Postal Service.

We do not have up-to-date sales figures for the Jenny Invert pane, but the numbers from the first month, when collector interest was likely at its peak, likely represent the strongest sales up to this point.

In its denial, the Postal Service stated that we were asking for “information of a commercial nature ... which under good business practice would not be publically disclosed.”

In our appeal, we countered that the Postal Service is not a private enterprise and that it has no significant competition in the marketplace for the printing and selling of postage stamps.

Looking back over this saga, it is reasonable to conclude that the Postal Service was reluctant to disclose the sales figures because they fell well below expectations.

We are not surprised at the lackluster numbers.

The $12 cost for the Jenny Invert pane no doubt gave some people a reason not to buy one, and six $2 stamps do not have many immediate postal uses.

In our view, the Jenny Invert pane would have done much better if its stamps had been forever stamps for use on first-class mail.

On the other hand, the Jenny Invert pane did generate a good deal of news outside of the philatelic press.

The coverage exposed stamp collecting to a wide audience and also stirred excitement among those hoping to find one of the rare 100 panes intentionally printed with the plane flying upright.

Now that two of those upright panes have sold for healthy five-figure sums, the search for the 80 or so that remain will continue.