By Michael Baadke
Don Murphy walked into the post office in Mattoon, Ill., to mail a package for his wife and decided to buy some stamps as well.
Before the couple left, they had in their possession one of the rare and valuable United States $2 Jenny Invert panes of six stamps known as the upright variety (Scott 4806d).
As a promotional scheme developed by the U.S. Postal Service, just 100 panes of the 2013 issue were intentionally printed with the Curtiss Jenny biplane shown flying upright.
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The millions of normal $2 stamps show the airplane upside-down as a tribute to the famous 24¢ carmine rose and blue airmail stamp error that was discovered in 1918 with the plane accidentally printed inverted (Scott C3a).
All of the $2 stamps are sold in sealed blind packaging, so it’s impossible to tell if the pane inside is a normal issue or the rare upright variety until the stamps are unsealed by the purchaser.
Although the $2 Jenny Invert stamps are no longer available from the Postal Service retail website or its mail order facility in Kansas City, Mo., some post offices still have a limited number of the panes to sell.
Recent reports suggest that the number of panes still available is dwindling.
Murphy originally walked out of the post office with five panes of the $2 Jenny Invert stamps, 30 stamps altogether, and returned to the car where his wife was waiting.
“I told her about the $2 Jenny Inverts and how there may be a right-side-up sheet in the mix, and they would be very valuable.”
His wife suggested they buy all that the post office had, saying they could use the stamps for postage because they have heavy packages they mail out every week.
“You know how excited you would be to go through each one,” Murphy recalled his wife telling him, “and you may find that special one.”
They bought the post office’s remaining stock of 158 panes — 948 stamps.
“After opening the fifth package, there was the right-side-up Jenny,” Murphy told Linn’s. “Imagine!”
Each example of the upright variety comes with a printed card encouraging the finder to call a toll-free phone number to register the purchase and claim a congratulatory certificate signed by the postmaster general.
Murphy called the number to register his find and said he was told he would be recorded as claimant number 32.
Murphy said he was told on the phone that very few of the panes registered so far were purchased at post offices.
Though he called in June, his certificate arrived Sept. 26, and was hand numbered as 31/100, rather than 32.
The certificate is signed by Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan, and was accompanied by a form letter from USPS Director of Stamp Services Mary-Anne Penner.
Murphy’s interest in stamps began in high school, when a friend of his father’s introduced him to the hobby.
“When he died 30 years ago, his widow kindly sold me his collection at a cost far less than she would have received from a dealer,” he recalled.
“I only regret Mr. Taylor did not live to see what I have just found at the post office. We were always looking for the treasure among the ordinary.”
Murphy plans to sell the sheet, but he added that he thinks the $2 Jenny stamps are beautiful.