Auctions

Jenny Invert rescued from vacuum cleaner offered in Siegel auction

Jul 5, 2021, 11 AM
The invert error of the United States 1918 24¢ Curtiss Jenny airmail stamp that survived being sucked into a vacuum cleaner will be up for bids during Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries’ July 20-21 sale of U.S. stamps. This Jenny Invert stamp was expertly repaired following its unfortunate encounter and is accompanied by a 2009 Philatelic Foundation certificate.

By Charles Snee

An invert error of the United States 1918 24¢ carmine rose and blue Curtiss Jenny airmail stamp (Scott C3a) that survived an encounter with a vacuum cleaner will be featured in Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries’ July 20-21 auction of U.S. stamps in New York City.

The sale of this famed invert, from position 78 in the discovery pane of 100, comes just shy of one month after Siegel sold the position 5 stamp during its June 22-24 auction series and not quite four months after its March 31 sale of the position 77 stamp.

The 844 lots of select U.S. stamps in the July 20-21 sale will be offered in four sessions. The two sessions on each day of the sale will be held at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

A total of 104 lots of essays, proofs and specimen stamps will be up for bids during the morning session on June 20.

Among these offerings is a complete set of 12 denominations in all five colors of the Atlanta trial color proofs on card (Scott 156TC4-166TC4, 179TC4).

The proofs take their name from the 1881 International Cotton Exhibition held in Atlanta, Ga., where they were first displayed.

In its lot description, Siegel provides a summary of the origin of these desirable trial color proofs: “Only one sheet of 50 in each color was printed. The sheets were somehow acquired by James A. Petrie of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, at the close of the exposition (along with the 1869 invert card proof sheets). Petrie claimed that he rescued the proofs just before they were to be burned. They were cut up into one set of blocks of eight, two sets of blocks of four, pairs and singles.”

This handsome set of Atlanta trial color proofs is listed at $3,195, the value for a complete set in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

The vacuumed Jenny Invert will be a highlight of the afternoon session on June 21. Siegel provides a detailed description of the stamp, noting that it has original gum, choice centering and colors that remain fresh and bright.

Robert E. Zoellner acquired this Jenny Invert during a Christie’s sale in 1985. According to Siegel, the stamp “became a key element of his complete collection of United States stamps with major Scott Catalogue numbers.”

“During his ownership, the Jenny came out of a defective mount in his Scott Platinum album, fell onto the floor and was sucked up in a vacuum cleaner. Luckily, Mr. Zoellner realized what had happened and the stamp was recovered from the vacuum bag. Position 78 was expertly repaired, restoring its appearance, and Mr. Zoellner replaced the stamp with the sound and Extremely Fine Position 58.”

Siegel sold the position 58 stamp, which is graded extra fine-superb 95, for $1,351,250 at World Stamp Show-NY 2016. It was a record price for a U.S. stamp at the time.

Siegel estimates the position 78 Jenny Invert at $450,000, the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog value for an unused (previously hinged) Jenny Invert in very fine (grade 80) condition.

The stamp comes with a 2009 expertizing certificate from the Philatelic Foundation declaring “it is genuine, previously hinged, with creases and repaired tears.”

William T. Robey discovered and purchased the Jenny Invert pane of 100 May 14, 1918, at the window of the post office on New York Avenue in Washington, D.C. He paid $24, the face value of the 100 24¢ stamps in the pane.

In the decades since the Jenny Invert pane was broken up, the “upside-down airplane stamp,” as it’s often called by noncollectors, has arguably become the world’s most famous philatelic blunder. Indeed the Jenny Invert makes headlines each time one comes up for sale.

Various group lots by issue, collections and accumulations, and philatelic literature close out the sale.

An 1847-1944 collection of mostly unused stamps housed in two Safe hingeless albums shows strength in the postage section, with numerous 19th-century stamps “cataloging hundreds and thousands of dollars each,” according to Siegel.

One of the standout issues in the collection is an unused 1914 50¢ carmine lake postage due stamp, which is valued at $11,500 in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog. The value is italicized to indicate a stamp that can be difficult to value accurately.

Siegel estimates this U.S. collection at $10,000 to $15,000 and observes that “by any metric the catalogue value is enormous, and our estimate reflects only a small percentage of it.”

A single catalog has been prepared for the two-day U.S. sale. Full details of the auction, including a downloadable version of the catalog and online bidding options, are available on the Siegel website.

For more information contact Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, 6 W. 48th St., Ninth Floor, New York, NY 10036.

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