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Monday Morning Brief | Position 76 Jenny Invert sells for $295,000

May 15, 2017 08:00 AM

Associate editor Michael Baadke recounts the 90-second flurry of bids during Siegel Auction Galleries’ May 11 sale of the Position 76 Jenny Invert that was once part of the famous McCoy block of four stolen in 1955 and returned to the American Philatelic Research Library, the stamp’s rightful owner, in 2016.

Full Video Transcript:

Welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for May 15, 2017.

The Inverted Jenny is one of the most recognizable United States stamp errors, and one of these rare stamps was just auctioned last Thursday, on May 11.

The Inverted Jenny started out as the very first airmail stamp issued by the United States Post Office Department in 1918. The design of the 24¢ stamp shows a Curtiss Jenny mail plane, so that’s why the stamp is called a “Jenny.”

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The “inverted” part of the name comes from the fact that the error variety has its central design inverted. On the day these stamps first went on sale in Washington, D.C., a lucky stamp collector was sold one sheet of 100 stamps that was printed with the design upside down. It’s the only sheet of Inverted Jenny errors ever found

The collector, William T. Robey, quickly sold his stamp sheet for a nice little profit, and over the years, the stamps were mostly separated and sold to various collectors. A collector named Ethel McCoy bought a block of four Inverted Jenny stamps in 1936, and still had it nearly 20 years later, when she displayed the block at a stamp show in Norfolk, Virginia.

But one night, the McCoy block was stolen right out of the exhibit frame without anyone seeing how it happened. That crime from more than 60 years ago was never solved, and Ethel McCoy’s four stamps seemed to be gone for good.

Mrs. McCoy eventually donated her ownership of the missing stamps to the American Philatelic Research Library, and when two of the stamps turned up in the 1980s, the library took possession of them, selling one and keeping the other.

The stamp that was sold last week was the third one to be found, and it turned up in Northern Ireland just last year.

It was returned to the library by the young man who found it, and he was handed a $50,000 reward check, made possible through the generosity of Donald Sundman, the president of Mystic Stamp Co.

Since the library still owns one stamp from the McCoy block, its trustees decided to sell the new find at auction, and that’s the sale that just took place on May 11.

Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries handled the sale, and after the bidding opened at $120,000, bids came in from all over the place to drive up the value to a final bid of $250,000. A buyer’s premium of 18 percent raised the total to $295,000.

This Inverted Jenny stamp from the stolen McCoy block now has a new home, and collectors are still on the lookout for the fourth stolen stamp, which has never been recovered. The Siegel auction catalog tells the full Inverted Jenny error story, and you can read the catalog as a PDF on the Siegel Auction Galleries website, or order a copy for your very own philatelic library.

For Linn’s Stamp News and the Scott catalogs, I’m Michael Baadke.