Prized ‘Inverted Jenny’ Stamp Sells for $1.7 Million

Le Philatéliste

The Inverted Jenny stamp, 1918. (Photo: Siegel Auction Galleries)

Everyone has their hobby, and one of the most paradigmatic is stamp collecting. The hobby has existed since the 19th century when adhesive stamps began to be created, sold, and used. Enthusiasts can count among their members John Lennon, Amelia Earhart, Freddie Mercury, and King George V. But few of even the most elite stamp collectors get to purchase the stamp-collecting holy grail, the Inverted Jenny. Created by mistake in 1918, this pristine stamp sold for a hammer price at $1.7 million, or over $2 million with fees.

The Inverted Jenny was printed in 1918 to memorialize the beginning of regular air mail. However, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing messed up the printing of the 24-cent stamp. The image is flipped. Most of the misprints were destroyed, but one sheet was sold for $24 to a collector. Since then, it has achieved legendary status among stamp collectors. A group of four sold for $4.86 million with fees at Sotheby's in 2021. In 2018, a single in excellent condition sold for $1.35 million.

This most recent example was examined by two stamp grading authorities, dubbed “Mint Never-Hinged.” This is the pinnacle of stamp conditions. On November 8, 2023, it went to auction at Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries. “This is a historic moment for the hobby,” president Scott Trepel told ARTnews. “The Inverted Jenny we sold today is the best example of the 100 stamps from the sheet. We have tracked each of the stamps and are certain no other example compares to this one. For the collector, it simply doesn’t get better than this and the sale price of over $2 million reflects that fact.” While the stamp might seem like a niche prize, its has even penetrated popular culture, featuring in The Simpsons. It has even been forged. In a cute twist, the Post Office released a 95th anniversary set of Inverted Jenny stamps with two dollar value. Ironically, they made some right-side-up too, just to add to the collecting fun for everyone.

The Inverted Jenny stamp is the holy grail of stamp collecting, and fetched a hammer price of $1.7 million at auction.

Le Philatéliste

“Le Philatéliste” or “The Philatelist,” by François Barraud, 1929. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

h/t: [Hype Beast, ARTnews]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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