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Stamp Market Commentary

Special Commentary - 18 November, 2005

World-Record Price for the U.S. “Inverted Jenny” block

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On October 19, 2005, the above plate block of the “Inverted Jenny” sold for $2,700,000 at the Robert A. Siegel Auction Gallery in New York. This is reported to be a world record price for a U.S. philatelic item.

This was quite a jump from the previous record of $935,000 paid in 1998 for an 1868 1¢ Z-grill.

There is only one sheet of 100 stamps of the Inverted Jenny in existence and it had only one plate block. The plate block last sold 16 years ago for $1 million at a Christie’s sale in New York.

In the December issue of the Scott Stamp Monthly Magazine, the editor, Michael Baadke wrote an article about the upcoming sale of this block. His column included the following interesting comments:

“The Inverted Jenny may be the most widely recognized United States stamp of all time. It’s not necessarily known by that name, or even by its full description - the 1918 24¢ Curtiss Jenny airmail invert error - but just ask about anyone if they’ve heard about the rare stamp with the airplane flying upside down, and they’ll probably tell you, 'sure - who hasn’t?'

"The stamps weren’t supposed to show the plane flying upside down. As the 24¢ airmails were being printed, sheet after sheet, someone placed the sheet into the printing process the wrong way round. As a result, the red frame of the stamp was printed one way, and the blue airplane was printed the other way, creating a spectacular error sheet of 100 stamps that would become part of U.S. philatelic history. Just that one sheet of 100 Inverted Jennys was ever discovered in public hands. A stamp collector named William T. Robey first purchased it in a Washington D.C. post office, on the very day the stamps were placed on sale.

"Within a week Robey sold the sheet to stamp collector Eugene Klein for $15,000 and on the same day the sheet sold again for $20,000, this time to Col. Edward H.R. Green, an eccentric millionaire who broke it into singles and blocks, selling some of the stamps to collectors for profit while keeping others for his own collection.

"All of this happened more than 87 years ago, but stamp collectors in the United States and around the world are still enchanted by the mystique and the bicolor charm of the stamp with the upside down airplane.”

The Story Continues – Enter Mr. Bill Gross

In a report on the CNN web site dated November 4, 2005, the Reuters News Agency was quoted as stating: "Wall Street's 'Bond King' Bill Gross and another stamp collector swapped the two most valuable items in the philatelic world this week in a trade experts call the biggest deal in 100 years."

Gross is the managing director of asset management firm Pimco and the subject of the book “The Bond King”. He recently revealed himself as the mysterious collector “Monte Carlo,” who has been snatching up valuable stamps at auction.

In Wednesday’s swap, Gross acquired a 1¢“Z-Grill” stamp , one of the two known to exist, for a block of four “Inverted Jenney” stamps, now owned by Donald Sundman, president of the Mystic Stamp Co.

Gross tried to buy the Z-Grill in 1998, but was outbid by Sundman, who paid a record-setting $935,000. Gross then broke the record two weeks ago by buying the Inverted Jenny block for $2.97 million. (including the 10% commission)

So it seems that Bill Gross acquired the Inverted Jenny and then swapped it for the one stamp that was missing in his collection, the 1¢ Z-Grill. This completed his collection of U.S. stamps and made him the envy of us all. Quite the story!

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©2005, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada