World Record Price Paid for Flawed Philatelic Item

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Before e-mail, there was air-mail. For generations, air-mail had a certain cache, a certain glamour, that e-mail lacks. It also had actual written correspondence, often written on special light-weight paper and something that is rapidly disappearing in this age of electronic communications and payments – stamps. Which might explain why a private collector paid $2.97 million for a group of four flawed air-mail stamps at auction on Wednesday.

The stamps, purchased at the Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, are among the 100 so-called “Inverted Jennies” printed and sold in 1918. The stamps earn their nickname from their flaw: the Curtiss JN-4H airplane is depicted flying upside down or inverted. Only one sheet of 100 flawed stamps was ever printed. In 1918, William Robey paid $24 for the entire sheet, according to Reuters.

Since that first sale, the sheet has been divided and prices for the individual stamps have risen from a mere 24-cents to nearly $750,000 apiece.

“The Inverted Jenny is one of the best-known stamps in the world, and the record sale of the plate block for $2,970,000 is a measure of its unique charm,” Scott R. Trepel, president of Siegel Auction Galleries said in a statement about the sale.

Photos of the Inverted Jenny stamps can be viewed online at


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