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The Inverted Jenny: Biggest Stamp Mistake

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• The Inverted Jenny: Biggest Stamp Mistake

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After the advent of the airplane, the U.S. Government began to send mail by plane, and Air Mail stamps were born. The first Air Mail planes flew between New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

In 1918, the price of a first-class stamp for ground delivery of a standard piece of mail was 3 cents. One of the initial Air Mail stamps was a 24-cent issue showing the Curtiss JN-4, a plane manufactured by Curtiss-Wright and used to carry the U.S. Mail.

These stamps were printed in sheets of 100, but each sheet of stamps needed to be inserted into the printing machine twice because the stamps were printed using two colors, red and black. The Air Mail stamps were initially designed and printed very quickly because of high demand. On a few sheets, the person doing the inserting flipped the sheet and the planes were printed upside down. Three of the sheets of misprints were identified during production and destroyed. One sheet escaped notice, however, and went to post offices.

The "mistake" has since become known as the Inverted Jenny and is one of the most prized of possessions for any stamp collector. The first to own the sheet sold it to a stamp dealer for $15,000. That dealer sold it straight away for $20,000. The third owner then broke up the sheet and sold them off as smaller blocks or as individuals.

A block of four Inverted Jenny stamps sold in 2005 for $2.97 million. An individual Inverted Jenny sold in 2007 for $977,500.

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