A stamp that started out as a simple mistake ended up selling for $2 million at auction. Collector Charles Hack was willing to pay $2 million to get the “Inverted Jenny” he’s been searching for for years — a stamp that was originally worth a measly 24 cents.
Hack began collecting stamps in Brooklyn as a boy and has been longing to find an “Inverted Jenny,” which is “one of the rarest and most coveted stamps in the world,” The Washington Post reported.
“It’s the very best item of the most well-known American icon in philately,” Hack told the Post, “and it’s a bit of American history.”
What makes the ‘Inverted Jenny’ stamp so unique and valuable?
The Inverted Jenny was a misprint that was made in 1918 “to commemorate the start of regular airmail service,” per the Post. In a rush to get it printed in time, the printers create “a batch with the Curtiss ‘Jenny’ biplane flying upside down.”
The mistake was discovered during printing and stopped, but a sheet of 100 with the upside down plane was sold to the public, making it more rare and desirable for collectors everywhere.
Eventually, the sheet was broken up and sold as individual stamps, starting at a few hundred dollars and eventually becoming so alluring that it went for seven figures.
It has been held in “post office” condition in a bank vault for 100 years and preserved in the dark until it was purchased in 2018. The red and blue colors remain “rich, and the paper is bright” due to the preservation efforts.
The Inverted Jenny in pop culture
The stamp has made its way into the popular zeitgeist, being mentioned in “Brewster’s Millions” in 1985 when Richard Pryor asks what the most expensive stamp was in an effort to spend a $30 million fortune. Ultimately he pays $1.25 million for the inverted Jenny and uses it to mail a postcard, according to The New York Times.
It also appeared in an episode of “The Simpsons” wherein Homer Simpson discovers and tosses a sheet of stamps at a flea market with the iconic upside down plane, disregarding its worth, saying, “The airplane’s upside down,” per Fox Business.