In an apparent attempt to spark interest in its “Inverted Jenny” reissue, the USPS published a press release today (yes, April Fools Day) entitled “Misprinted Stamps Escape Postal Vault”. You may recall that last year the USPS issued $2 stamps depicting the famous 1918 misprinted Curtis Jenny air mail plane. The USPS has refused to say how sales of the pricey stamps are going, but observers suspect that they’re not exactly flying off the shelves. One measure of the stamps’ success (or lack thereof), is the count of “limited edition” uninverted stamps that have been reported. So far, only 15 of the 100 double invert sets have been verified, despite the fact that dealers are offering $25,000 apiece for the sheets. That suggests that only about 15% of the 2.2 million sheets printed have been sold.
Here’s the press release:
Misprinted Stamps Escape Postal Vault
WASHINGTON, April 1, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Postal Service has printed 100 additional sheets of stamps of the recently issued $2 Inverted Jenny stamp but with the plane flying right-side up. These very limited edition stamps were circulated with the recent issue of stamps mimicking the most famous stamp error in U.S. history. Customers who purchased the new Inverted Jenny stamp could have a very limited edition of the famous stamp.
Unique to this stamp issuance, all sheets were individually wrapped in a sealed envelope to recreate the excitement of finding an Inverted Jenny when opening the envelope and to avoid the possibility of discovering a corrected Jenny prior to purchase.
“We are leveraging the incredible story behind the rare collectible as a creative way to generate interest in stamp collecting while highlighting the role the Post Office Department had in developing the commercial aviation industry,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.
Individuals purchasing ‘corrected Jenny sheets’ will find a congratulatory note inside the wrapping asking them to call a phone number to receive a certificate of acknowledgement signed by the Postmaster General.
The 100 sheets were distributed randomly among the nation’s Post Offices and at the Postal Service’s Stamp Fulfillment Center which accepts stamp orders online at usps.com/stamps, and by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724). Additionally, some of the 100 also were randomly distributed at ebay.com/stamps
The Backstory on Creating the Misprint’s ‘Misprint’
The idea for creating the “misprinted misprint,” came to light after the Postmaster General mentioned the stamp to customer groups shortly after it was previewed in January 2013.
“Our customers were enthusiastic about printing a new version of the most publicized stamp error in U.S. history as a great way to spur interest in stamp collecting,” said Donahoe. “Some jokingly commented that we should be careful to avoid repeating the same mistake of nearly a century ago. That was the impetus behind this initiative. What better way to interest a younger generation in stamp collecting?”
The Jenny Story
Two eerie occurrences took place surrounding the nation’s first airmail flight that took place 1918. The pilot got lost, flew in the wrong direction and crashed. And due to a printing error of the 24-cent Curtiss Jenny airmail stamp created to commemorate this historic event, the biplane was depicted flying upside down on one sheet of 100 stamps that was sold to the public.
In 1918, in a rush to celebrate the first airmail flight, the Post Office department issued the 24-cent Curtiss Jenny stamp. Because the design required two colors, sheets were placed on the printing press twice — first to apply red ink and a second time to apply blue ink. This process was given to human error — as stamp collectors at the time well knew.
A Washington, DC, Post Office clerk — who had never seen an airplane — sold a sheet of 100 stamps mistakenly showing the biplane upside down. For nearly a century, stamp collectors have chased the Inverted Jennys and have accounted for nearly all 100 of them.