Friday, July 17, 2009

That's 872-6467, not 867-5309: Calling Up the Inverted Jenny

It's 867-5309 if you're trying to call Jenny (and really, if you're prank-dialing the digits from a Tommy Tutone song, you need a hobby...maybe stamp collecting?), but if you're interested in an Inverted Jenny, as in "One of the Two Most Awesome U.S. Stamps" Inverted Jenny, you'll want to dial 872-6467. It won't be Jenny who answers, but Heritage. (That's 1-800-872-6467, actually. Tommy Tutone didn't provide an area code, but I will!)

It's not just any Inverted Jenny that's coming up in our August 2009 Signature Stamp Auction, to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but the single highest-graded Inverted Jenny that qualifies as "never hinged." The gum on the back of the stamp is completely undisturbed; in the cataloger’s words, it has “original gum without a single gum skip or bend.” (Here’s the Wikipedia entry for stamp hinges, sure to contain a few terms or sentences that will make the philatelists reading it cringe but a solid-enough reference for the rest of us!)

The Inverted Jenny stamps all famously come from a single sheet of 100, purchased by William T. Robey the day after the stamp type went on sale and quickly sold to Philadelphia-based stamp dealer-auctioneer Eugene Klein. He in turn sold the sheet to Colonel E.H.R. Green, wealthy scion of the "Witch of Wall Street," Hetty Green. He was both a noted philatelist and numismatist; not only did he own all the Inverted Jenny stamps at one time, he also owned the complete set of five 1913 Liberty Head nickels! It was Green who owned the sheet when it was broken up, at the suggestion of Klein, and many of the Inverted Jenny stamps were sold off as individuals, including this one, which was in Position 68 on the sheet of 100.

Owning any Inverted Jenny stamp would be cause for celebration, but this one is particularly desirable. As noted, the stamp was never hinged, highly unusual for the time, and its condition is remarkably strong for a stamp going on 90 years old. Reprinted in the auction catalog and on the same Web page as the stamp is a most interesting letter from Mr. Robey, dated May 15, 1918, the day after Robey's purchase of the Inverted Jenny sheet. In it, Robey asks the recipient whether he had received a telegram concerning the Inverted Jenny sheet and inquires as to the recipient's interest. It's a remarkable document, and today, if devotees of American philately were asked "Are you interested?", the answer would be a resounding "Yes!", and not only for the full sheet of 100...these days, a single stamp would do.

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