Unseen for the last 100 years, one of the famous Jenny Airmail Invert stamps, known around the world to collectors as the stamp with the “Upside Down Airplane,” has now reappeared. It comes to light just in time to celebrate the centennial year of the stamp’s issuance in 1918 at the very beginning of air mail service in the United States.
The stamp was recently submitted to The Philatelic Foundation in New York. The PF’s experience and expertise in authenticating this iconic United States rarity is unrivaled, having previously issued Certificates of Authenticity for 86 of the 100 stamps from the original sheet, including all six of the existing blocks of four.
Matched against the PF’s detailed records, photos, and electronic images, the PF’s expert staff determined that the stamp is the long lost position 49 from the original sheet of 100 that was purchased by collector William T. Robey in a Washington, DC post office in May 1918. The sheet was sold by Robey to stamp dealer Eugene Klein for $15,000, a fortune in those days, and was later broken up for sale to collectors. Klein’s pencil notation, the position number “49” is still visible at the lower right back of the stamp. At NY 2016, the international stamp show held at the Javits Center in New York, an extremely fine example sold at auction for a record $1.3 million dollars.
Many of the Jenny Inverts have small faults, having been repeatedly bought, sold and often mishandled during the last 100 years. However, position 49 is in pristine mint condition. It was held by three generations of an anonymous Chicago area family in a safe deposit box where it remained untouched and, its whereabouts unknown, until now. Because the stamp was never mounted in an album, it is coveted by collectors as a mint, unhinged copy with its original gum. Only six unhinged Jenny Inverts, including this example, are recorded from the original sheet of 100. Based on its centering, bright colors, and its pristine gum, the PF awarded the stamp the Grade of 90 “XF” meaning extremely fine condition. It is the highest graded Jenny Invert which still remains in mint unhinged condition 100 years after it was issued.