Mt. Vernon Register-News

October 29, 2013

New stamp honors famous postage goof

By Kitson Jazynka
Special To The Washington Post

— Tiny works of art, postage stamps tell the stories of our country and our world. They tell big stories (such as the Civil War), stories about nature (such as the spicebush swallowtail butterfly) and an endless list of topics that include Wile E. Coyote, gingerbread houses, major league all-stars and famous musicians.

There's a new stamp that tells the story of a postal mishap that happened in 1918. That year, the U.S. Post Office issued the Curtiss Jenny stamp to celebrate the United States' first airmail delivery. The stamp was named after the Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" biplane used for the flight. But a printing error caused the image of the plane to be printed upside down on a few sheets of 100 stamps. One of those sheets was sold by accident at a Washington post office. The other sheets were destroyed. The clerk had never seen an airplane before and didn't notice the mistake.

Since then, stamp collectors have searched for the "Inverted Jennys." One recently sold for $977,000.

This year, the United States Postal Service issued 2 million "Inverted Jennys" to celebrate the 1918 mishap. The 2013 stamp intentionally shows the plane upside down. And there's a twist: The Postal Service has printed 100 sheets of the stamp with the plane flying right side up. So far, only two sheets of the limited edition stamps have been found.

"It's a bit of a scavenger hunt," says Susan McGowan, executive director for stamp services at the U.S. Postal Service. "It's also a super opportunity for kids to start a collection."

October is National Stamp Collecting Month. You can see the original "Inverted Jenny" at the National Postal Museum in Washington, where you also can make your own stamp and create a virtual gallery of stamps.

For more information call 202-633-5555 or visit www.uspsstamps.com.