Guy Buys 'Holy Grail of Postage' for $2M

Purchase of rare 'Inverted Jenny' is 'a historic moment' in world of stamp collecting
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2023 10:00 AM CST
This Stamp Is Really Expensive Postage
An "Inverted Jenny," shown during a press conference at the World Stamp Show on June 2, 2016, in New York.   (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

For decades, Charles Hack dreamed of owning "the holy grail of postage"—the "Inverted Jenny," a rare collector's item he never would've been able to afford when he started collecting stamps as a kid. Hack is now living his dream: The Washington Post reports that last week, the 76-year-old plunked down just over $2 million ($1.7 million, plus fees) to scoop up an Inverted Jenny from Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries. "This is a historic moment for the hobby," Scott Trepel, president of the auction house, said in a statement to ARTnews. "For the collector, it simply doesn't get better than this, and the sale price of over $2 million reflects that fact."

Just one sheet of 100 of the 24-cent Inverted Jenny stamps—a misprint showing a Curtiss "Jenny" biplane flying upside down, meant to celebrate the start of airmail service—was printed in 1918 before they essentially stopped the presses. Since then, the rare stamps "have become the most famous and sought-after treasures in the stamp-collecting world," even earning a mention in a 1993 episode of The Simpsons, per the Post. The New York Times notes that the original sheet of 100 was eventually separated and sold off as individual stamps, or blocks of four.

Hack already owned two other Inverted Jennys: one purchased in the early 2000s for about $300,000, and another he bought in 2007 for almost $1 million. However, his most recent acquisition, known as "Position 49" for where it was located on the sheet of 100, is in near-perfect condition, with a "mint" score of 95 out of 100 by ratings experts—the best rating ever for an Inverted Jenny. A collector had bought the stamp in 1918 and then kept it for decades in a safe-deposit box—hidden from light and never placed on a hinge, like other collectible stamps.

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"The colors in the paper are just beautiful and fresh," Trepel says, per the Post. When descendants of the original owner decided to sell the stamp, Hack threw his hat on the auction block, but he was outbid by about $50,000; the stamp ended up going for about $1.6 million. This time, however, when it went up for sale again, he knew he had to have it. "It's the very best item of the most well-known American icon in philately [stamp collecting]," he says. "It's a bit of American history." (More Inverted Jenny stories.)

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