Sale 1217 — United States Stamps

Sale Date — Tuesday, 3 March, 2020

Category — The 1918 24c Inverted Jenny, Position 95

Cat./Est. Value
Sale Number 1217, Lot Number 1229, The 1918 24c Inverted Jenny, Position 9524c Carmine Rose & Blue, Center Inverted (C3a), 24c Carmine Rose & Blue, Center Inverted (C3a)24c Carmine Rose & Blue, Center Inverted (C3a). Position 95, slightly disturbed original gum, partly regummed at left covering small thins, rich colors, better centering than many in the sheet of 100, showing part of vertical centerline at right, small toned spots at right and natural diagonal crease


The original sheet of one hundred Inverted Jenny errors was purchased by William T. Robey on May 14, 1918, the first day the stamps went on sale in all three principal airmail route cities: Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. Robey bought the sheet for its $24 face value at the New York Avenue Post Office window in the District of Columbia. On Sunday, May 19, Robey agreed to give Eugene Klein, a prominent Philadelphia stamp dealer, a one-day option to buy the sheet for $15,000. Klein exercised his option on Monday, May 20, in a late afternoon phone call, and he confirmed it with a registered letter to Robey sent in the evening mail. The sheet was delivered to Klein’s office by Robey and his father-in-law on the following day, Tuesday, May 21, 1918.

No later than Monday, May 20, the day Klein exercised his option, he had arranged to sell the sheet for $20,000 to Colonel Edward H. R. Green. Half of the $5,000 profit went to Klein’s partners, Percy McGraw Mann and Joseph A. Steinmetz. Klein was then authorized by Colonel Green to divide the sheet into singles and blocks, and to sell all but a few key position blocks.

Despite the great rarity and value of Inverted Jenny stamps, many of the original hundred have been mistreated by collectors over the years. Colonel Green himself allowed moisture to affect some of the stamps he retained. Eight straight-edge copies that Klein was unable to sell and returned to Colonel Green were found in Green’s estate stuck together in an envelope (they were soaked and lost their gum). Other examples have become slightly toned from improper storage and climatic conditions. Hinge removal has caused thins and creases in numerous stamps, and one was physically Scotch-taped to an exhibit page. Another was nearly lost to philately forever when it was swept up in a vacuum cleaner.

The stamp offered here -- Position 95 -- was first offered at auction in a November 1944 sale of the Colonel Green collection as part of the unique plate number and arrow block of eight. The plate block of eight was purchased at the Green sale by dealer Y. Souren, acting as agent for noted collector Amos Eno, heir to a New York real estate fortune. Eno broke the block of eight into the unique plate block of four, a bottom arrow pair, and two singles. The bottom arrow pair was offered in the 1955 H. R. Harmer auction of the Lieutenant Colonel Donald L. Harvey collection, where it was purchased by Jack E. Molesworth, a Boston dealer.

Since this stamp's 1955 auction appearance, the gum has been inaccurately described, which has been corrected in this sale and on the accompanying P.F. certificate. Molesworth divided the pair soon after the 1955 auction and removed the bottom sheet selvage from this stamp. Its first auction appearance as a single was in a May 3, 1966, Corinphila auction in Zurich, where it was described as "good centering and impeccable" with two stars, denoting original-gum condition. It was submitted to the P.F. in 1971 and certificate 36662 was issued, stating it was "regummed covering thinning at left," with a few stains and a diagonal crease. The stamp was offered in a November 18, 1971, Jacques C. Schiff auction, where it was described with "disturbed original gum or possibly regummed." It made another appearance in a Schiff sale on March 11, 1973, with the same description and was acquired by Martin Sellinger, either at that sale or subsequently. Sellinger's name appears on the 1996 P.F. certificate. The stamp was later acquired by the current owner.

When Molesworth bought this stamp as part of the arrow pair in the 1955 auction, it already had thin spots at left from improper handling, most likely by Col. Green. We believe Molesworth decided to improve the appearance of the stamp by taking a small amount of gum from another stamp and applying it to a small area over the thin spots. When the P.F. described it in 1971 as “regummed covering thinning at left,” the wording implied that the stamp was completely regummed, which is incorrect. This wording was repeated on the 1996 certificate (issued to Sellinger) and remained in the record until 2019, when the current owner consigned the stamp to Siegel Auction Galleries. This was the first time we had an opportunity to physically examine the stamp, and it was obvious that the gum was original, with a slight disturbance and a small amount of non-original gum covering the thin spots. The Philatelic Foundation concurred and in 2019 issued their revised opinion stating “slightly disturbed original gum, partly regummed at left covering small thins”. Therefore, this stamp has been rightly returned to the original-gum category where it has always belonged.

Ex Colonel Edward H. R. Green, Amos Eno, Lieut. Col. Donald L. Harvey and Martin Sellinger. With 2019 P.F. certificate