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Lost Inverted Jenny stamp to auction in Chicago

A rare Inverted Jenny postage stamp which vanished almost a century ago is heading for sale in Chicago.

The legendary error stamp will cross the block at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers next month, where its expected to sell for $200,000-$300,000.

Due to its famous printing error of an upside-down airplane, the Inverted Jenny is by far the most iconic U.S postage stamp ever produced.

It’s believed that just a single sheet of 100 stamps was misprinted during production in May 1918, and accidentally shipped out to a post office in Washington D.C – where it was purchased by collector William T. Robey for $24.

Robey had been in search of possible printing errors, but couldn’t believe his luck when presented with the entire sheet at the counter.

When the Post Office clerk was later asked why he didn’t spot the error, he replied simply: “How was I to know the thing was upside down? I never saw an airplane before.”

Robey quickly came under pressure to return the valuable sheet, and after briefly hiding it under his mattress he finally sold it intact to Philadelphia dealer Eugene Klein for $15,000.

Klein in turn sold it to the wealthy collector ‘Colonel’ H. R. Green for $20,000, and Green broke up the sheet – keeping around half the stamps for himself and selling the rest either individually or in smaller blocks.

Each of the stamps was given a faint pencil number on the reverse, so that they could be tracked and authenticated in the future.

Over the years it was believed that seven of the stamps had been destroyed, and two examples – marked positions ’49’ and ’79’ on the sheet – had no recorded history at all.

Now, having disappeared almost a century ago, stamp ’79’ has finally reappeared on the market. It was discovered in a stamp collection passed down for generations as a family heirloom, although the story of how the original collector acquired it remains unknown.

The stamp has now been authenticated by the Philatelic Foundation, which had previously issued Certificates of Authenticity for 84 of the 100 stamps.

The Leslie Hindman Auctioneers Numismatics and Philately Sale takes place on February 25.

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