A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: stamps

Willy Wonka, Philatelist-Style

By Nicole Rowlands

In 1918, a U.S. Postal Office mistake changed one man’s life forever.

Stamp collector William T. Robey lucked into a golden ticket when he bought a sheet of 100 stamps, sold it to a dealer, and used to proceeds to purchase a new home.

Nearly a century later, the Postal Service has reissued the classic stamp error (intentionally, this time) known to collectors as the “Inverted Jenny,” which shows a Curtiss JN-4 biplane, or a “Jenny” upside down. The new stamp has a face value of two dollars and sold in mini-sheets of six. More than two million sheets were made, but included in the press run are 100 new sheets showing the plane flying right side up. The sheets are each wrapped with opaque paper so buyers can’t know if their purchase holds one of the valuable rarities. Worst case scenario:  they’ve bought stamps worth their face value and can do something really novel these days: mail a letter.

Last month, a New York Times article about the stamps noted that the “decision to intentionally produce an instant rarity, sure to rise drastically in price, is a reversal of past policy, when the Postal Service fought to keep valuable errors out of collectors’ hands, even going to court to do so.”

LASIS was curious. When has the Postal Service gone postal trying to keep its errors out of collectors’ hands?

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