The history of the original error (Scott #C3a) is well known to many U.S. collectors. In 1918, in a rush to celebrate the first airmail flight, the Post Office Department issued the 24 cent Curtiss Jenny stamp. Because the design required two colors, sheets were placed on the printing press twice - first to apply red ink and a second time to apply blue ink. This process was prone to human error, as it allowed for the possibility that sheets might be inserted upside down, resulting in inverted center error stamps. A Washington, D.C. post office clerk who had never seen an airplane sold a sheet of 100 stamps mistakenly showing the biplane upside down to collector William T. Robey. Robey sold the legendary sheet of “Inverted Jennies” for $15,000 to dealer Eugene Klein, who then sold it to famed collector Colonel E.H.R. Green for $20,000. Colonel Green broke up the sheet and sold most of it over the years, keeping select examples, including one which he encased in a locket which he gave to his wife, Mabel. When offered, these stamps now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars (up to $1 million, depending upon condition).
|Variety ("Error") s/s|
Each purchase of one of the $12 sheets basically gives the buyer about a 1 in 22,000 chance of purchasing a variety sheet. For those collectors, speculators, and dealers who might wish to enter this USPS lottery by buying large quantities of the sheets in hopes of acquiring the varieties, the key question to consider is whether the (currently unknown) market value of a variety sheet will more offset the probable loss incurred when unloading all of the normal ones.
A prudent stamp dealer or speculator would consider the following before playing this game: 22,000 sheets will cost him $264,000.- (plus labor and expenses) and will probably yield him at least one variety sheet. Unless he does mass mailings, he will have to sell most of the rest of the sheets as discount postage, for around 70% - 75% of face value ($184,800 to $198,000.-, if all are sold at a discount). In other words, in order for this individual to break even on his gamble, he will have to be able to sell his Rightside-up variety sheet for at least $66,000.- (or $79,200-. if he unloaded the discount postage for 70%). Not bloody likely, in my opinion.
Attempting to predict the probable long-term market value for such an item is an endeavor fraught with difficulty (and peril if one gambles on one's guess). The quantities issued are the same for both the original 1918 Inverted Centers and the 2013 "Biplane Rightside-up" variety souvenir sheets - 100 of each exist. Much of the demand for the original Inverted Jenny stamps is based on their fame rather than scarcity - there are many stamps for which fewer than 100 examples exist (including inverted center errors) which sell for far less than C3a. In fact, there are many such stamps which sell for 1% or less of what a nice C3a will realize at auction. As for the variety souvenir sheets: based upon the values of comparably scarce legitimate U.S. errors, one might reasonably estimate that they will sell for a few thousand dollars each once the hype dies down. However, there are times when reason has little to do with the stamp market.
Those interested in becoming part of an international community of stamp collectors, dealers, and investors are encouraged to join the "Stampselectors" group at Facebook. The group hosts lively discussions concerning stamp investment and practical aspects of collecting, and provides a useful venue for those who wish to buy, sell, or trade stamps.