Inverted Jenny and the Missing Chart

by Joel Bowman

To philatelists, it is known as “The 24c Airmail Inverted Center of 1918.” To those who know little to nothing about postage stamps it may be recognized as, “that funny stamp where the plane is upside down.” Most call it the “inverted Jenny” after the Curtiss JN-4 biplane, also known as a Jenny, that is featured in the center. In any case, the story is rather interesting, and akin to a discovery we made ourselves just this week.

The 24-cent stamp was released a few days before the official inaugural mail flight on May 16, 1918. Avid stamp collector, William T. Robey had no idea he was about to hit the jackpot when he strolled in to a post office on New York Avenue, on the morning of the 14th, to see if they had any new stamps.

When the postal clerk returned with a sheet of 100 stamps, all with inverted Jenny biplanes in their center, William must have just about fallen backwards. He quickly purchased the sheet, for the princely sum of $24, and inquired if there were any more. It was too late. The clerk had caught on to the excitement in Robey’s voice and figured out the mistake. All other defective sheets were destroyed, making the 100 stamps owned by Robey incredibly valuable.

Robey sold the entire sheet less than two weeks later for $15,000 –  625 times his original investment – to Eugene Klein, who promptly unloaded them for $20,000 a few days later. From there the sheet was cut up in to single stamps and a few blocks of four.

In good condition a single stamp can fetch upwards of $100,000 today while the blocks of four are worth over a million.

So how is this relevant to anyone who is not fortunate enough to own one of these stamps? It’s not really…except that you may be in possession of another “defective” printing – one penned by a couple of mates of mine.

When New York Times best sellers, Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin, released their latest book, Agorans around the world cheered. Here in Baltimore we marked the occasion by burning the 20,000 odd pages of manuscript, reading aloud from the book as we watched the pages turn to ash and float off in to the cool Fall air. There were more than a few glasses raised at Bill’s chateau in France, no doubt, and plenty of congratulatory calls from our offices in South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland and all over the world.

What nobody knew at this time was that the book was flawed.

Aside from being a best-selling author, Addison is also Agora Financial’s executive publisher and, as such, the guy who inks his signature on my paychecks. This presented an interesting conundrum for your junior editor when he stumbled across the information we are about to share with you.

As I was flipping through my own copy of Empire of Debt, I noticed that on page 231 the text refers to a chart (Figure 10.6) that is simply not included on the page. Upon closer inspection I uncovered a few other discrepancies from pages 228-232. Below is a corrected version of page 231 for you:

We later found that subsequent printings of the book included corrected charts, thereby limiting the incorrect versions to the first print.