Call it the little upside-down plane that could. The inverted Jenny is flying—slowly, wonkily, posssibly with Snoopy (in Red Baron garb) at the controls—to the rescue of the U.S. Postal Service, now in the throes of a liquidity crisis that has reached $20 billion in net losses over the last two years. Fear not, philatelists, because it’s nothing National Stamp Collecting Month and a beloved misprint can’t solve!
The Postal Service recently issued a new $2 version of the most publicized stamp error in U.S. history—the 24-cent 1918 Curtiss Jenny Inverted airmail stamp. The new stamp was dedicated as part of the opening festivities for the William H. Gross Gallery at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (just days before the government shutdown put a damper on things).
The original misprinted stamp stumbled into circulation near the end of World War I. The snafu sadly echoed that of the nation’s first airmail flight (which the stamp was created to commemorate): The pilot got lost, flew in the wrong direction, and crashed. It is widely believed that only one 100-stamp sheet containing the inverted image of the Curtiss JN-4H plane, or “Jenny,” made it to public sale, a move attributed to a Washington, D.C., post office clerk who had never seen an airplane. A single Inverted Jenny stamp sold at auction in 2007 for $977,500.