As William Robey stood in the New York Avenue post office in Washington, D.C., on May 14, 1918, the stamp collector and pocket dealer saw immediately he had struck gold. The clerk had handed him a sheet of 100 brand new 24-cent postage stamps commemorating the advent of airmail service the next day, and the blue airplane was upside down. Robey had gone to the post office that morning knowing that the two-pass printing process for bi-color stamps often produced errors, and he’d had his fingers crossed.
In fact, the sheet that passed through that postal window would become the most famous sheet of mistakes in collecting history – the Inverted Jenny. Robey could hardly have imagined, however, that each red and blue stamp would make its way through the landscape of American history, passing in and out of the hands of those who bought, sold, mutilated, stole, or recovered them.
Inspired by the upcoming 100th anniversary of Robey’s famous purchase, authors Kellen Diamanti and Deborah Fisher have conceived a work of creative non-fiction that places the stamps on the continuum of history. Following the stories of Inverted Jenny owners, the stamp can take the reader as far back as the presidency of George Washington. Readers can visit the Gettysburg Battlefield, oil barons in Pennsylvania, early automotive technology, the rise of art from the American West, invention of contract bridge, Blitz, fortunes made in antiquities theft, rise of the New Orleans French Quarter, and the reestablishing of relations with Cuba. Updating even the best known stories while revealing new discoveries unearthed with their research, the authors tell tales that mingle family, ambition, passion, greed, and a cheerful embrace of competition.
To update the Inverted Jenny story, Diamanti and Fisher have conducted dozens of contemporary interviews with collectors who own copies of the stamp today, dealers who have handled multiple sales, and experts who have spent a lifetime studying it. First-hand accounts will be supplemented by extensive archival research in the collections of the American Philatelic Society, New York Collectors Club, and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and several federal agencies.
Stamp of the Century will be the first readable, popular study of this iconic postage stamp to appear in nearly thirty years. It will appeal to anyone interested in philately and modern collecting as well as to a wider audience of readers interested in stories about the romance of early aviation, 20th century strides in transportation and communication, American history as we never studied it in school, and family connections, dysfunctional and otherwise.