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An inverted jenny is better than a hanging chad
November 13, 2006 8:03 AM   Subscribe

An official reviewing absentee ballots in Florida (where else?) noticed that it looked like someone had raided an old stamp collection for the postage on one envelope. One stamp was from 1936 and another stamp had an inverted biplane. An authentic "Inverted Jenny" could be worth $150,000, but the ballot and envelope are sealed in a ballot box, which by law, can not be opened for 22 months and then must be destroyed.
posted by 445supermag (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
who would do such a dumb thing as to mail it? Oh, the problem with simply stuffing stamps in drawers! The fortunes we lose just hoping people will notice...
posted by parmanparman at 8:18 AM on November 13, 2006


the NPR story (where else?)
posted by phaedon at 8:18 AM on November 13, 2006


Obviously it is Richard Pryor trying to earn his uncle's fortune by being incredibly wasteful, as per the terms of his will.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:20 AM on November 13, 2006 [5 favorites]


Unbelievable, and a fantastic story if true. The best part is that the person didn't include a return address, so that not only did he or she lose tens of thousands of dollars through ignorance, the vote didn't count.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:22 AM on November 13, 2006


Regardless of his fabulous wealth, C. Montgomery Burns is just as entitled to his vote as anyone else. And perhaps, he would argue, even more so.
posted by Verdant at 8:27 AM on November 13, 2006


Monty Brewster: What are you gonna vote?
Crowd: [in unison] None of the above!
posted by phaedon at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2006


But it could be a replica, right? The linked article itself states that replicas of the famous stamp are available on eBay. Could be a prank. A pretty obscure prank, but hey. Some people love that stuff.
posted by GuyZero at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2006


I'm guessing it's a replica; this is the most famous stamp error in American history and it's well known that many reproductions of it have been made. If it's real, I'm guessing the government would likely take it over since it's a dead letter and put it in a museum somewhere. Either way I'm not worried about the whole "election law says it'll be destroyed" thing. The courts have proven- oh have they ever proven- that election law can be distorted for whatever means necessary.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:33 AM on November 13, 2006


Could be a prank.

To me it sounds like a performance art piece, using replica stamps. Especially since it was a ballot in Florida... or as 445supermag says, Where else?

And maybe the artist calls himself Chad.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2006


50 bucks says they voted for Katherine Harris.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:36 AM on November 13, 2006


What's all the fuss about an inverted biplane?
That's why they're called biplanes--because they go both ways.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:37 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm not worried about the whole "election law says it'll be destroyed" thing.

The guy who found the stamp says in the NPR interview that the 'store and then destroy' law applies to the ballots only, not the envelopes.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:40 AM on November 13, 2006


I know that most stamps are worth less if canceled, but it surprised me that this applies to the inverted Jenny since there are arguably more uncanceled copies in existence and using the stamp in the mail system subjects to it some risk.

I used to collect German stamps from the 1920's where hyperinflation was so bad that prices kept skyrocketing every few days. If you bought a strip of stamps back then and didnt use them very soon, they would be worthless and many of these specimens are worth more canceled for this very reason.
posted by ernie at 8:44 AM on November 13, 2006


Something about this story makes me laugh as hard as I've laughed all day, but I have no idea what.
posted by chicobangs at 8:48 AM on November 13, 2006


I would think that this stamp is worth less because it's cancelled, but worth more now because it just picked up a fascinating story. I don't know whether that would get it back up to what it was worth to begin with, but not many people have a copy of the rarest stamp ever that was cancelled on a absentee ballot 70 years after it was made and then scheduled for destruction.
posted by pinespree at 8:50 AM on November 13, 2006


This was certainly done intentionally. Now we just have to wait two years to see if those stamps are real.
posted by zsazsa at 8:54 AM on November 13, 2006


but not many people have a copy of the rarest stamp ever that was canceled on a absentee ballot 70 years after it was made and then scheduled for destruction.

That's my point (sorta). Of the 100 or so real IJs out there, I don't think any are canceled at all, making a canceled real one VERY rare, Florida ballot notwithstanding.
posted by ernie at 9:00 AM on November 13, 2006


Something about this story makes me laugh as hard as I've laughed all day, but I have no idea what.

That's funny because if you have ever been a stamp collector, it makes you want to cry.
posted by spock at 9:01 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


What are the odds of such a rare stamp making its way through the hands of the postal service without someone discovering it?

I'll join in the chorus of performance art.
posted by maxwelton at 9:12 AM on November 13, 2006


Inverted Jenny. (SFW)
posted by Floydd at 9:30 AM on November 13, 2006


That's funny because if you have ever been a stamp collector, it makes you want to cry.

My wife was into philatio for a while. Now I cry.
posted by hal9k at 9:48 AM on November 13, 2006


I'll join in the chorus of performance art.
posted by maxwelton at 9:12 AM PST


Agreed. Now, what is the actual content of the ballot - that has to work with the rest of the art-part.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2006


Paging Erwn Schrodinger ...
posted by carter at 9:55 AM on November 13, 2006


Gah! Erwin ...
posted by carter at 9:57 AM on November 13, 2006


zsazsa: "Now we just have to wait two years to see if those stamps are real."

I don't. It's not. Trust me.
posted by koeselitz at 10:00 AM on November 13, 2006


50 bucks says they voted for Katherine Harris.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:36 AM PST on November 13 [+] [!]


I'll bet this ballot was sent in by Katherine Harris herself. And that right now she's cleaning her ears with a hank of ancient tapestry and blotting her make-up with pages torn from the Book of Kells.
posted by maryh at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


They're real. And they're fantastic
posted by spicynuts at 10:14 AM on November 13, 2006


What are the odds of such a rare stamp making its way through the hands of the postal service without someone discovering it?

Hard to say, but undoubtedly better than back in the day when human eyes necessarily had to look at individual pieces of mail vice having machines optically scan them -- although I wonder if anybody ever tried to get away with using Green Stamps in place of genuine postage since the USPS got so heavily automated.
posted by pax digita at 10:16 AM on November 13, 2006


If it is real, I'll bet it is someone destroying evidence of insurance fraud or some such silliness. At least I hope so because the alternative would not garner nearly so high a price when Hollywood comes knocking to purchase the rights to the story. But most likely of all, the stamp is fake which won't even get you a visit from Ashton Kutcher.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:21 AM on November 13, 2006


Save the world from philately!
posted by Mister_A at 10:49 AM on November 13, 2006


Didn't Katherine Harris promise to spend her family inheritance on her election bid? So this is probably Harris making good on her promise by voting for herself. The last honest politician. . . and she's gone. Sigh.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:12 AM on November 13, 2006


I saw this on Reuters Oddly Enough a few days ago. The guy who found it said it would be sold with the money going to the county, probably about $500,000 (although it hadn't been authenticated yet...other priorities or something). He said it was most likely sent by someone with Alzheimers or similar condition.
posted by jacalata at 11:22 AM on November 13, 2006


I read an article about Karl Rove using rare stamps to impress friends and adversaries just last week. Perhaps this inverted Jenny had his fingerprints on it?
posted by vhsiv at 1:10 PM on November 13, 2006


For a dollar fifty I'll stand on my head.
posted by kosher_jenny at 2:05 PM on November 13, 2006


That all depends, k_j... You wearing a skirt?

boyzone perv in tha hizzouse.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:36 PM on November 13, 2006


I hadn't heard until just now that the collector did not actually see (or touch) the stamp. The only thing that mitigates against certainty that it's a replica is the claim there was another old stamp used to make up the whole postage charge.

For example, I've received junk mail like this -- it's one (slightly uncommon) attention-getter. Of course they're all replicas. I'm pretty sure I've also seen a group of such stamps for sale in the value of current first-class postage -- even though even a reproduction inverted Jenny sells for about $10 alone. I can't google something like this now, but I'm almost certain I've seen it.

Let's assume it's real, though. This is fascinating in ways the newspaper story doesn't let on. The stamps "entered circulation" not randomly, as most stamps or undetected errors might, but as an intact sheet of 100. The original buyer then broke up this sheet and sold the stamps singly or in groups. Most of these individual stamps are tracked today and even have their position in the sheet identified. Only a few of the 100 are missing, presumed lost or destroyed. As for cancellation, just one of the 100 is known to have been cancelled. It would still be very valuable, in the tens of thousands range, even apart from this side note in history.

There is one other fascinating possibility, though. The original sheet of 100's sale alerted postal inspectors, and since it was part of a quadrangle of 100-stamp sheets, the other 300 have always been presumed to have been located and destroyed. If this stamp is both authentic and not of the known 100, then there could be as many as 299 others out there somewhere (or perhaps just 99). That would rock the world of philately -- and potentially severely affect the value of the existing stamps. But they've taken 9/10ths of a century to not turn up so far. It's unlikely.
posted by dhartung at 2:39 PM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


posted by jacalata He said it was most likely sent by someone with Alzheimers or similar condition.

No doubt he or she voted for Woodrow Wilson as a write-in.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:41 PM on November 13, 2006


If the location of the 100 (or what's left of them) is know, one assumes that if one had gone missing a while back, that would have been big news in the stamp comunity?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:21 PM on November 13, 2006


50 bucks says they voted for Katherine Harris.

Or, you know, Woodrow Wilson.
posted by Mikey-San at 4:04 PM on November 13, 2006


(fuck, matt, you beat me and I didn't see it)
posted by Mikey-San at 4:05 PM on November 13, 2006


So, dhartung, just for argument's sake, say this is one of the 100. Now that it has been effectively removed from circulation, does that not now:

A- raise the value of the other 99; and
B- raise the value of the other 99 by bringing more notoriety to them?
posted by Pollomacho at 4:43 PM on November 13, 2006


As a (lapsed) stamp collector, I'll give it a whirl.

A - No. Only if, as dhartung says, it somehow leads to a discovery that the other 3 quadrangles of 100s weren't destroyed. If its one of the original 100, than the others would essentially be unaffected. If it turns out there are 400 out there, then almost certainly the price of the "original" block would plumment - especially if those quadrangles are intact!

B- Unknown. This, like other works of art or rarities, are only worth what someone decides to pay (usually at auction). Everyone who would want an Inverted Jenny presumably already knows about them, and I would doubt this publicity would have any effect on other specimens. apart from the stamp in question.
posted by ernie at 5:57 PM on November 13, 2006


Of the 100 or so real IJs out there, I don't think any are canceled at all, making a canceled real one VERY rare, Florida ballot notwithstanding.

Collectible valuation is so weird.
To my knowledge, none of the hundred were dipped in bacon grease either. ... profit!
posted by dreamsign at 7:36 PM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Won't the controversy around this stamp make it more valuable?
posted by tehloki at 7:42 PM on November 13, 2006


Stamp Is Probably Fake, Say Experts
posted by fandango_matt at 8:30 PM on November 14, 2006


Stamp is actually fake, say experts
posted by caddis at 1:30 PM on December 5, 2006


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