Behind every little stamp lies a fascinating story
TINY works of art, postage stamps tell the stories of our country and our world. They tell big stories (of historical figures like Nelson Mandela), stories about nature (such as the protea) and an endless list of topics such as famous musicians and sporting heroes.
There’s a new stamp that tells the story of a postal mishap that happened in the US in 1918. That year, the US Post Office issued the Curtis Jenny stamp to celebrate the country’s first airmail delivery. The stamp was named after the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane (that means it has upper and lower wings) used for the flight. But a printing error caused the image of the plane to be printed upside down on some of the sheets.
One of those sheets of 100 stamps was sold by accident at a Washington post office. (The others were destroyed.) The clerk had never seen an aeroplane before and didn’t notice the mistake.
Since then, stamp collectors have searched for the “Inverted Jennys”. One recently sold for $977 000 (about R9.9 million).
This year, the US Postal Service issued 2 million “Inverted Jennys” to celebrate the 1918 mishap. The 2013 stamp intentionally shows the plane upside down.
And there’s a twist: The post office has printed 100 sheets of the stamp with the plane flying right side up.
So far, only two sheets of the limited-edition stamps have been found. “It’s a bit of a scavenger hunt,” says Susan McGowan, executive director for stamp services at the US Postal Service. “It’ also a super opportunity for kids to start a collection.”
One of the great things about collecting stamps is that you can focus on your interests, such as sports, animals, history, movies or even muscle cars. McGowan, who collects stamps with her kids, shares a few tips:
● Go to your nearest post office, ask to see the latest stamps, and make a purchase.
● Save the stamps from anything you get in the mail.
● Create a scrapbook to save your stamps.
● Check out this philatelic society’s website: www. stamps. org/ Young-Philatelists. (A philatelist is someone who collects stamps.)
● With a parent’s permission, search online for your favourite topic – whether it’s baseball or whales – plus the word “stamps”. If you find a picture of a stamp that’s not available at the post office, the website has lists of stamp dealers and stamp shows. – Washington Post