'Inverted Jenny' on Ballot Is a Fake, Experts Say

In the fall elections, a county commissioner in Broward County, Fla., found what appeared to be a rare stamp affixed to an absentee ballot. If authentic, the so-called "Inverted Jenny" would have been worth about $300,000. American Philatelic Society director Peter Mastrangelo traveled to Florida with colleague Mercer Bristow to inspect the stamp, and deemed it a fake.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

As the new Congress takes over here in Washington, we have update on a curious story from the midterm elections. Back in November, we told you about a county commissioner in Broward County, Florida who came across what appeared to be a rare stamp attached to an absentee ballot.

When the stamp was issued in 1918, a printing error caused a biplane on the stamp to appear upside down. Nowadays, the inverted Jenny would fetch around $300,000, but to definitely authenticate the stamp found in Florida required a personal inspection by a stamp expert. So last month, Peter Mastrangelo finally got a close-up look. He's the director the American Philatelic Society in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, and he joins us on the line. Peter, tell us what you found.

Mr. PETER MASTRANGELO (American Philatelic Society): Well, early on, the folks down in Florida sent us an e-mail photograph of the stamp in question, and at that point we felt it was a counterfeit stamp. And of course we really couldn't make a definitive decision until we actually went down to Florida and took a look at the stamp in person.

On December 8th, we were down in Fort Lauderdale, myself and our director of expertizing, which we call stamp authentication, a gentleman by the way of Mercer Bristow. And Mercer took a look at the stamp, examined it carefully, and we were able to confirm that it was a counterfeit stamp.

YDSTIE: And how could you tell it was counterfeit?

Mr. MASTRANGELO: Well, there are a few tell-tale signs, but I think the biggest discrepancy was that the replica, while it looked genuine, the perforations along the side of the stamps did not match that of an original inverted Jenny stamp.

YDSTIE: Where do you think the counterfeit came from?

Mr. MASTRANGELO: That's hard to tell. There were a number of actual counterfeits out there in the early '90s, and we think this may have been one of those counterfeits, because it looks very, very similar to photographs and other counterfeit material that we have in our reference collection.

YDSTIE: So what's going to happen to this stamp?

Mr. MASTRANGELO: Well, in the long run, we understand that the National Postal Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, has requested that the stamp and envelope be donated to them.

YDSTIE: How many of these inverted Jenny stamps, authentic ones, are out there unaccounted for?

Mr. MASTRANGELO: Unaccounted for are about four, but possibly five. We know of 100 of them in total, and of that there are a few missing. We're very interested ourselves because there are still two stolen Jennys out there that were stolen in the late '50s that are unaccounted for, that belong to the American Philatelic Society.

The original owner willed the ownership to us when she passed away. So anytime we receive a credible report or a report that we need to follow up on, it could very well be one of the missing stamps that belong to our organization.

YDSTIE: Peter Mastrangelo is direction of the American Philatelic Society. Thanks very much.

Mr. MASTRANGELO: Thank you very much.

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