Dr. Sol Taylor

Printing Errors and Such

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, March 10, 2007

n the mid-1930s, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of 10 commemorative stamps honoring each of 10 national parks. Postmaster General James Farley, a staunch Roosevelt supporter, had the Bureau of Engraving and Printing make some special printings of these stamps — now known as "Farleys" — especially for FDR's personal stamp collection. They included uncut sheets of stamps and various perforation arrangements.
    Once the news got out that the Postal Service made these extra special issues, collectors demanded that additional copies be made for the collecting public.
    FDR's stamp collection had the originals of these "Farleys" signed by Farley, while the collecting public got unsigned copies at face value from a limited number of selected post offices. Today, these special printings are worth somewhat more than the regular National Parks issues.
    In the 1950s, a special 4-cent stamp was issued honoring the late Dag Hammarskjold. One sheet of these stamps was bought by a collector in New Jersey who noted that the two colors were inverted — as seen by the two plate numbers being head to tail instead of aligned. The difference was not easy to spot at a glance, but this was a reminder of what could have been another "Inverted Jenny" find.
    The excited collector dashed over to the New York City stamp dealer, J&H Stolow, who offered him $5,000 for the sheet. He refused — expecting considerably more. A few days later, Postmaster General Ed Day announced the plate for the error stamps had been found and that millions more of the "error" stamps would be printed and sold at face value to the collecting public.
    The New Jersey collector was so infuriated he tried to sue the Postal Service — but got nowhere. The moral of the story is, "Take $5,000 for a $2 investment, you greedy fool."
    Finally, at a stamp vending machine in a post office around 1973 in Orange, Calif., one of the machines was dispensing 8-cent Eisenhower stamps without perforations in between the stamps. Obviously, many customers who bought one or a few of these simply cut the stamps apart to use for postage.
    When I went there one afternoon, one customer was complaining that the stamps were imperforate. I immediately fed as many coins as I had into the machine (machines at the time did not accept paper money) until it ran out of stamps. Knowing these were of some value, I offered them to Superior Stamp Co., which paid me a considerable premium — several dollars per pair — and bought all the stamps I found. It would not have mattered if there were many such rolls or just this one.
    I remembered the story of the inverted Dag Hammarskjold stamp and did not want to be too greedy.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.