Rare Stamp May Be on Envelope in Florida Ballot Box

Even canceled, a 1918 Inverted Jenny could be worth $100,000, according to one estimate.
Even canceled, a 1918 Inverted Jenny could be worth $100,000, according to one estimate. (New York Public Library Via Associated Press)
Associated Press
Sunday, November 12, 2006

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Nov. 11 -- An absentee ballot was mailed with what may have been a valuable, extremely rare stamp, but the envelope is now in a box that by law cannot be opened before September 2008.

While reviewing absentee ballots Tuesday night, Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom noticed what looked like a small stamp collection on one envelope. There was no name on the envelope, so the vote contained inside did not count.

At least one of the stamps was from 1936, Rodstrom said later. But another really caught his eye: It had an upside-down World War I-era airplane -- the hallmark of a stamp known among collectors as the Inverted Jenny.

The 24-cent Jenny stamps were printed in 1918. Sheets were run through presses twice to process all the colors and, on one pass, four went through backward. Inspectors caught the errors on three sheets and destroyed them, but one sheet of 100 stamps escaped into circulation.

Stamp collectors have spent 88 years trying to find them all.

"I was a stamp collector when I was little," Rodstrom told the Miami Herald. "I recognized it."

Rodstrom discussed the stamp with other members of the canvassing board, but by that time, Broward County Court Judge Eric Beller said, "We had already sealed the box. And once you seal the box, under the election law you can't unseal it."

Elections officials will retain the ballot for 22 months, Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida secretary of state's office, told the Associated Press. After that, any action is up to the county elections supervisor.

A telephone message left with Fred Bellis, the executive assistant to Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, was not immediately returned Saturday.

Snipes's spokeswoman, Mary Cooney, said the supervisor is too busy with balloting to focus on the stamp. Cooney said ballots and materials are usually destroyed after the 22-month holding period.

Snipes is "not going to be able to take any time to even look at it until after the [ballot] certification on Monday," Cooney told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Maynard Guss, president of the Sunrise Stamp Club, said an Inverted Jenny, if authentic, could be worth $200,000. But when the ballot was mailed, the stamp was canceled, reducing its value. Guss estimated that a canceled Jenny would sell for $20,000 to $100,000.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company