When does upside down become right side up?

The answer is when it's a candlestick or "Rush Lamp" stamp -- 400 of which were misprinted by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. If the stamp is printed correctly, it's worth $1; if it's the misprint, it's worth -- you name it, maybe $115,000.

But when The New York Times and The Washington Post tried to explain about the candlestick stamp in yesterday's papers, there was, understandably, a good deal of confusion about which way was up.

The articles, on the front pages of both papers, were about 86 of the misprinted stamps found by CIA employes last year and then covertly sold to stamp collectors.

But it was the photos of the stamp that caused the confusion -- problems that may be easily understood by a philatelist or a physicist, or preferably someone who happens to be both.

Both The Times and The Post started out accompanying the articles with photos of the stamp running the logical way -- so that you could read the writing and with the "mistake" -- the candle's halo -- printed upside down. Well, as any enthusiast would protest (and many of them did), that meant the entire stamp was upside down.

The "correct" way to print the stamp was with the writing and the candlestick upside down and the halo right side up. The reason: because the stamps ran through several printers and the halo was printed first. So according to the rules of most stamp traders, whatever was printed later was technically upside down.

Got it?

The Times righted its stamp in second editions (by turning the writing upside down) and then printed the incorrect stamp and the correct stamp in later editions. The Post kept the stamp technically upside down but logically right side up in all editions.

By day's end the question for newspaper collectors was that if an error on a stamp makes it worth 115,000 times its original value, what does it do for The Post and The Times, which cost 25 cents and 30 cents respectively?

Poor but Famous Speaking of stamp fever, the sight of the Rush Lamp stamp on the front page of The Post yesterday prompted Margaret Sheffer of Arlington to call WTOP radio to report that she had five of the stamps with the misprint. So about noon yesterday an NBC crew and a Washington Post reporter went to the First American Bank of Virginia where she and her husband -- with great fanfare -- removed the envelope from the vault and unveiled the five stamps.

As Post reporter Bill McAllister stared at the treasure, he gulped. Douglas Kiker of NBC grimaced.

"I hate to say it, but they don't seem upside down to me," McAllister said gently.

It turned out that the five $1 stamps are worth $5, but for Sheffer, it was her moment in the sun. Her story was the closing item on the NBC Nightly News last night.

Does that mollify the loss of dreams of several hundred thousand dollars? Sheffer was asked yesterday evening.

"Well," she confessed. "Not really."

Pressing Public Relations For all the public knew, the first International Women's Media Project last year was a smashing success. Women from 38 countries, including many of the female stars of journalism in the United States, met to tell their stories of juggling professional and personal lives.

But underneath the smiles and the stories, a massive subterranean battle was going on between the women journalists who were running the event and the public relations firm they chose to promote it.

The fight was so intense, in fact, that earlier this summer eight women sponsors sent out a fierce letter to all participants stressing that they "resigned en masse after the conclusion of the conference ... we clearly wish to disassociate ourselves from any future activity by Miner, Fraser & Gabriel {the public relations firm}."

The letter was signed by columnists Georgie Anne Geyer and Marianne Means; Phyllis Kaminsky, director of the United Nations Information Center; Time New York bureau chief Bonnie Angelo; Newsweek congressional correspondent Eleanor Clift; London Times correspondent Bailey Morris; WJLA Channel 7 anchor Susan King; and market research executive Ellen Sills-Levy.

Several of the eight -- all members of the original steering committee for the conference -- said they decided to send the letter when Miner, Fraser & Gabriel began talking about putting on a second conference. "We just felt it was the only honorable thing to do," said one.

When the letter reached about 150 to 200 participants and contributors, complaints poured in to the public relations firm, which considered suing the eight women, according to one member of the firm, Edward M. Gabriel.

Gabriel said in a statement yesterday that the letter included "misstatements" and "half-truths" and was a "transparent effort ... wrongfully to sabotage MF&G's plans to schedule a similar conference in 1988."

He said the letter breached a confidentiality agreement reached before the conference by stating that "Edie Fraser was removed from her role as project director and the steering committee appointed one of its own members to assume day-to-day responsibility for the planning and execution of the conference."

He denied a mass resignation of the steering committee after the conference, and said that Tom Miner, who is also president of the Mid-America Foundation in Chicago, sent a letter terminating the steering committee's tenure in January. Gabriel also said the letter represented an "unauthorized use" of the conference stationery.

The steering committee members said in their letter that Miner & Fraser had raised $150,000 for the conference but paid itself all but $2,000 of it for fees and expenses before the conference even began. "In the end, two-thirds of the money raised for the conference was paid to Miner & Fraser, a sum that, in our opinion, is a far higher proportion than generally accepted standards would permit."

Gabriel said the company "absorbed $92,455 in legitimate fees for the project," in effect losing money. A report from Myer Emanuel Jr., a certified public accountant hired after the conference, said that financial records presented by Miner & Fraser "appeared to be sufficiently adequate and accurate."

After a summer of negotiations, Miner, Fraser & Gabriel has prepared a letter responding to the charges from the eight original committee members and it is expected to be sent out next week. It is part of an agreement that the public relations firm will not sue the eight women.

Whether there will be a second International Women's Media Project is anybody's guess.