The unique centreline block of four “Inverted Jenny” U.S. error stamps recently brought a record price for a U.S. philatelic item sold at auction in 2019.
Crossing the block for $1.74 million US (about $2 million Cdn.), the lot includes positions 45-46 as well as 55-56 with both the vertical and horizontal guidelines crossing at the centre.
“It is one of the blocks that Colonel (Edward Howland Robinson) Green kept for himself when he acquired the sheet,” says Canadian dealer Chris Green, who’s also a specialist with Spink, the auction house that sold the iconic rarity this September. “The centring is beautiful, the left pair being particularly choice. The colours are bright and fresh. It is truly an iconic piece, not only of American philately but a global rarity.”
Another single “Inverted Jenny” stamp offered this September by Spink crossed the block for $425,000, meeting the auction house’s estimate of $250,000-$675,000.
The sale of both lots, however, was mired by an ongoing feud with the stamp’s former owner, Bill Gross, and his 31-year-old son Nick, a Los Angeles-based rock drummer.
The elder Gross claims he gave each of his three children some of his Inverted Jenny stamps as an inheritance for his grandchildren. Unbeknownst to him, his son Nick recently decided to sell the stamps.
The father and son have been estranged since 2016, when Bill and his ex-wife Sue filed for divorce after more than three decades of marriage.
“This is another example of my father’s bad and vindictive behaviour, which is why I’ve had to distance myself from him,” Nick told the New York Post this September. “If he would like to have the stamps back, he is welcome to buy them at auction.”
Although he was reportedly considering bidding on the disputed stamps, the elder Gross “decided not to pursue this any further at this time,” according to an anonymous source quoted in the same Post story.