Invert error – A cash cow if you have one!

Obviously, a major attraction of stamp collecting is the investment potential. One of the rarest and most valued errors in philately is the «invert error». What is an invert error and what are these stamps worth?

When part of the image on a postage stamp is printed upside-down, it becomes an invert. Usually this happens when a stamp is to be printed with multiple colours and has to pass through the press more than once. It is easy for someone to accidentally feed the sheet through for the next colour the wrong way around, and then one or more of the colours (and therefore part of the image) is misprinted, resulting in an upside down image. More often than not the mistake is caught and the sheets are destroyed before they hit the public. On rare occasions though, a sheet makes it to the post office and stamps are purchased before anyone notices the mistake. Since collectors enjoy these rare stamps they are usually worth a small fortune-some have even been sold for upwards of USD$100 000!!

Some famous and interesting inverts:

1610c.jpgThe «CIA Invert»: This American stamp (Scott#1610c) is considered by philatelists to be a true colour invert. The last colour to be printed on the 1$ candleholder stamp was dark brown. One sheet of stamps was fed through the wrong way, resulting in the brown ink being misprinted. Since the brown ink accounted for most of the design, the image of the holder and the writing is upside down in relation to the other image on the stamp-a flame. It is named the «CIA invert» because it was a CIA employee who discovered the error when buying stamps for his office. He teamed up with other colleagues to buy the sheet. Of course, others tried to get a piece of the pie. The US Post Office Department tried to get the sheet back, and the bureau of the CIA tried to claim the sheet was theirs by saying it was bought while «on the job» and therefore was property of the bureau. In the end neither agency was successful, and today there is one stamp dealer who is known to have been the main supply source of the CIA invert for the past 30 years. In the 2008 Scott catalogue it has a value of $21,000.00 USD, but at auction this stamp would certainly go for more!

seaway.jpgThe «St-Lawrence Seaway Invert»: A Canadian entry into the invert error field is the St-Lawrence Seaway invert (Scott#387a). This stamp was issued to commemorate the opening of the St-Lawrence Seaway in 1959. The seaway, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes allows for deep draft navigation and is sometimes referred to as the «gateway to North America». Its system of locks can lift vessels up to 75 meters above sea level. Only on some of the Canadian issues was the design inverted. Approximately 400 of the inverted stamps are known to have existed.  It has a catalogue value of $16,000.00 CAD for a perfect specimen, which is difficult to obtain due to frequent handling of the stamps by the public since its release in 1959.

Another famous invert is the «Inverted Jenny». Are there any others that you know of but would like to have a bit more background information about? Drop us a line and we’ll do the research for you! Maybe you’ll see your choice in one of our future articles.

18 thoughts on “Invert error – A cash cow if you have one!”

  1. Hi
    I just ran across your site last night & I would like to ask if you have ever seen a variation of the 1939, War Memorial. I have three first day covers with this stamp on each. There is a distinct difference on one of these stamps. The brown tones are lighter overall and the cropping of the picture leaves more steps at the bottom of the Memorial. If you would like to see these first day covers please contact me and I will send you a macro image.

  2. on a few 4 cent stamps I noticed printing on the back of three of them. The most notable is the world against Malaria 4 cent. On the back of this stamp (never used) are the outline of another stamp. I can make out two faces 4 cents and 1961 United states of America. The writing is of course back words in blue ink.
    On the other two stamps it seems to be the making outline of a medal or circular object. This one on the 4 cent lincoln- Douglas debate. Are these still considered rare inverts. If so would they be one of a kind? Maybe worth a considerable amount of money?

  3. I am in possession of the following Canadian stamp.

    4cPostage stamp issued 1947. The stamp depicts a young canadian and underneath are the words “Citizen:Citoyen” by some mistake the right hand of the man on the stamp has only 3 fingers. Can you please enlighten me as to whether it has any value?

  4. I purchased a stamp in Vancouver Washington back in 1991, entitled the Comediens, these Stamps are MISSED PRINTS because they don’t have a denominatons, supposed to be 29 cents back then, you can see clearly the space on the top right side of the stamps are empty the denominations are missing. i have these stamps for 20 years now and still don’t know if it worth something. for people out there who is a serious buyer or collectors i want to hear your feedback, if you heard about these stamps.


  5. I know nothing about stamps. An estate collection we have has an 1869 6 cent U.S. stamp, blue, I believe it is Geo. Washington, facing to the right. I don’t know for sure what a z-grill is but the back has a square which has an imprint on it. Any comments?

  6. I have come across a 1932 airmail stamp (mercury) 6 overprint Ottawa Conference. It has a whiteline on a slight diagonal down the middle of the stamp. It appears that the paper was creased before being printed. Has anyone else come across one of these.

  7. I have a blue 2nd class stamp that as what appears to have the face of an old man with a beard,I have been told I is just a water mark but what is also intrested about this stamp is that it about 9 other smaller heads that make up the face of the old man,
    can anyone tell me what it could be worth.

  8. I have a full sheet of Capex87 34cent stamps,that have been folded over in the left hand corner of the sheet,before it was perferated.Could you tell me if this would be vauable,to stamp collectors.I obtained it when i was sending Thank You cards out,I bought several sheets of stamps and this was
    one of the sheets.
    Thank You for any information about these stamps.

  9. thsmk you on all the info on stamps…….. Ihave quite the collection but i have a question ? i have a certain stamp and i know it has a err i just cant find it anywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! please help [email protected]

  10. My brother & I have a used 5 cent St-Lawrance Seaway stamp with the inverted center. We would be interested in selling it, how we would go about this selling it. I would like to know the going price for this stamp so we could know what we can get for it.I also forgot to say that it is a used stamp that has gone through the post office.

  11. I have 3 st Lawrence sea ways , 1 is not inverted and has been mailed , 2 are inverted , the mailed one is 9/10 and the inverted unmailed is pristine , I have a watermark tester and ultraviolet light and a good microscope and a perf checker I am a beginner but book value on these are 16,000 I’d take 9,500$ on the 3 , anywhere recommended for certification and appraisal ? My email is [email protected] 705-622-3141


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