What could be a more befitting pastime for an ace stamp collector like Warren Buffett? After a long day at work, he returns home and can’t help but stare proudly at the impressive stamp collection he’s amassed over the years. Some stamps drive him through the memory lane as he reminisces about several significant moments in American history. The Oracle of Omaha knows he isn’t the first influential American stamp collector and won’t be the last multibillionaire to adore stamps.
Avid stamp collectors, like Mr. Buffett, have made stamp collecting the most prevalent and fascinating aspect of philately (the study and collection of stamps). US President Franklin Roosevelt, the writer Ayn Rand, Freddie Mercury of Queen, and John Lennon of The Beatles are some of the most popular stamp collectors in US history. This recreational activity prevails primarily due to several US stamps’ beauty and historical significance.
Accordingly, this article deals with the most valuable US stamps. We’ll begin by unveiling some memorable segments of America’s stamp history. Then, we’ll study six precious US stamps wanted by collectors and offer several useful tips to stamp collectors, buyers, and sellers.
After the read, you’ll appreciate the most sought-after US stamps, why people are interested in them, and where you may find or exhibit them. Potential stamp holders and collectors will also benefit from the comprehensive guide for buyers and sellers we’ve attached to the article.
Remarkable Realities About Stamp Collecting: America’s Stampable History of Philately
The world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black, was sold in Britain in May 1840. Seven (7) years later, the United States joined the postage stamps bandwagon, with the first US general issue postage stamps going up for sale on July 1, 1847, in New York.
From the late 19th century, stamp collecting established itself as one of the most popular hobbies globally with the brisk evolution of the postal service. John Walter Scott, the Father of American Philately, oversaw the first postage stamp auction ever conducted on the 28th of May 1870 in New York City. The stamp market’s success led John Kerr Tiffany to found the American Philatelic Society (APS) on September 14, 1886. Franklin Roosevelt and Harold L. Ickes, his Secretary of the Interior, were members of the APS in 1940.
Valuable stamps can also serve as a reasonable investment outside the philately’s reputation as a fun hobby. The respected American stamp collector Bill Gross recently auctioned his prized stamp collection for millions of dollars ($10 million) in October 2018. Although the proceeds were put forward for charity, this incident demonstrates how lucrative it is to collect and sell valuable stamps.
So, if it’s a historically significant, rare, beautiful, or flawed stamp, stamp collecting is worth your time, effort, and money.
The Top 3 Valuable US Stamps Wanted By Collectors: Quick Summary
Let’s quickly warm you up with the three most desired US stamps before treating you to the main course in the subsequent section of this piece.
Here are the top 3 most prized US stamps by collectors in recent times:
1. The Most Valuable US Stamp of All Time — The 1918 Inverted Jenny
Valued at $1.593 million; most expensive philatelic item in modern history; one of the most valuable US stamps of the 1900s (probably the most valuable); most well-known US stamp; with unusual printing error; over 100 years old; historically significant; over 50 but less than 100 left in the world.
2. The Most Valuable US Stamp of the 19th Century — Inverted 24c Declaration of Independence Stamp
Priced at $1.2 million; most expensive stamp of the 19th century; with an inverted image; twenty four-cent stamp; historically important; incredibly rare, with only four known to exist.
3. The Most Valuable US Grill Stamp — The Benjamin Franklin Z Grill Stamp
Auctioned at about $3 million; most precious grill stamp; unusual 1868 Z-grill stamp; possesses tiny dents; incredibly rare with only 2 existing as of 2022; vital to American history.
The Six (6) Most Valuable US Stamps: Detailed Reviews
The United States has issued over 5000 stamps since 1847. However, the stamps are worth differently in the philatelic market. Some stamps may be valued at just a few dollars, while others cost up to a million dollars on auction platforms. Several factors influence this price discrepancy, including the stamp’s general condition, rarity, age, historical significance, peculiarity, and the holder’s desire and perspective.
This section reveals the most valuable US stamps across various periods and provides useful information on the following:
- The stamp’s highest recorded auction price so far
- Its face value and original issue date
- The stamp’s appearance and depiction
- The reasons and features behind the stamp’s value
- Its availability status
- History of past sales, acquisitions, and ownership
- The current individual or organization holding or exhibiting the stamp, if available.
These are the 6 most valuable US stamps according to past auctions and various outlets trading valuable collectibles:
- The 1918 Inverted Jenny
- Inverted 1869 24c Declaration of Independence stamp
- The Benjamin Franklin Z Grill stamp
- The Alexandria “Blue Boy” Postmaster’s Provisional stamp
- The 1868 George Washington B-Grill
- The USA 1851 2 Cents Hawaiian Missionary stamp
Sit tight as we elucidate the 6 most prized stamps list by extensively reviewing each stamp mentioned above.
1. The 1918 Inverted Jenny: The Most Valuable US Stamp of All Time
- Value: $1.593 million
- Original Issue Date: May 10, 1918
- Face Value: 24 cents
- Image: Curtiss JN-4
- Rarity Type: Invert error
- Number in Existence: About 86 left, although only 100 were printed
The 1918 Inverted Jenny tops this list as the most valuable and most famous US stamp with an outstanding value of $1.593 million based on a 2018 sale. It derives its admirable name from the blue inverted Curtiss Jenny 4 depiction serving as its central image. Although the United States Post Office issued 100 of this stamp, beginning from May 10, 1918, at 24 cents, only about 86 of them can be accounted for in recent times.
Numerous collectors are drawn to the Inverted Jenny because of its unconventional invert error. The stamp has been sold at remarkable prices since early as 2005 following an auction of a block of 4 Inverted Jennys for $2.7 million at the Robert A. Siegel auction.
On November 15, 2018, the stamp attained a new record when an anonymous internet bidder bought the newly unveiled position number 49 Inverted Jenny, at $1.593 million, including an 18% buyer’s premium, in an auction conducted by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries.
The unprecedented cost of the Inverted Jenny sold in 2018 was due to its pristine condition, as it had previously been secured in a safe deposit box for 100 years, shielding it from extreme sunlight.
Some individuals who’ve owned or still own Inverted Jennys, including Position 49, are:
- Eugene Klein
- William T. Robey
- Edward Howland Robinson Green
- Anonymous owner
2. Inverted 24c Declaration of Independence Stamp of 1869: The Most Valuable US Stamp of the 19th Century
- Value: $1.2 million
- Earliest Known Use: April 7, 1869
- Face Value: 24 cents
- Image: 42 persons, with six more observable principal figures
- Rarity Type: Invert error; engraving
- Number in Existence: Only four are known to exist
The 24 Cent Declaration of Independence stamp of 1869 is widely regarded as a masterpiece in the philatelic world due to its rich historical relevance. This miniature of America’s freedom honors the independence of the original thirteen American colonies from British rule on July 4, 1774, and is a brainchild of the notable American artist John Trumbull. With six principal figures recognizable under a magnifying glass, Jamie Smillie engraved 42 persons on the green and velvet stamp.
A good-condition 24 cent 1869 Declaration of Independence stamp with a properly aligned image may be considered valuable. However, a similar stamp with an inverted depiction tends to be much rarer, more sought-after, and such a philatelic item holds more value when collected and ultimately auctioned.
The stamp market had a memorable moment in 2008 when the auctioneer Philip Weiss witnessed an Inverted 24 cent Declaration of Independence stamp sell for $1.2 million. An anonymous collector won the bid for what was once part of the Charles A. Schaefer collection purchased in 1974 for $100,000.
Today, only four Inverted varieties are known to exist.
3. The Benjamin Franklin Z Grill Stamp: The Most Valuable US Grill Stamp
- Value: $935,000—$3 million
- Original Issue Date: February 1868
- Face Value: 1 cent
- Image: Benjamin Franklin
- Rarity Type: Z-grill
- Number in Existence: 2
The one-cent Benjamin Franklin stamp features a unique variety of grills, the Z-grill, possessing horizontal ridges rather than the usual vertical pattern. Grilling allowed the stamp paper to better absorb canceling ink to prevent deceitful reuse. Generally, philatelists cite it as the rarest and most valuable grill stamp.
Only two one-cent Benjamin Franklin Z-Grill stamps are currently known to exist, and both of them possess cancellation marks. The New York Public Library holds one of the surviving Z-Grills, leaving only one in private possession.
Mystic Stamp Company, a stamp-dealing platform, purchased the privately-owned 1868 Z-Grill for $935,000 in 1998. Zachary Sundman, the son of the company’s president, Donald Sundman, bartered the Z-Grill to stamp investor Bill Gross for a block of four Inverted Jennys worth about $3 million in October 2005.
The two surviving Z-Grills were exhibited at the National Postal Museum from May 27, 2006, until October 1, 2007.
4. The Alexandria “Blue Boy” Postmaster’s Provisional Stamp
- Value: $1.18 million
- Production Date: 1867
- Production Location: Alexandria, Virginia
- Face Value: 5 cents
- Color: Blue
- Rarity Type: Unique color
- Number in Existence: Only one, but it was auctioned in 2018
Named after its city of production and unusual blue color, the Alexandria “Blue Boy” is a rare stamp and the only Postmaster’s Provisionals postage printed on blue paper. Many philatelists believe the stamp originally served as postage for a love letter between two cousins. The stamp remains attached to its original yellow mailing envelope, canceled with a “PAID” handstamp.
The prominent philatelist and auctioneer David Feldman first sold the “Blue Boy” to a German collector for $1 million in 1981. In June 2019, it was publicly auctioned for $1.18 million.
5. The 1868 George Washington B-Grill Stamp
- Value: $1.035 million
- Original Issue Date: 1868
- Face Value: 3 cents
- Image: George Washington
- Rarity Type: B-grill
- Number in Existence: Only four are thought to exist
The 1868 George Washington B-Grill stamp, known for the characteristic waffle-like grill on its posterior aspect, was the first of its kind. It was designed to forestall the fraudulent reuse of stamps, hence its peculiarity. Ordinary issue George Washington stamps cost way less than their B-grill counterparts, typically valued only a few dollars.
Although this B-grill stamp was initially worth 3 cents like the conventional design when first issued, its value has significantly skyrocketed because of its rarity. Moreover, only four are thought to exist. An anonymous bidder bought a pink 1868 3-cent depicting George Washington at a monumental price of $1.035 million, including commission costs, in 2008.
The surviving four 1868 George Washington B-grill stamps were rediscovered in an envelope destined for Germany in 1969. As of 2008, three of them were sold in 1993, 1998, and 2008, respectively.
6. The USA 1851 2-Cents Hawaiian Missionary Stamp
- Value: $619,500
- Original Issue Date: 1851
- Face Value: 2 cents
- Design: Standard printer’s ornament
- Rarity Type: Few copies exist
- Number in Existence: 15 copies
The Kingdom of Hawaii produced the Hawaiian Missionary stamps in 1851 as they established a post office and specified postal rates. They’re so named because they were commonly seen in missionaries’ correspondence. The 2-cents Hawaiian Missionary stamp features a standard printer’s ornament in design. This stamp is primarily valuable because of its rarity and historical significance.
There are about 15 copies left in the 21st century, and a 2-cents Hawaiian Missionary was among the most valuable stamps in Bill Gross’s collection. The 1851 stamp was auctioned for $619,500 at Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries to Arthur Przybyl, a pharmaceuticals executive.
A Comprehensive Guide on Appraising, Purchasing, Selling and Investing in Rare Valuable US Stamps
Here, we’ll educate you on how to discern valuable stamps from less valuable counterparts. You’ll also realize the best mediums to buy and sell valuable US stamps. Then, we’ll add the final dressing to the guide by apprising you of the basics of investing in valuable US stamps.
Appraising US Stamps
It’s vital to properly scrutinize a stamp before acquiring or listing it for sale to stave off losses and fraud. Certain components foster a stamp’s value, while others make it less impressive.
Factors likely to make a US stamp stand out in the philatelic market and outlook include the following:
As expressed in the 2018 Inverted Jenny auction, stamps appearing unchanged and relatively similar to their original conditions tend to be more valuable. US stamps in the same condition as when issued by the United States Postal Service, for instance, with the full original gum, are typically worth more than those previously hinged or damaged.
Neat, Bright, and Original Color
Collectors generally prefer fresh and brightly-colored stamps with clear original engravings and images to those faded due to exposure to water and sunlight. Hence, stamp holders auction stamps with such market appeal at significant prices.
The Stamp’s History and Issue Date
Stamps are similar to valuable artifacts, and philatelists are like archeologists. Usually, stamps issued before the late 1900s are historically relevant and thus prized by collectors and traded at great costs.
The Stamp’s Face Value
Sometimes, a stamp’s worth depends on its face value. The higher the stamp’s face value denomination, the greater its merit. However, this rule isn’t always true for US stamps, as rare models like the one-cent Z-Grill and two-cents Hawaiian Missionary are highly valued regardless of their low face values.
Stamps only secure a premium price when their design and perforations are unscathed. A stamp with missing parts will be less valuable despite its availability status, i.e., even though it’s quite rare.
Unique and Tidy Cancellation Marks
An ancient stamp still embedded in its original envelope and featuring a special cancellation mark will be more expensive and desired than a plain equivalent. This tendency is responsible for the high cost of the Alexandria “Blue Boy.” Hence, it pays to leave stamps on their original packages or envelopes.
Similarly, philatelists are particularly interested in stamps with a tidy and well-imprinted cancellation mark, such as a bullseye. A bullseye or “Socked on the Nose” (“SON”) is a circular cancellation mark applied in the stamp’s center. The cancellation mark is important because it’s rather difficult to achieve and bears significant details like the date, time, and cancellation area.
An unusual mistake, such as a missing color, feature, or invert error due to a production or printing error, can greatly increase a stamp’s value. The Inverted Jenny and Inverted Declaration of Independence stamps are significantly worth more than their “flawless” equivalents.
Perfect Perforations and Ridges
Most times, the neater a stamp’s perforations and ridges, the more valued it’ll be in the philatelic society. You may observe pictures of the B-Grill and Z-Grill for better demonstration.
Minimal Creases and Damages
Bends and creases can seriously devalue a stamp. Therefore, ensure you purchase a stamp with as few wrinkles as possible and thoroughly safeguard it to prevent further damages.
Where to Buy and Sell Valuable US Stamps
The medium you employ to purchase or auction stamps considerably determines their value and bargain price. For instance, you’ll likely find authentic, valuable US stamps in a reputable auction platform like Robert A. Siegel due to its popularity among high-profile stamp holders and dealers. Conversely, you may sell a precious US stamp at a decent price on the same platform because of the favorable number of bidders and serious competition it attracts.
Let’s look at the best places to buy and sell valuable US stamps. They include:
- Reputable stamp dealers
- Stamp auctions
- E-Commerce platforms
- Direct means
- Mail order
We’ll extensively discuss these mediums in the successive paragraphs.
Reputable Stamp Dealers
Stamp dealers are a great way to trade valuable US stamps and build a decent collection. You could buy valuable US stamps from a respected stamp dealer, like the Mystic Stamp Company, or sell a part of your stamp collection to a prominent stamp collector, such as Bill Gross.
You may auction or purchase exceptionally valuable US platforms at auction houses or platforms. The problem with buying stamps at an auction is that the price may be significantly high due to competition. Still, you may benefit from this predisposition if you possess a rare and valuable US stamp you wish to sell. Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries is one of the leading auction outlets in the United States.
Online auction and stamp-dealing platforms are a reasonable choice to sell or purchase valuable US stamps if you’re employing trustworthy sites. eBay and Etsy are two well-known e-commerce platforms dealing with philatelic items.
You can also trade or acquire rare US stamps through direct means. Regularly check sites like Craigslist and various newspaper advertisements to learn about eager stamp buyers and sellers.
You can order US stamps from the American Philatelic Society (APS) via mail at a selected price.
Expert Tips on Investing in Valuable US Stamps
Stamp collecting has become a lucrative investment since people began appreciating philately.
Here are some beneficial ideas on how to earn substantial profits from stamp collecting:
- Purchase flawless and well-centered stamps
- Demand a Certificate of Authenticity when buying purportedly valuable stamps
- Patiently and routinely watch for deals at prominent auction houses and stamp dealers
- Focus on the rarest and most significant stamps
- Don’t purchase error stamps without proper guidance and knowledge
- Follow the stamp market to recognize price and auction fads
- Carefully and properly safeguard your stamps, protecting them from water and sunlight exposure
- Insure any valuable stamp investment
What are the most valuable US stamps of the 1900s?
The 1918 Inverted Jenny is the most valuable US stamp of the 1900s, with an auction value of $1.593 million.
What’s the rarest US stamp?
The one-cent Benjamin Franklin stamp is one of the rarest US stamps, with only two existing and one in private hands.
What are the top three stamps wanted by collectors?
Most stamp collectors are interested in the Inverted Jenny, Inverted 1869 Declaration of Independence, and Z-Grill stamps.
Philately has created a special hobby, course, and source of income for a considerable number of individuals. You can join several philatelic organizations to appreciate the windfalls of stamp collecting. As the largest organization for stamp collectors in the US, the American Philatelic Society (APS) may provide further useful information on the most valuable US stamps.