I'm sure you've all heard of that most famous of misprints, the Inverted Jenny. The U.S.P.S. has some great tales surrounding curious stamps, but that one seems to really capture people's interest. Why, I even got a card from the Japanese Postal Museum recently that featured the Inverted Jenny (in gold foil printing no less) and I thought about how odd it was for another country to print a U.S. stamp on it's postal museum cards. However, that's the magic of the Jenny. It is cross-cultural. It is so celebrated a mistake that last year, the U.S.P.S. released a new version of the stamp at the $2.00 value. It's a lovely stamp, too.
There have been other, less beloved, errors in U.S. philatelic history. The U.S.P.S. Stamps blog recently featured the story of the CIA Invert. You can see in the image that the candle and flame are completely out of alignment from the rest of the stamp. (The top stamp is the invert, the bottom stamp shows a correctly printed stamp.) The "scandal" surrounding the stamp is the most facsinating thing about it.
Indeed, this stamp wasn't even worth a lot on the collection market before it had a narrative. The curiousity of one stamp dealer revealed a CIA connection that found public interest, much to the CIA's dismay. An employee of the agency had been the original buyer of the inverted stamps and had purchased them with petty cash for governmental use. Another employee noticed the error and, together with 7 of their colleagues, they bought replacement stamps, keep one for themselves and sold the rest of a dealer. It doesn't sound all that bad really, but it consitutes a consipiracy. The public loved it. The CIA hated it. It remains one of the great stories in U.S. philatelic history. Stamps tell stories. It's what I love about them.
P.S. Did you know that a very select few of the new Jenny stamps are printed right-side up? Yup! Keep an eye out!