Do you know the unbelievable true story behind the CIA Invert? What started as a secret agreement among CIA employees in 1986, became international news just a year later, and when the dust settled, three CIA employees would be forced to resign, in the most exciting stamp story in decades. But where did it all start, and where did it all go wrong?
The $1 colonial rushlight holder stamp was first issued on July 2, 1979, as part of the Americana series produced by the United States Postal Service. However, it would not be until seven years later when the only known pane of 100 inverted stamps was first discovered. As these $1 stamps were printed in sheets of 400, at one time there must have been three more additional panes – but none were ever found. An interesting fact in itself, but where did the name “CIA Invert” come from?
In the spring of 1986, an employee of the CIA visited the local post office in McLean, Virginia, who had been sent by the CIA to buy stamps for the agency. His purchase included a pane of 95 $1 colonial rushlight holder stamps (five had already been removed and sold individually). Unbeknownst to the purchaser, and likely unnoticed to those who purchased the first five from the pane, these were in fact invert errors. However, it was not until several days later, when another CIA employee needed a $1 stamp for agency mailing, that the purchaser first noticed that the flames were inverted relative to the candle holder and lettering.
The man quickly shared his information with eight colleagues, and the nine decided to purchase 95 normal $1 colonial rushlight holder stamps, and replace these with the agency’s. They next revealed their new found invert errors to a local stamp dealer, Ike Snyder of Annandale, Virginia, who in turn pointed them in the direction of New Jersey stamp specialist Jacques C. Schiff, Jr. After negotiating a deal, the nine CIA employees each kept one stamp, and the remaining 86 were sold for $25,000.
The story which Jacques C. Schiff, Jr. told from there, was that the stamps were discovered by a business in northern Virginia, after the first 14 were used for mailing purposes, and that the original owner wished to remain anonymous. This might have been where the story ended, had 50 of the stamps not then been sold to a group of individuals, including Mystic Stamp President Don Sundman.
Sundman, curious as to where the stamps came from, eventually obtained a Freedom of Information Act request with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. From the report, he was able to piece together the true story, which quickly became national news! From there, the CIA launched their own internal investigation, and ultimately demanded that each of the nine employees return their copies of the stamp, or face termination, fines and jail time. Five employees returned there stamps, one claimed to had lost their copy, and three employees resigned; and all were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.
Now that you know the story, here’s your chance to be a part of it. With a starting bid thousands of dollars below cost, and ending Tonight, June 4, 2018 place your bid on this beautiful CIA Invert.
Interested in more inverts, errors, freaks and oddities? Check out our selection of 25,000 EFOs.