What better pastime for an ace stamp collector like US President Franklin D. Roosevelt?
Returning to his residence after a long day at work, he can’t help but gaze with pride at the impressive collection of stamps he’s amassed over the years.
As he reminisced about several important moments in American history, some stamps brought him back.
As the 32nd president of the United States, he even designed a postage stamp himself, which was issued in 1938 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta.
Avid philatelists such as President Roosevelt made philately (the study and collection of stamps) the most pervasive and fascinating aspect of philately.
Warren Buffett, industrialist Arthur Hind, Queen’s Freddie Mercury, and The Beatles’ John Lennon are among the most popular philatelists in American history.
The main reason they love stamp collecting so much is because of the beauty and historical significance of some American postage stamps.Therefore, this article discusses the most valuable US postage stamps.
We’ll start by unveiling some memorable episodes in the history of U.S. stamps.
We’ll then examine seven rare US postage stamps collectors want and provide some helpful tips for stamp collectors, buyers, and sellers.
History of American Philately
The world’s first postage stamp, the ‘Penny Black’, was issued in Great Britain in May 1840. Seven (7) years later, the United States joined the stamp bandwagon, and the first U.S. Definitive Stamp went on sale in New York on July 1, 1847. The 5-cent Benjamin Franklin stamp and the 10-cent George Washington stamp.
Starting in the late 19th century, with the rapid development of the postal service, stamp collecting has become one of the most popular hobbies around the world.
In 1868, John Walter Scott, the father of American philately, published the first dedicated catalog of American postage stamps, known as the Scott Catalog.
Scott hosted the first ever stamp auction on May 28, 1870 in New York City. The success of the stamp market led John Kerr Tiffany to found the American Philatelic Society (APS) on September 14, 1886. Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes, became APS members in 1940.
Besides stamp collecting as a fun hobby, valuable stamps can also serve as a sound investment.
Respected American postage stamp collector Bill Gross auctioned off his prized stamp collection in October 2018 for millions of dollars ($10 million). Although the proceeds go to charity, this event shows how lucrative collecting and selling valuable postage stamps can be.
So if it’s a historic, rare, beautiful or flawed stamp, philately is worth your time, effort and money.
The Three Most Valuable U.S. Stamps Most Wanted by Collectors: A Quick Overview
Here are the top 3 most popular US postage stamps for collectors:
- The Most Valuable U.S. Postage Stamp Ever Made: The 1918 Inverted Jenny Stamp
Worth $1.593 million; the most expensive philatelic item in modern history; one of the most valuable US stamps of the 1900s; the most famous US stamp; coveted by collectors worldwide; has unusual misprints; is over 100 years old; and produced only 100 pieces.
- Inverted 24c Declaration of Independence Stamp of 1869
The most valuable American postage stamp in the 19th century was the 24c Declaration of Independence inverted stamp.Sold for $1.2 million; the most expensive postage stamp of the 19th century; a twenty-four cent stamp; features an image of an inverted steam locomotive; only four known to exist; extremely rare.
- Most Valuable American BBQ Stamp: Benjamin Franklin Z BBQ Stamp
Auction for approximately $3 million; the newest BBQ stamp ever found; Unusual 1868 Z-shaped BBQ stamp; Minutely indented; Extremely rare; only 2 surviving as of 2022.
The 7 Most Valuable U.S. Stamps: A Comprehensive Guide
Since 1847, the United States has issued more than 5,000 postage stamps. However, the value of these stamps in the philatelic market varies. Some stamps may be worth a few dollars, while others fetch millions of dollars on auction platforms. Several factors can affect this price difference, including the stamp’s general condition, rarity, age, historical significance, uniqueness, and the wishes and opinions of the holder.
Here are the 7 most valuable U.S. postage stamps, based on past auctions and various sources of valuable collectibles:
- Inverted Jenny, 1918
- Inverted 1869 24c Declaration of Independence Stamp
- Benjamin Franklin’s Z Grill Stamp
- Temporary Stamps of Postmaster Alexander “Blue Boy”
- 1868 George Washington B’s Grill
- United States 1851 2-Cent Hawaiian Missionary Stamp
- CIA Invert” (1979)
For more detailed information, please read patiently below.
The 1918 Inverted Jenny: The Most Valuable US Stamp of All Time
● Value: USD 1.593 million
● Original release date: May 10, 1918
● Face value: 24 cents
● Image: Curtiss JN-4
● Rarity Type: Inversion Error
● Quantity in stock: about 86 copies left, but only 100 copies were printed.
According to 2018 auction data, the 1918 edition of “Inverted Jenny” topped the list with a total value of $1.593 million, making it the most valuable and famous U.S. postage stamp.
The stamp features a blue vignette of the Curtiss JN-4 biplane (commonly known as “Jenny”) against a white background. The error occurred during the printing process when a small amount of paper was fed upside down into the press, causing the biplane to appear upside down.
This is one of the most famous mistakes in American philately. Only one in 100 inverted stamps was found, making this mistake one of the most treasured in philately.
The Inverted Jenny has attracted many collectors for its unconventional inversion error. A block of four Inverted Jennys was sold at a Robert A. Siegel auction in October 2005 for $2.7 million.
On May 31, 2016, an exceptionally well-centered Jenny Inversion stamp, graded XF-superb 95 by Professional Stamp Specialists, sold for $1,175,000 at the hammer at Siegel’s auction, an increase of 15 The buyer’s premium brought the copy’s total sales price to $1,351,250, an all-time high.
On November 15, 2018, the recently discovered stamp No. 49 sold for a new record hammer price of $1,350,000 at the Robert A. Siegel Auction Gallery, bringing the total cost to $1,593,000, including an 18% buyer’s premium.
The unprecedented sale price for an Inverted Jenny sold in 2018 is due to its pristine condition, as it was previously kept in a safe for up to 100 years, protected from extreme sunlight.
Some individuals who have had or still have an inverted Jenny (including position 49) are:
● Eugene Klein
● William T. Robbie
● Edward Holland Robinson Green
● anonymous owner
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
● Images: 42 people, plus six main characters
● Rarity Type: False Flip; Engraved
● Quantity: Only four are known to exist.
The 1869 24-cent Declaration of Independence stamp is widely considered a philatelic masterpiece because of its rich historical significance. This impressive stamp commemorates America’s historic Declaration of Independence.
On July 4, 1776, the 13 American colonies involved in a bloody war with Britain declared their independence. Printed in green and purple, the Declaration of Independence is a miniature masterpiece. Artist John Smillie has produced a beautiful and highly accurate reproduction of John Trumbull’s painting of the same name.
Jamie Smillie identified six main characters under a magnifying glass and inscribed 42 on the green velvet stamp.
The 24-cent stamp features a G grill and comes with a split grill, double grill, or basic gum.
A 24-cent 1869 Declaration of Independence stamp in good condition with the image properly aligned might be considered valuable. However, similar stamps with inverted depictions tend to be rarer and more desirable, and such philatelic items have a higher value when collected and eventually auctioned.
The stamp market had a memorable moment in 2008 when auctioneer Philip Weiss saw an inverted quarter of the Declaration of Independence sell for $1.2 million. An anonymous collector has won a bid for the 1974 Charles A. Schaefer Collection for $100,000.
Today, only four inversion varieties are known to exist.
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 point
● Image: Benjamin Franklin
● Rarity Type: Z-Type Grill
● Quantity on hand: 2
The Benjamin Franklin Z Grill, or simply “Z-Grill”, is a February 1868 United States Postal Service 1-cent stamp depicting Benjamin Franklin. While stamps of this design were common 1-cent stamps in the 1860s, the Z-Grill features a so-called “Z” grill that presses into the stamp, creating tiny indentations in the paper.
The ones with the D and E grids quickly replaced the “Z” pattern, which is distinctive among grid templates used by the Post Office because it cuts horizontal ridges into the stamp rather than vertical ridges. The stamps were postmarked in mid-February.
The purpose of the grilling is to allow the cancellation ink to be better absorbed by the stamp paper, thus preventing the reuse of the stamps by washing out the cancellation marks. Grills were found impractical to use and were phased out after 1870.
There are only two known 1868 1-cent Z-Grills, both with cancellation marks. The New York Public Library owns one copy as part of the Benjamin Miller Collection. That leaves only a 1-cent 1868 Z-Grill left in private hands.
Stamp trading platform Mystic Stamp Company acquired the privately owned 1868 Z-Grill in 1998 for $935,000. Zachary Sundman, son of the company’s president, Donald Sundman, traded the Z-Grill for a piece of four upside-down Jenny shoes in October 2005 with stamp investor Bill Gross for an estimated $3 million.
The two surviving Z-Grills were on display at the National Postal Museum from May 27, 2006, to October 1, 2007.
The Alexandria “Blue Boy” Postmaster’s Provisional Stamp
● Value: USD 1.18 million
● Production date: 1867
● Manufactured in: Alexandria, Virginia
● Face value: 5 cents
● Color: blue
● Rarity type: unique color
● Existing quantity: only one piece, but it was auctioned in 2018.
Named after the city of production and the unusual blue color, the Alexandria “Blue Boy” is a rare stamp and the only postmaster provisional stamp printed on blue paper. Many philatelists believe that the stamp originally served as postage for a love letter between two cousins.
Today, the surviving Boys in Blue are still attached to the yellow envelope in which they were originally mailed, handprinted with “Pay”. In 1981, a German collector acquired it for $1 million through dealer David Feldman.
In Scott’s Blue Boy catalog listing from 2013, dashes appear in the value column instead of numbers, indicating “lacking or insufficient information to establish a usable catalog value”. 
Its last recorded auction took place in 2019, when it fetched $1.18 million.
The 1868 George Washington B-Grill Stamp
● Value: USD 1.035 million
● Original release date: 1868
● Face value: 3 cents
● Image: George Washington● Rarity type: Type B BBQ
● Number of Existing: Only four are thought to exist.
The 1868 George Washington B-Grill stamp, known for its characteristic waffle-shaped grill on the reverse, was the first of its kind. Its purpose is to prevent the fraudulent reuse of stamps, hence its specificity. General-issue George Washington stamps cost much less than B-grill stamps, which are usually worth a few dollars.
Although the B-grill stamp was originally worth 3 cents when it was first issued, like the traditional design, its value has skyrocketed due to its rarity. Furthermore, only four are thought to exist. In 2008, an anonymous bidder paid a whopping $1.035 million, including commission fees, for an 1868 pink three-cent piece featuring George Washington.The four surviving 1868 George Washington B-grill stamps were rediscovered in an envelope shipped to Germany in 1969. As of 2008, three of them were sold in 1993, 1998, and 2008.
The USA 1851 2-Cents Hawaiian Missionary Stamp
● Value: $619,500
● Original release date: 1851
● Face value: 2 cents
● Design: Standard print decoration
● Rarity Type: Very Few
● Existing quantity: 15 copies
The Hawaiian Missionary Stamp was the Kingdom of Hawaii’s first postage stamp, issued in 1851. They came to be known as “missionaries” because they appear mainly in the letters of missionaries who worked in the Hawaiian Islands. Only a handful of these stamps have survived to this day, so they are one of the rarities of philately.
The 2-cent Hawaiian missionary stamp is designed with standard typographic decoration for newspaper mailing to the United States. The value of this stamp lies primarily in its rarity and historical significance.
Of the 15 or so left in the 21st century, a Hawaiian missionary 2-cent stamp is one of the most valuable stamps in the Bill Gross collection. This 1851 stamp sold for $619,500 at the Robert A. Siegel Auction Gallery to pharmaceutical executive Arthur Przybyl.
● Value: $71,875
● Original release date: 1979
● Face value: $1
● Design: Standard print decoration
● Rarity Type: Very Few
The $1 Colonial Wick Lamp Holder stamp was first issued on July 2, 1979, in a sheet of 100 stamps in dark brown (the last color printed (it covers most of the stamp)) upside down. Lamp candle holders, candle outlines and text are inverted relative to the flame. About 95 have been identified.
It is the first U.S. postage stamp issued since the 1990s to have a major design element printed upside down. 1962: Dag Hammarskjöld’s upside-down error Since 400 of these $1 stamps were printed, another 100 stamps on three sides must have existed at the same time, but traces of these have not yet been found.
The price on the stamp catalog is just $15,000, one-tenth the price of the $150,000 Inverted Jenny, despite the fact that each stamp has roughly the same amount. A set of four stamps sold for $60,000 in 2004, and a second set of stamps sold for $71,875 in 2015.
A Comprehensive Guide to Evaluating, Buying, and Investing in Rare and Precious U.S. Postage Stamps
Next, we’ll delve into the basics of investing in valuable U.S. postage stamps, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of this exciting field.
Condition and Rarity
The condition of a stamp plays a vital role in determining its value. Look for stamps with clear impressions, bright colors, intact backing (if applicable), and minimal damage or defects. Rarity is another key factor. In general, stamps produced in limited quantities or with unique variations are more valuable.
Neat, bright and original colors
Collectors generally prefer fresh and vibrantly colored stamps with crisp original engravings and images over stamps that have faded from exposure to water and sunlight.
Stamp History and Issue Dates
Stamps are like precious cultural relics, and philatelists are like archaeologists. Typically, stamps issued before the end of the 1900s are historically significant and therefore are sought after by collectors and trade at high prices.
Stamp Face Value
Sometimes the value of a stamp is determined by its face value. The higher the face value of a stamp, the more valuable it is. However, this rule doesn’t always apply to U.S. postage stamps, as rare stamps like the one-cent Z-Grill stamp and the two-cent Hawaiian Missionary stamp are worth a lot despite their low face value.
Stamps command high prices only if their designs and perforations are intact. A stamp with missing parts will have less value regardless of its availability (i.e., even if it’s fairly rare).
Unique, Neat Unmarking
An antique stamp still embedded in its original envelope with a special cancellation mark will be more expensive and more desirable than regular stamps. This tendency was responsible for the high cost of the Alexander Blue Boy. So it pays to leave a stamp on the original package or envelope.
An unusual error, such as a missing colour, feature, or wrong inversion due to a production or printing error, can greatly increase the value of a stamp. The Inverted Jenny stamp and the Inverted Declaration of Independence stamp are worth far more than their “perfect” counterparts.
Perfect Piercings And Ridges
Most of the time, the more neatly a stamp has perforations and ridges, the more valuable it is in the philatelic world. You can observe the pictures of B-Grill and Z-Grill for a better demonstration.
Minimal Creases And Damage
Bending and creases can seriously reduce the value of a stamp. So, make sure that the stamp you buy has as little wrinkle as possible and protect it thoroughly to prevent further damage.
● Which U.S. postage stamps from the 1800s hold significant value?
Some highly valuable U.S. postage stamps from the 1800s include the 1868 1c Z Grill, the 1869 24c Inverted Center, and the 1867 90c Lincoln.
● What is the scarcest U.S. postage stamp in existence?
The British Guiana 1c Magenta, issued in 1856, holds the distinction of being the scarcest U.S. postage stamp. Only a single example is known to exist, making it a coveted treasure among collectors.
● Which stamps are considered the most iconic and desirable by philatelists?
Stamp collectors often seek the 1918 Inverted Jenny, the 1869 1c Z Grill, and the 1847 10c Washington stamp. These stamps have captured the imagination of collectors due to their historical significance, printing errors, and overall appeal.
In conclusion, the world of rare and valuable US stamps offers an exciting and potentially lucrative avenue for collectors and investors. The seven stamps discussed in this comprehensive guide showcase the remarkable beauty, historical significance, and enduring appeal of philately. From the iconic 1918 Inverted Jenny to the distinguished 1869 24c Inverted Center, each stamp possesses unique characteristics that contribute to its exceptional value. For buyers and sellers alike, it is crucial to educate oneself about stamp evaluation, authentication, and market trends. By understanding factors such as condition, rarity, and historical significance, collectors can make informed decisions when acquiring these precious treasures. Additionally, engaging with reputable dealers, attending auctions, and seeking professional advice can enhance the buying and selling experience. Whether driven by passion or investment potential, the realm of rare US stamps is a captivating journey for enthusiasts looking to build a collection or explore the exciting world of philatelic investments.