Sundman Also Decides To Extend Reward Offer
June 2, 2016 — The recovered Jenny Invert stamp, stolen in 1955 from a major stamp show, was turned over Thursday to its owner, the American Philatelic Research Library. Making the announcement and then displaying the stamp was APRL executive director Scott English, while standing in front of an actual JN-4 biplane on display at World Stamp Show-New York 2016. (Behind English, left to right, APRL president Roger Brody, Mystic Stamp Company president Donald Sundman, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.)
There was no amplification for the event, unfortunately.
The stamp was part of a block of four owned by Ethel McCoy. The block was removed from a display at the American Philatelic Society convention in Richmond, Va. McCoy left the stamps, if ever recovered, to the APRL. One was found in 1977, another in 1982, and then, for 34 years, it was a “cold case.”
Mystic Stamp Company president Donald Sundman in September 2014 offered a $50,000 reward for the recovery of the two missing stamps, and “I thought it would be found right away with the initial press coverage,” he told The Virtual Stamp Club. It wasn’t.
“Sundman probably never expected having to write a check,” English told the reporters and onlookers.
Then, last month, Keelin O’Neil (right) of Belfast, Northern Ireland, brought the stamp in to the Spink USA auction house in New York, seeking to sell it. He had found it in his grandfather’s collection. Spink sent it to the Philatelic Foundation for an appraisal, and it was determined that it was one of the two missing stamps, although it had been altered to hide its identity.
O’Neil’s reaction? “Shock, more than anything,” he told The VSC. “When I found out it was stolen, I wanted to return it to its rightful owner.”
“I don’t think he had a choice,” Sundman says. “When the Philatelic Foundation recognized that the stamp was stolen, they contacted the FBI, so he wasn’t getting the stamp back, once it went to the Foundation.”
However, O’Neil is getting the $50,000 reward, as presented by Sundman during the news conference.
The U.S. Justice Department then took a few weeks to determine who that “rightful owner” was.
“This was good citizenship,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “They did the right thing and they ought to be commended for it.”
O’Neil tells The VSC he’s surprised at all the attention the recovery of the stamp is getting, and also how much attention stamp collecting is getting at WSS-NY.
“Now I actually feel kind of hopeful” that the one remain stamp from the “McCoy Block” will surface, Sundman said in The VSC interview, because of the press coverage for the return of the stamp. Among those covering the news conference were the local affiliates for CBS, NBC and Fox, New York 1, and Reuters print and television.
Sundman’s original reward offer ran through the end of World Stamp Show-New York 2016, which is Saturday, June 4.
“I told Roger [Brody, president of the APRL], ‘I’ve got to have a time limit on this, because I don’t want my grandkids to have to pay off this reward,” Sundman told The Virtual Stamp Club. (At left, Brody receives the recover stamp, Jenny Invert position 76, from Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director in Charge, New York Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation.)
However, he is now extending it through the end of 2016, at the request of English.
“The more I thought about it, I think it’s great for the hobby and great for the APS, and so I’ve decided to do that today,” he said.
To mask the stamp’s identity, someone altered the left-side perforations and regummed the stamp, which removed the penciled number applied in 1918. However, because the two-color printing process in 1918 was so rudimentary, the centering of each stamp is different enough that the Philatelic Foundation was able to identify it anyway.
The stamp will reside at APS/APRL headquarters in Bellefonte, Pa., “to share it with our members for awhile,” English told reporters.
How much is the recovered stamp worth? While the best-condition copy of the error stamp sold during this show for $1,175,000, another not-as-good copy, also “reperfed” sold the following day (June 1) for $190,000. “We won’t know [the value of the recovered stamp] until we sell it,” English said.