Keelin O’Neill of Ireland, who inherited the coveted stamp from his grandfather, addresses the crowd at a press conference with law enforcement and stamp officials at the Javits Center in New York City.
For someone like me who’s used postage stamps all my life, and been closely related to them during my 27-year working life at the Postal Service, it takes a lot to “wow” me. Yet was I wowed by this story at the recent World Stamp Show. I shared it with others and even wrote home about it. Here it is:
Keelin O’Neill from Northern Ireland didn’t recognize or know the history of this one postage stamp left to him by his grandfather but he knew enough to bring it to a stamp auction firm.
“It was scary more than anything,” O’Neill said in an International Business Times article. “I was contacted by the FBI, so I didn’t know what was the story, what is the stamp, or why I was being contacted. So it was nerve-wracking, but it certainly got easier from there.”
The World Stamp Show this June set the stage for the emergence of this once-lost Inverted Jenny stamp, one of four that was stolen in 1955 from stamp collector Ethel McCoy. These were part of the world-famous Curtis Jenny airmail plane stamps turned upside down, a printing error in 1918.
Initially, Keelin and the auction house didn’t know what they had — it was the real “McCoy” in a literal and figurative sense. It had once belonged to Ethel MCoy but, upon her death, she deeded the rights to the standard-sized 24-cent postage stamp to the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL).
Sixty-one years of history culminating to this one point when the famous stamp would be returned to its rightful owner, I was standing at a press conference. The FBI had opened a case with the Art Crimes Division in the New York office. They, the federal prosecutor, and loads of TV cameras and photographers were there.
The crime certainly was not solved — no thieves were jailed but Keelin did receive a reward of $50,000. The stamp is safe.
So the moral of the story is to lean toward the hoarding side of life when cleaning. Especially when it comes to single stamps left in boxes from relatives. Another Inverted Jenny just might turn up.
Blog Contributor: Denise Varano