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Pennsylvania man says hunch helped him land sheet of rare 'corrected' 1918 stamps

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In this combination of two 2013 photos released by the United States Postal Service, a reissue of two versions of the famous “Inverted Jenny” postage stamp is shown. The original 1918 stamp was printed with the upside-down bi-plane by mistake. The “mistake” was reissued by the USPS along with a limited run of corrected stamps in 2013 as a way to bring more people into stamp collecting. Art Van Riper, a western New York stamp collector, acted on a hunch and secured one of only 100 sheets of the corrected “Inverted Jenny.” (AP/United States Postal Service)

A collector credits a hunch with helping him land one of just 100 sheets of stamps recently issued by the United States Postal Service featuring a corrected version of its rare and famous error, the 1918 "inverted Jenny."

Art Van Riper bought the stamps in Waverly, N.Y., after reading that the Postal Service had printed a new batch of inverted Jenny stamps celebrating the 95-year-old edition that, by mistake, featured an upside-down biplane.

He also read that, as a way to draw more people into stamp collecting, the Postal Service randomly distributed 100 sheets featuring the plane right-side up among the 2.2 million sheets replicating the original and distributed nationwide.

"I needed some stamps and thought `what the heck,"' Van Riper said by phone earlier this month from his Sayre, Pa., home, on the New York border. "I just had a feeling that maybe there would be one in Waverly."

He intended to purchase five sheets of the $2 stamps, at $12 a sheet, and use them to mail Christmas presents and for stocking stuffers. Postal clerk Betty Gable persuaded him to take more.

"I told him our office had 45 and he might as well buy them all," she said. The last one would probably be the one with the right-side up airplane, she told him.

"I'll be a son-of-a-gun it was," said Van Riper, who has a jewelry store and said he collects oddities ranging from baseball cards to old steins.

Van Riper's was the fourth of the 100 sheets to turn up since the post office launched the campaign in September, USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said. One of the four is listed at $25,000 online, Van Riper said, but he doesn't have plans to sell his sheet.

Among stamp collectors, the inverted Jenny, produced by a printing error, is gold. Only one sheet of 100 stamps commemorating the nation's first airmail flight was sold. One of the stamps recently sold for $977,000, according to the Postal Service.

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