Notes from the Past

U.S. 24 Airmail Invert -- Trinket

Shortly after the discovery, in 1918, of the sheet of 100 of the 24 airmail inverts, the sheet was purchased by the late Colonel Edward H. R. Green, who with the fabulous wealth inherited from his penurious mother, Hetty Green, was plunging in stamp collecting.  The Colonel soon broke the sheet and marketed a large number of the errors.  During his lifetime there were many rumors as to the disposition to be made of some of these highly valuable stamps.

A rumor has always persisted was that the Colonel had a watchfob made up for himself in which a copy of the invert was inserted.  No authentic information on the subject was ever published in the philatelic press and no one in stamps ever checked on the story -- so no such watchfob.  But there was a somewhat similar trinket and I can give first-hand information on it.  Hence the Column's notes for this week are a contribution to the record on the history of the 24 airmail inverts.

Perhaps it was noted that when the Colonel's stamp and coin collection came to market following his death there was no watchfob.  But when his widow died in 1950 an item of jewelry utilizing a 24 invert did show up and it was this item of feminine adornment that had been the source of the rumor!

One day in June, 1950, I had a telephone request to go to one of Manhattan's mid-town banks, where a safe deposit box was was to be opened in which it was believed there would be something of philatelic value requiring an immediate appraisal.  It was the estate of the late Mrs. Edward H. R. Green, widow fo the Colonel, and the box was known to contain much of her jewelry and other valuable keepsakes.  There was quite a company present, bank officers, attorneys, jewelry appraisers, and the inevitable tax official.  I had seen these shows many times and knew the routine.

The box was brought out with all the formalities and observances the situation required, and placed on a desk before the all-important tax man who officially broke the seals and began to spread out everything he found.  He soon came to an item which he tossed over to me for examination.  It was a crystal locket containing a 24 airmail invert, enclosed with the normal variety of the stamp, back to back.  The locket could not be opened, but the invert was fairly well centered with a straight edge at the top, and light creases in the upper left and lower right corners of the stamp, probably of little consequence.  I thereupon appraised the stamp's value and departed.  The incident proved the watch fob was a myth, the Colonel had made up a trinket for his wife.  I doubt it was later sold, and I am sure it remains just as I saw in six years ago.  The heirs would hardly need convert it to cash.  

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
Stamps
July 7, 1956

Posted August 22, 1999

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