Errors, freaks, and oddities sound like judgmental characterizations, but for philatelists, these are terms of art. Errors are stamps with serious mistakes that are repeatable, for example, a missing perforation. Freaks are less serious defects, being stamps whose variations are minor. Oddities, not surprisingly, describe stamps that are neither errors or freaks, more like curiosities than out-and-out mistakes. For example, imperfect stamps produced solely to test whether they will dispense properly in vending machines are considered oddities.

Probably the most famous errors feature inverted images. For Australian stamp collectors, the prize is an Inverted Swan, a Western Australia stamp from 1854 whose frame surrounding the colony’s symbol, a black swan, is upside-down. The best known U.S. stamp error is the 1918, 24-cent Inverted Jenny. The stamp bore an image of a Curtiss JN-4 biplane, known as a Jenny, which flew the first scheduled air-mail routes in the United States. But one sheet of 100 stamps was printed upside-down, or, to put it more accurately, the sheet was fed into the press incorrectly, resulting in a stamp with an airplane on it that appeared to be flying upside down.

The error that produced the Inverted Jenny was undetected during printing, and while it affected a full sheet of stamps, it was not the sort of thing that needed to be corrected. Other errors, though, are spotted on stamps after they have been printed, and then steps are taken to nip the problem in the bud. For example, a red 1½-cent stamp issued in Fiji in 1938 featured the image of an outrigger canoe, its sails filled with a sweet tropical wind. But the artist who prepared the engraving neglected to put a sailor on board, so there was no one steering the ship. Once the oversight was discovered, the plate was re-engraved and the helmsman was added.

Spelling errors on stamps are easier to correct, such as the Cook Islands stamp from 1967 that depicted a water lily but identified it as a “Walter Lily.” More egregious is the Malawi stamp from 1965 that misidentified Lake Malawi as Lake Nyasa. And then there are errors that prove God is in the details, such as the 1956 East German stamp commemorating the life of 19th-century composer Robert Schumann, except the music originally placed as a background behind his green bust was by Franz Schubert.

Other compositional errors include placing landmarks from one region on stamps meant to depict another. In 1932, it must have been a surprise to Filipinos to learn that their Pagsanjan Falls looked exactly like Vernal Falls in California’s Yosemite National Park. Then there are examples of a printer’s laziness, such as the 1897 Newfoundland stamp that purports to show explorer John Cabot’s 15th-century ship, the Matthew, but instead reproduces Columbus’ Santa Maria from an 1893 U.S. stamp (both were printed by the American Bank Note Company).

In rare cases, errors are actually perpetuated, such as the 1962 Dag Hammarskjold four-cent stamp, whose inverted-yellow version was printed in relatively large numbers for the benefit of collectors before being corrected.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



First shown in 2008 to celebrate the Smithsonian National Postal Museum's 15th anniversary, Alphabetilately is esse… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Brass Lock Padlock W/ Key Rotary Uspo Sargent & Greenleaf Post Office Postal PodDrbobstamps Us Scott #2870 Mnh Legends Of The West Error SheetUs Stamps 1917 2c Rose Block 12 + Two Error 5c (sc 505) Mnh / Lh United States Sc# 2523b Error Imperf Coil Pair +dramatic Mis-cut Vert. Rare S361994 Recalled "legends Of The West" Error Sheet Efo Sc #28701940 Thailand 'error' 5 Satang Chakri Palace Green Cliche Scott # 239a StampUs Scott #295 Mint Nh Very High Train Error Stamp Efo ShiftedCorbin Lock Box Door Eagle Uspo 3 Letter Slots Post Office Postal Pod Patch KeysNoblespirit Noreserve Nj100/c Excellent Us 1609 Color Shift Error 50c LanternError - #c25 6c Plane....misperfed, Hr (w/gutter Snipe) -start@99c2414 Huge Gold Color Shift Error - 25¢ Bicentennial - Very Rare! - Stuart Katz1994 Usa Stamp # 2870 Legends Of The West Error Sheet Cowboy Bill PickettUs Efo Stamp. #1893b Booklet With Vertical Imperf Between. M Og Nh. Cv = $70Error - #2280c 25c Flag....part Desing Missing, Nh Pair -start@99cUs Scott #295 Mint Nh Very Slow Train Error Stamp Efo ShiftedSc#bk153a Var, Complete Booklet #2201b Black Omitted X2 Var. Mnh Cv$90 (8 Pics)Error - #1716 13c Lafayette....misperfed, Nh (almost Blue Missing)-start@99cRep De Guinee France Block Of 4 Error Missing Kennedy Vf Mnh B50.22 Start 0.99$Noblespirit No Reserve My/1316 Major Color Error Un 259 Gold Omitted Important!U409 Mint Folding FreakU.s. #1338 Var Mint Nh - 6c FlagError - #815 10c Prexy....misperfed, Nh -start@99cError - #1854 9c Partridge....misperfed, Nh -start@99c#807 Prexie 3c Jefferson Double Paper Var Central In Vertical Strip/4, 2 TapingsUs C23 Fold-over Misperf Mint NhOx13 Post Office Seal Gutter Pair Mint Never Hinged Unlisted In Scott SpecError - #814 9c Prexy....misperfed, Nh (w/gutter Snipe) -start@99c#815 Prexie 10c Tyler, Double Paper Variety With Bep Taping, Full Og, Very FineError - #1770 15c Kennedy....misperfed, Nh -start@99cNoblespirit No Reserve 3925/498 Dramatic Misperf Error Venezuela !!!Error - #114 3c Train 1869 - Used....misperfed -start@99c#406a Washington 2c,diagonal Pre-printing Paperfold W/void, Light Machine CancelClassic France Gaudeloupe Surcharge Inversed 1fr Yv 48b Vf Mlh A3.39 Start 0.99$1971 "flag Over White House" Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #1338f1973 "jefferson Memorial" Perf Shift Lot Of 4 Efo Mnh Sc #15101972 "christmas" Color Shift Efo Mnh Sc #1471#2280c Yosemite 25c Misperforated Between Mountain & Trees Mint Nh Coil PairError - #1256 5c Christmas....misperfed, 2 Way, Nh -start@99cWorld War I Original Stamp ~ Belgium - Starving - Undaunted Mint Never HingedEfo Scott #599 Line Coil Pair Ognh $15.50**free Shipping With Two Items**U.s. #1305a//1510a Mint Nh - 6c - 10c Imperf Coils ($100)#815 Prexie 10c Tyler, Horizontal Gutter With Portion Above, Vlh At TopU.s. # 704, One Half Cent Issue, Plate Block Of 8 W/ Broken Circle Variety, N/hError - #1237 5c The Sciences....misperfed, Nh -start@99cU.s. Scott #2466b 32 Cent Ferryboat Bronx Blue Color Error Mnh Og F-vf 1995Scott#1906, 17c Electric Auto, Misperf Coil Pair. Nh.Error - #805 1.5c Prexy....underinked, Nh -start@99cError - #1394 8c Eisenhower....misperfed, Nh -start@99c#1381 Professional Baseball 100th Anniv. 6c Gutter Snipe Pair Mint Never HingedError - #c39 6c Small Plane....misperfed, Nh -start@99c#732 National Recovery Act 3c Pair, Full Vertical Gutter & Portion @ Right MnhScott 388 2 Cent Washington Perf 12 Vertically Slwmk Used ~ Forgery Us Errors/efo, Scott # 958, Dry Print Of Swedish Pioneer Centennial, 1948, MnhThe Us Banned Atomic Bomb StampScott 15557 - Mariner 10 - Plate Block With Duplicate Ploate NumbersError - #1393d 7c Washington....misperfed, Nh -start@99cBelg Congo,nice Collection No 331937 West Point 5 Cents Unused Block Of (4) Vintage Us Stamps Blind Perf ErrorScott 899 1 Cent 1940 Defense Block Of 4 Unused Imperforate Vertically 1960 "american Credo" Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #1139