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    

Clipperton Island Cinderellas - 1895Noblespirit No Reserve {th1} Key Us 634 Var "long Ear" Error Sheet = $125 CvNoblespirit No Reserve (th1) Exciting Rare Double Top Error C11 BlockMr Fancy Cancel 148 Sound Used With Two Large (1.5mm) Preprint Paper Folds Efo9 Different Misperfed - Perf Shift Error Stamps - MnhNoblespirit No Reserve {th1} Popular Recalled Legeds Of The West Error SheetUs Errors Misperf -32 Stamps, Scott#11734, (mnh) -indian Head On 13 Cent Stamps.Sc#bk153a Var, Complete Booklet #2201b Black Omitted X2 Var. Mnh Cv$90 (7 Pics)Us Major Errors Sc # 5052 Flag Coil Stamps1991 "american Kestrel" Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #2476Us #1238 Rockwell Mail Carrier: Perf. Shift Efo/error Stamp. MnhUsa Stamp #1949a 20c Booklet Pane Of 10 Misperf ErrorNystamps China Stamp # 471 Mint H Ngai $70 Creased1938 "jefferson" Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #807Legends Of The West Recalled SheetUs #702 Red Cross Color And Shift Efo/error Stamps. MnhUs #1463 P.t.a. Perf. Shift Efo/error Stamp. MnhEfo Scott #599 Line Coil Pair Ognh $15.50**free Shipping With Two Items**2002 "antique Toys" Block Of 4 Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #3645a1972 "christmas Santa" Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #14721973 "jefferson Memorial" Mail Early Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #15101981 "frederic Remington" Color Shift Efo Mnh Sc #19341978 "harriet Tubman" Blue Tree Green Color Missing Error Mnh Sc #1744Lot Of 6 Perf Shift Efos Sc #1023, 1233, 1280, 1286, 1286a, And 1542 MnhRare!! Error Missing Kennedy On Imperf Block Of 4 France Guinee Vfmnh N010 0.99$1976 "capitol Dome" Misperf Double Words Efo Mnh Sc #1616Mexico, 1895, Letter Carrier - 1c Vermilion, "prueba" - EssayRecalled Legends West (2870) Blue EnvelopeMr Fancy Cancel 148 Sound Used Kiss Print Lower Right Bright Red Target Fancy Ca6 1972 Olympic Summer Games Munich 15 Cent Error Stamps Unused Never Hinged 1993 "percy Lavon Julian" Green Color Missing Pair Error Mnh Sc #2746Us #c47 Airmail Airplanes: Perf. Shift & Normal. Efo/error Stamps. Mnh1992 "usa" Coil Strip Of 9 Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #2606 1985 "alden Partridge" Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #18542 Victory With Dewey-warren Labels, Mnh#499e Booklet Pane Mint Original Gum Perf ErrorSc# 1286 - Andrew Jackson - Block Of 4 Perf Shift - Change Of Design - MnhUs #1549 Retarded Children: Perf. Shift Efo/error Stamp. Mnh1907a - F-vf Imperf Error Pair "surry" Mint Nh Cat $ 95Greece Old Classics + Not Published Set Of 8 Stamps ; Condition See 2 Scans !Usa Bargains! --- Sc #11 -- Four W/dial Ccls -----------------------look!6 1972 Olympic Summer Games Munich 15 Cent Error Stamps Unused Never Hinged [61] 1974 Scott#1542 Mnh Srip Of 3 - Variety - "us" Almost Completed By GreenUsa Stamp #1292 40c Misperf Error MnhAuthentic, 4 Civil War Patriotic Covers Used/unused Flap Logos, Back Transfer Usa Stamp #834 $5 1938 Presidenti​al Series Used ErrorUsa Stamp #1294 $1 Eugene O'neill Used Misperf Error1994 "g Rate" Perf Shift Efo Mnh Sc #2877Scott#1895d, 20c Flag Coil Imperf Stp5. Vf & Nh.Usa Stamp #1289 20c George C. Marshall Misperf Error Scott#2609a, 29c Flag, Coil Imperf Strip Of 4. Vf &nh.United States. Stamps.1338f Overinking Lines On Left Stamps MnhUs Stamps - #1305e - 15c Prom. American Coil Pair - Efo - Mis-perfed - Mnh1287, Mint Nh 13¢ Kennedy Misperforation Error Pair - Stuart KatzScott#807a, 3c Prexy, 3mm Miscut Pane W/plt.#22170. Nh.Scott # 842 3c Prexie Us Efo Coil Line Strip 5 Bottom Plate # 23346Scott # 842 3c Prexie Us Efo Coil Line Strip 5 Bottom Plate # 23411Scott # 842 3c Prexie Us Efo Coil Line Strip 5 Top Plate # 23346Scott 2041 "unfinished Bridge" Error Variety- Mnh Plate Block- Short TransferSinclair Lewis - Sc# 1856c - Horizontal Pair Imperf Between - Mnh