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Century-Old Pan-Am Errors Reprised On New Pane

On March 29 - nearly 100 years after the issuance of the originals - the U.S. Postal Service will release three reproductions of the rare 1901 Pan-American inverts on a sheet souvenir also featuring four reproductions of a diamond-shaped poster label that promoted and commemorated the exposition, now denominated as 80c stamps.

The first-day ceremony will take place at noon during the New York Postage Stamp Mega-Event at The Show Piers on the Hudson, 55th Street and 12th Avenue, in New York City. Executive Director of Stamp Services Catherine Caggiano, who will represent the USPS at the event, describes the pane and its replica rarities as 'a wonderful opportunity' for stamp collectors.

The Pan-American Exposition was held in Buffalo, N.Y., May 1 to Nov. 2, 1901. Sponsored by the state and federal government and the Buffalo business community, the exposition was intended to celebrate the accomplishments of the 19th century, with exhibits highlighting advancements in industry, transportation and the arts.

On opening day - May 1, 1901 - the U.S. Post Office Department issued bicolored 1c, 2c, 4c, 5c, 8c and 10c celebrating the theme of transportation stamps to commemorate the event. The stamps were on sale May 1 to Oct. 31, 1901.

On May 4 the first 2c inverts were discovered, followed by1c inverts. The inverted-center errors occurred when sheets on which the frames had already been printed were inverted when they went through the press that printed the central black vignette, which appears upside-down.

Soon, other inverts were rumored. The USPOD took the report of a 4c invert seriously, and searched stocks of the stamps for samples for its archives. When none were found, two sheets - 400 stamps - were deliberately printed with inverted centers and delivered to Third Assistant Postmaster-General Edwin C. Madden, who had some handstamped 'Specimen.' He distributed some with handstamps and some without to his friends in the USPOD and elsewhere - but Madden had made a terrible mistake. Although he was unaware of it, there were no 4c inverts until he ordered the BEP to print them.

Despite its celebratory intent, the Pan-American Exposition always will be linked with an American tragedy. President William McKinley was shot on Sept. 6 while attending the event, and died in Buffalo on Sept. 14.

The 2001 reproductions of the 1901 Pan-Am inverts, which appear in their original colors, are a 1c stamp picturing the Great Lakes steam-ship SS City of Alpena, a 2c stamp to commemorate Fast Rail Transport showing the Empire State Express and a 4c value that was the first stamp to depict an automobile, a car made by the Columbia Electric Vehicle Co.

The USPS is referring to these items as souvenir sheets, although they are not inscribed as souvenirs of anything. We prefer to call them commemorative panes.

The design of the red and blue diamond-shaped 80c stamps, based on a poster stamp, features a buffalo in the center, inscribed 'Pan-American Exposition / Buffalo.' They pay the international 1-ounce letter rate.

Art from a 1901 guide to the exposition also appears on the commemorative pane. In the illustration, an allegorical female representing unity among the Americas stands on top of a globe. In her left hand she holds a flag - half Canadian, half American - and her right arm rests on the back of a buffalo. The globe shows the Western hemisphere and includes the words, 'Pan-American Exposition 1901. Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.A.' Niagara Falls appears in the background.

The $3.27 'Souvenir Sheet' has USPS order No. 560740, while a first-day cover with the full pane (No. 560762) is $5.27. The Postal Service also is selling uncut six-pane press sheets (No. 560784) for $19.62.

USPS stamp veteran Richard Sheaff was the art director and typographer for the pane, which used the engravings for the 1c, 2c and 4c stamps originally prepared by the BEP. The stamps were modeled and printed by Banknote Corp. of America on a Man-Roland 300 Press (six-color offset in black, cyan, magenta, yellow, 'special red' and 'special blue') and an Epikos 5009 Press (four-color intaglio in black, red, brown and green) at BCA's facility at Brown's Summit, N.C. Two million seven-stamp panes, each measuring 156 millimeters by 172 mm, were printed on nonphosphored type III paper with phosphor tagging and water-activated gum.

To acquire the first-day postmark by mail, buy and affix stamps to addressed envelopes, then place these in a larger, stamped envelope and mail it to Postmaster, Pan-American Invert Stamps, J.A.F. Building, Box 2001, New York, NY 10116-9991. Because the invert replicas are 1c, 2c and 4c values (under today's 34c letter rate), all covers submitted for first-day cancels must either be submitted in complete sets of seven covers (with each cover including one of the seven stamps from the pane), or have additional postage affixed to meet the 34c letter rate.

Individual covers with lower value stamps not submitted as a part of a complete set of seven will be returned unserviced. If you are submitting FDCs in sets of seven, you must be sure to include a self-addressed envelope with enough postage for their return. Requests for the first-day cancel must be postmarked by April 28.

Pan-American Invert panes will be distributed and sold only at the first day city of New York, NY; at philatelic centers and postal retail stores nationwide and through Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City, Mo.