Tiny works of art, postage stamps tell the stories of our country and our world. They tell big stories (such as the Civil War), stories about nature (such as the spicebush swallowtail butterfly) and an endless list of topics that include Wile E. Coyote, gingerbread houses, major league all-stars and famous musicians.
There's a new stamp that tells the story of a postal mishap that happened in 1918. That year, the U.S. Post Office issued the Curtiss Jenny stamp to celebrate the United States' first airmail delivery. The stamp was named after the Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" biplane (that means it has upper and lower wings) used for the flight. But a printing error caused the image of the plane to be printed upside down on a few sheets of 100 stamps. One of those sheets was sold by accident at a Washington post office. (The other sheets were destroyed.) The clerk had never seen an airplane before and didn't notice the mistake.
Since then, stamp collectors have searched for the "Inverted Jennys." ("Inverted" means upside down.) One recently sold for $977,000!
This year, the United States Postal Service issued 2 million "Inverted Jennys" to celebrate the 1918 mishap. The 2013 stamp intentionally shows the plane upside down. And there's a twist: The Postal Service has printed 100 sheets of the stamp with the plane flying right side up. So far, only two sheets of the limited edition stamps have been found.
"It's a bit of a scavenger hunt," says Susan McGowan, executive director for stamp services at the U.S. Postal Service. "It's also a super opportunity for kids to start a collection."
One of the great things about collecting stamps is that you can focus on your interests, such as sports, animals, history, movies or even muscle cars. McGowan, who collects stamps with her kids, shares a few tips:
* Take 46 cents -- that's the price of a first-class stamp -- to the post office in your town, ask to see the latest stamps, and make a purchase.
* Save the stamp from a birthday card or anything you get in the mail.
* Create a scrapbook to save your stamps.
* Check out the American Philatelic Society's Web site for kids: www.stamps.org/Young-Philatelists. (A philatelist is someone who collects stamps.)
* With a parent's permission, search online for your favorite topic -- whether it's baseball or whales -- plus the word "stamps." If you find a picture of a stamp that's not available at the post office, the Philatelic Society site has lists of stamp dealers and stamp shows.