It might surprise a few of you to know that in the world of US philately some of the most popular stamps are from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition pictorial issue. These bi-colour stamps of six values were produced to commemorate a world fair held at Buffalo, New York. The Pan-American Exposition and World’s Fair, which was held May 1st to November 1st 1901, celebrated the introduction of technology and its influence across America.

To support the event a set of six stamps were produced in the values; 1c, 2c, 4c, 5c, 8c and 10c. Our featured stamp is the 2c which was in recognition of the rail link between America’s east and west, and depicts the ‘Empire State Express’ locomotive. Now back in 1901 this four-car train was an icon of modern engineering and was the most cutting edge machine of its time being able to travel over 100 miles per hour and was the world’s first high speed passenger train. These stamps were printed in black and red and as such the printing of them was a two stage process, the central vignette being printed in black first then the outer red frame being printed after. As you might imagine this process was thwart with difficulties in getting the outer frame aligned accurately and indeed examples of where the frame overlaps are known and collectable. However, even more rare and coveted are the inverted centers, which came about as a result of the printer feeding the sheet mistakenly into the press backwards. These errors were quickly discovered at the time of their release and became highly popular among stamp collectors and even more so today where it is one of the classic stamps of US philately.

In 2001 the US Postal Service issued The Pan-American Inverts souvenir sheet in New York, which includes reproductions of these famous Pan-American inverts in their printed colours.

The original 2c with the inverted center is the rarest of the inverts from this issue and 74 unused copies are recorded. This example is a very fine mint stamp which will be available at a David Feldman SA auction in December 2022, coming from The Hausman Collection of Classic World Stamps. These 2c errors do not come to market often and indeed a similar example was sold in 2010 for over $100,000.00 in the US.

An interesting side story is that the Pan-American Exposition had a rather sad outcome because the then President William McKinley (1843 to 1901) was shot at the event on 6th September 1901, by Leon Czogosz who attended the public reception where President McKinley had given a speech. After the speech, the president shook hands with members of the audience, then Czogosz hid a pistol under a handkerchief and fired two shots as he extended his hand to the president, one of which just grazed him but one hit McKinley in the stomach. McKinley later passed away on September 14, 1901 from his injuries and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt Jnr (1858 to 1919) took office and became President. The assassin Czogosz was later convicted and then executed for the killing.

Oddly, although McKinley is rated as an above average president, as a result of his pro innovation and business activities, the tale of his demise is perhaps less well known than the 1901 inverted center stamps.  It wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to suggest that these Empire State Express stamps, showing the printing error, are definitely more popular than President McKinley’s tenure. We did say at the start that it might surprise you to learn how popular these stamps were.

The Hausman Collection of the World will be a single-owner featured catalogue in our autumn auction series December 5th to 9th in Geneva.