THE 500 MON CENTRE INVERTED
THE MOST VALUABLE STAMP OF ASIA
ONE OF THE GREATEST GEMS OF WORLDWIDE PHILATELY
1871, 500 mon, greyish yellow-green, earliest printing, plate 1, position 8 from the upper right corner of the sheet, centre inverted, this being the characters of the denomination printed in black and originating from position 33. It displays a detailed impression and deep shade, possessing large even margins all around. It was lightly cancelled with part strike of large “Kakegawa Kensazumi” postmark, allowing the error to be clearly exhibited. Positional pinhole at top right corner, occasionally found in classic stamps of Japan and not being at all a fault, as it was applied by the printer in four corners of the sheet in order to fix a number of sheets to be cut or perforated simultaneously.
The error is presented on the original exhibition page of its previous owner as displayed when his collection of “Japan 1871-1876 Hand Engraved Issues” was awarded a “Grand Prix National” at Philanippon 2021. This gem is accompanied by two additional 500 mon for comparison, both emanating from the same position 8, with the centre correctly printed, and showing intermediate and late printings in contrasting shades, the former being unused, while the latter was cancelled by the “head portion” of large “Nishioji Kensazumi” postmark.
The unique example of the only inverted centre of all classic Japan, irrefutably being the most important and valuable item of Japanese and Asian philately, as well as one of the top-ten most important items of worldwide philately.
Contrary to other highly great rarities of the world, this stamp is faultless and preserved in a very fine state.
The 500 mon stamp was produced in a two-part printing process. Initially the plate featuring the dragons and the frame was printed in colour, and after drying, the plate of the denomination was printed in black. Prior to this second step, one sheet was apparently piled up upside down. The authenticity of the error is irrefutable since the plate positions of the dragons & frame in green, position 8, and the denomination in black, position 33, located in the upper right corner (8) and lower left corner (33) of the sheet of 40, fell exactly in-line when the sheet was inadvertently printed upside down.
The error was discovered some time between 1953 and 1973 by John C. Linsley, an American collector who found the error in a Japan collection he acquired. The error became public when his stepson submitted the stamp for certification in 1973. It was then submitted to the International Society for Japanese Philately (I.S.J.P.) Expert Committee and was expertised by Dr. Varro E. Tyler (also head of the expert committee of the American Philatelic Society). Before issuing a certificate, the I.S.J.P. wanted to have the additional opinion of the Dr. Tani Takashi from the All Japan Philatelic Federation Expert Committee and Dr. Soichi Ichida from the Study Group of Hand Engraved Stamps. All experts concluded this stamp to be genuine with full confidence. The certificate unfortunately has been lost since, but the signature “Tyler” of Dr. Varro E. Tyler is pencilled on reverse in lower right corner.
Currently the stamp is accompanied by a certificate of The Philatelic Federation of Japan Expert Committee (2011), which is signed by Dr. Sawa, as well as a certificate issued by Florian Eichhorn BPP (2023).
The following information is the result of our research to date:
John C. Linsley (1953, an American collector who spotted the inverted centre in 1953 in a Japan collection he acquired)
Mark E. Weber (1973, the adopted son of Mr. Lindsey as his heir)
Waverley Trading Co. (Tokyo, December 1973, lot 748, then described as “one of the ten most valuable philatelic items in the world”, sold for hammer ¥21,000,000)
Group of four Japanese dealers (1973)
Ichiro Kondo (1973, bought by private treaty for ¥25,500,000)
Ryohei Ishikawa (1974)
Kilchiro Hayashi (1995)
Yuji Yamada (2013, sold to him by private treaty for an undisclosed amount by Takahashi Stamp Co., Tokyo)