Picture imperfect: An Post red-faced over stamp gaffe
AN Post has been forced to defer a commemorative stamp for the Irish Citizen Army after several historians complained it had chosen an incorrect image of founder Captain Jack White.
The 60c stamp, which was to be issued yesterday, features a photograph of a man believed to be Captain Jack White, a former British Army Officer who volunteered to train the new Irish Citizen Army in 1913.
However, following advance publicity for the stamp, An Post admitted that "a number of historians have disputed the veracity of the image saying the man depicted is not Jack White".
"This image, which was researched and verified, has been widely used over the years in academic journals and other publications," a spokesperson said.
"We are deferring this stamp issue until such time as this matter has been clarified."
The spokesperson for An Post said that 136,000 stamps had been printed in sheets of 15 and the overall production cost was €4,000. The apparent error was first spotted by Dr Leo Keohane, author of upcoming book 'Captain Jack DSO: Anarchist, Imperialist, and Founder of the Irish Citizen Army – An Alternative Story'.
"Captain Jack White DSO was one of the founders of the Irish Citizen Army and in 1914 was the chairman of the Army Council and as such was in charge of all training," Dr Keohane told the Irish Independent.
"It is obvious from his place in the photograph that the man wrongly identified as White is a junior officer at best.
"White, as the overall commandant, would never have stood in such a position. I can categorically state that the man portrayed on the stamp is not Jack White.
"While I was researching my book I have become familiar with various images of White. Many of these images and photographs were provided by his family."
An Post publishes around 25 new issues of stamps every year to celebrate a particular event, honour a person or institution, or reflect some other facet of Irish life.
These once-off issues have a print run of up to 500,000. Once sold, they are not reprinted.
"It's a pity this has happened," Dr Keohane said. "But I understand An Post's mistake. Jack was a tall and imposing figure, as is the man in the photograph."
It is not the first time the An Post Stamp Design Committee has suffered a serious blunder. In 2004, two members of the committee were forced to resign after they forgot to include the island of Cyprus on stamps celebrating the accession of 10 new member states to the EU.
"You could write an entire book on the mistakes An Post have made over the years," David MacDonnell of Irish Philatelic Traders said. Such mistakes can prove very popular – and lucrative – for stamp collectors.
Mr MacDonnell collects and auctions unusual and deferred stamps which often feature printing errors. "The 2004 stamps without Cyprus now sell for €2.50," he said.