Bill Gross' Stamp Collection
Bill Gross is an American financial manager, philanthropist and notable stamp collector.
Personal history and career
Bill Gross was born in Ohio, and raised in California where he attended Duke University. He graduated in 1966 with a degree in psychology, and after serving in the navy and earning an MBA from the University of California he co-founded the Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) in 1971.
Today the company manages investments worth over $1 trillion for investors worldwide and Gross personally manages the company’s Total Return Fund, the world’s largest mutual fund with assets of $240.7 billion.
In 2011 he was listed by Forbes Magazine as the 564th richest person in the world, with net worth of $2.4 billion. He has also written two best-selling books on investment, ‘Bill Gross on Investing’ and ‘Everything You've Heard About Investing is Wrong’.
Gross is well-known as a passionate philatelist, and is just the third person in history to have completed a full collection of 19th century United States postage stamps.
His love of stamp collecting was inherited from his mother, who had amassed a collection with the hope that its value would pay for her son to attend university. The collection was worth less that the price his mother had paid, but when he later achieved success in the business world he was determined to build a valuable collection himself.
During an interview with Forbes Magazine in 2010 he spoke of his inspiration:
“…when I was 46, I started making some money and became interested in stamps… . I guess I wanted to prove that her good intentions should be rewarded… . So I studied the philatelic literature … to analyze which stamps did well and which stamps didn't, and it became obvious that it was the very rare stamps that appreciated because that's what the wealthy collectors wanted to buy… . So I said I'm going to do this right … and prove … [my mom's] good intentions… . And that's how it all got started.”
Gross began his collection in the early 1990s and has maintained a lasting relationship with his dealer Charles Shreeve, co founder of the philatelic auction house Spink Shreeve. For more than a decade Shreeve worked on behalf of Gross, who wished to remain anonymous as a collector and was identified in auction rooms across the world simply as ‘Monte Carlo’.
Benjamin Franklin Z-Grill trade
In one of the most famous philatelic trades of all time, Gross obtained the only existing example of an 1868 Benjamin Franklin Z-Grill stamp to remain in private hands. Only two examples of the stamp exist, with the second held in the collection of the New York Public Library.
In 2005 Gross needed the single remaining stamp to complete his 19th century U.S collection. He acquired it from its owners the Mystic Stamp Co. In return for a rare plate block of four Inverted Jenny stamps valued at $2.79 million.
The idea for the trade was formulated between Gross and Shreeve when the Inverted Jenny plate block came up for auction. Shreeve stated:
“…Mystic had been using the Z-Grill tirelessly in their marketing [laughs] and in their promotion. And i got the idea that they weren't necessarily in love with owning the Z-Grill, they were in love with how it could be marketed and help their business. So I suggested it to Bill: 'Why don't we try to do that? We'd buy the plate block and engineer a trade because I think that [the Z-Grill and Inverted Jenny block's] values are going to be similar. Not 10 minutes before the [public auction] sale of the Inverted Jenny plate block occurred, we came to a written agreement. We knew when we bought the plate block that we were going to announce the trade a week later…”
Notable collections and sales
Along with his complete U.S collection, Gross built impressive collection of early Great Britain stamps. In 2006 he sold his entire British philatelic collection at a Spink Shreeve auction for a combined total of $9.1, all of which was donated to the Médecins Sans Frontières charity.
In 2008 he sold his extensive Scandanavian and Finnish philatelic collections in a similar manner, donating the money raised to the Millennium Villages Project.