Auctions

By Michael Baadke

Siegel International to auction remarkable Gross collection of Switzerland

April 01, 2016 09:33 AM

  • One of the rarest and most important philatelic items in the world is this mint block of six of the 1843 10-centime black-on-yellow green Double Geneva stamp from the Swiss canton of Geneva. When last sold as an individual lot in 1964, the block brought the highest price ever paid up to that time. Now part of the William H. Gross collection, it will be offered at World Stamp Show-NY 2016 during a May 29 auction by Siegel International.
  • Also from the Gross collection comes this rare cover franked with a pair of the 1845 2½-rappen Basel Dove stamp, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful stamps in the world.
  • The 1851 variety of Switzerland’s 5r Rayon I stamp with complete frame around cross. This example, believed to be the finest quality example extant, will be offered during the May 29 Siegel International auction in New York City.

By Michael Baadke

The remarkable classic Switzerland collection belonging to American collector and award-winning exhibitor William H. Gross will be auctioned by Siegel International during the upcoming World Stamp Show-NY 2016.

The auction is taking place May 29 during the huge eight-day show running from May 28 through June 4 at the Javits Center in New York City.

Gross is the prominent financial manager for Janus Capital Group who founded Pacific Investment Management Co. in 1971.

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Charles Shreve of Siegel International told Linn’s Stamp News that “like all other William Gross sales to date, the entire proceeds will be contributed to charity.”

Gross and his wife Sue have donated millions to numerous organizations worldwide over the years, including his alma mater Duke University and several hospitals. 

A $10 million donation to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., made it possible for the museum to construct a dazzling new street-level stamp gallery bearing his name that opened in 2013.

The 2013 Robert A. Siegel auction of material from the Gross collection of United States raised $2 million that was split between two organizations: Doctors Without Borders and the Millennium Villages Project at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. In all, seven auctions of material from the Gross collection have raised more than $20 million for charity.

The identity of the charity benefitting from this new sale has not yet been revealed, said Shreve, who has been advising Gross on philatelic matters for many years. 

Seventeen years ago, Shreve brokered the private sale of the extraordinary Anderegg collection of Switzerland’s classic stamps and postal history.

The buyer at the time was not named, described then by Shreve as “a serious collector not just of United States stamps but of rarities of the world.”

Assembled from the 1930s into the 1960s, the collection included some of the country’s greatest philatelic rarities in 10 custom-made albums.

As an exhibit it had claimed several top international awards during the 1950s and 1960s, in Switzerland, Austria and Italy, and including the 1957 grand prix international in Tel Aviv.

After Anderegg died in the 1970s, the collection was kept by the family, stored in a Swiss vault for decades before the 1999 sale was finalized.

The unnamed buyer was William H. Gross.

The auction in May from this same magnificent collection will offer gems of Switzerland’s cantonal issues as well as top early classics of the federal administration.

A stunning rarity is the black-on-yellow green mint block of six of the 1843 10-centime Double Geneva stamp (Scott 2L1), the first of several stamps issued in the Geneva canton, or state, in the southwest of the Swiss confederation.

Shreve quite appropriately refers to the block as “one of the rarest and most important philatelic items in the world,” acquired by Anderegg in the April 16, 1964, Robson Lowe Ltd. sale of the legendary Maurice Burrus collection.

Anderegg paid the highest price ever paid for a philatelic item at the time, Shreve noted: 475,000 Swiss francs, plus the 10 percent buyer’s premium, for a total of 522,250fr, then equivalent to $121,800.

“Now it is believed that the current value of this impressive block could be in excess of $1,000,000,” Shreve told Linn’s.

From Basel in the north comes a spectacular cover franked with a four-margin pair of the only issue of that canton, the 1845 2½-rappen Dove of Basel (Scott 3L1).

The single stamp alone is a cherished classic, with its lovely three-color design (four, if you count the artistic use of unprinted off-white), embossed in the center with the image of a dove in flight against a bold red field.

The 2016 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers values a pair on cover at $195,000; the Swiss Zumstein catalog prices a pair on cover at 250,000fr, which is close to $260,000. Shreve says this cover is probably the finest bearing a pair of the Basel stamp.

The earliest issues of the federal administration are the 1850-52 Rayon stamps, with a central design showing a post horn above the Swiss arms. The dearest of these issues is the 1851 light blue and red 5r Rayon I stamp with a complete blue frame around the cross (Scott 9), which is only valued used in the Scott Classic specialized catalog, at $210,000. The Zumstein listing for this issue is also 250,000fr.

Just 15 examples of this stamp are thought to exist, according to Shreve, who points out that the stamp in the Gross collection is believed to be the finest quality example extant.

A special viewing of this collection is planned in Zurich about a week before the auction, Shreve notes, and the sale at the international show in New York could bring $3 million to $4 million.

With the single exception of the 1999 private transaction, nearly all the rarities in this collection have been off the market for half a century or more.

The few incredible items described here only scratch the surface of what is in store for collectors when the Gross collection of Switzerland is auctioned at World Stamp Show-NY 2016.