Siegel to auction complete collection of classic U.S. stamps formed by William H. Gross

Mar 11, 2024, 3 PM

By Charles Snee

Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries announced March 11 that William H. Gross’ complete collection of classic-era United States stamps will come to market during a June 14-15 sale in New York City.

The collection is being offered by Charles F. Shreve and Tracy L. Carey in association with Siegel Auction Galleries.

One of the philatelic crown jewels of the collection is an 1868 1¢ blue Benjamin Franklin stamp with a Z grill (Scott 85A), known to collectors as the 1¢ Z grill.

Two examples of this iconic stamp are recorded. The other is in the New York Public Library collection, which is on long-term loan to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

The current $3 million value for the 1¢ Z grill in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers is based on the 2005 trade between Shreve (representing Gross) and Don Sundman of Mystic Stamp Co. of the 1918 24¢ Jenny Invert plate block (for which Gross had paid $2.97 million) for the 1¢ Z grill that Sundman had acquired in 1998 for $935,000. Gross’ acquisition of the 1¢ Z grill completed his U.S. collection.

“This is, without question, the most significant and most valuable collection of United States stamps formed this past half century,” Shreve said. “Its appearance at public auction will be a historic event, where all of the rarest and most sought-after stamps issued by the United States will be offered for sale … ”

According to Siegel’s preview of the sale, the top 100 rarest and most valuable lots will be sold during the evening of Friday, June 14, at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, 455 Madison Ave., in Manhattan.

Of course, the 1¢ Z grill, which will be up for bids for the first time in 26 years, will be in the spotlight during the June 14 auction.

The remaining stamps in the collection will be offered Saturday, June 15, during an afternoon sale at the Collectors Club, 58 W. 40th St., in Manhattan.

Gross’ storied collection is housed in a Scott U.S. National album.

The album “has always been his favorite, offering not just a visual feast of the rarest and best of U.S. stamps, but representing the collecting goal of every collector, from beginner to advanced... completion,” Shreve and Trepel said.

“Between the singles in his National album and the multiples in his exhibit collection, Mr. Gross succeeded in checking off every Scott number on his want list over a period of 13 years,” Shreve and Trepel said. “With the acquisition of the One-cent Z Grill … in 2005, every space in his album was filled.”

Another famous stamp in the collection is the finest of three unused examples of the 1851 1¢ blue type I Franklin (Scott 5). This stamp is often referred to as “7R1E,” identifying it as coming from position 7 of the right pane on plate 1, early state, which is the only position of 200 on the early plate 1 to show a complete design and ornaments.

The stamp is from a strip of three that once resided in the Ferrari collection.

The other two stamps, which exist as a pair today, are type Ib (Scott 5A). That type is like the type I stamp, except the balls below the bottom label are not as clear, and the plumelike scrolls at the bottom are incomplete, according to the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog.

Siegel’s preview traces the history of this great rarity:

“The strip was acquired by an agent for Arthur Hind and remained intact when sold to Sir Nicholas Waterhouse in the 1933 Hind sale. Waterhouse severed the single Type I from the strip and offered it during World War II in one of the charity auctions in England held on behalf of the Red Cross and St. John Fund. When the Waterhouse collection was sold at auction in 1955, Raymond H. Weill flew to London with the specific goal of acquiring the Type Ib pair, which he reunited with the Type I single.”

According to Siegel, the unused Scott 5 single and the 5A pair will be offered as two separate lots in the June auction.

Siegel estimates the unused example of Scott 5 at $200,000 to $300,000, well above the current $115,000 value in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog.

“Siegel’s experts anticipate the entire auction will realize $15 to $20 million, with several individual stamps breaking the $1 million mark and the collection’s rarest stamp — the 1868 One-cent ‘Z’ Grill — on track to become the most valuable American postage stamp with an estimate of $4 to $5 million,” Siegel told Linn's in a March 11 email.

For more information about the June 14-15 auction of the Gross collection of U.S. stamps, contact Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, 21 W. 38th St., Seventh Floor, New York, NY 10018.

A hardbound catalog for the auction will be sent to clients who regularly receive printed catalogs, Siegel said.

Potential bidders may also contact Trepel at, phone 212-753-6421; or Shreve at, 214-754-5991.

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