Top 100 stamps from Gross collection of classic U.S. stamps sell for record $18.1 million

Jun 14, 2024, 10 PM

By Charles Snee

William H. Gross’ phenomenal three-decade run building a complete collection of classic-era United States stamps came to a partial end on June 14 when Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries sold the top 100 most valuable stamps for $18.1 million, a record sum for a collection of U.S. material.

The rest of his finest philatelic achievement was to be sold the next day, June 15.

The only 1868 1¢ Benjamin Franklin stamp with a Z grill available to collectors was sold for $4.366 million. That price is a record for a single U.S. stamp and eclipses the former record holder: the position 49 1918 24¢ Jenny Invert that sold for $2,006,000 in November 2023.

All prices quoted in this story include the 18 percent buyer’s premium Siegel charges for all lots sold.

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 latter stamp has been held by the New York Public Library since 1925 as part of the Benjamin K. Miller collection.

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.

Of the trio of unused 1869 Pictorial inverts in the collection, the no gum example of the 30¢ Eagle and Shield (Scott 121b) possesses the best centering and freshness.

Bidders recognized that quality because the stamp sold for $312,700.

The provenance of the stamp in the Gross collection reads like a who’s who of philatelic excellence, having passed through the collections of Arthur Hind, Philip H. Ward Jr., Benjamin D. Phillips and Ryohei Ishikawa.

Gross acquired the famous invert for $115,500 during the 1993 Christie’s sale of the Ishikawa collection.

The only certified example of the 24¢ stamp printed by the Continental Bank Note Co. on ribbed paper (Scott 164) sold for an eye-popping $826,000, against a Scott U.S. Specialized catalog value of $357,000.

Near the end of the Gross top 100 sale was another historic error: a 1918 24¢ carmine and blue airmail stamp with the blue center inverted (Scott C3a), popularly known as the Jenny Invert.

The stamp, from position 69 in the discovery pane of 100 that was purchased May 14, 1918, by William T. Robey for its $24 face value in Washington, D.C., sold for an impressive $495,600.

A detailed report on the results of the June 14-15 sale of the Gross complete U.S. collection will be published in an upcoming issue of Linn’s.

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