Bond guru Bill Gross is about to rattle another market — stamp collecting

SINGAPORE (Apr 9): Bill Gross gained fame as the bond king. Now he rules the market for collectible stamps. His US$42 million ($55.1 million) collection of US postage is so comprehensive that when the first part of it comes up for auction in September, the entire field of philately will feel the effect.


Some highlights from the Bill Gross American stamp collection

“There’s never been a collection in private hands of US material like the one Bill Gross put together,” says Cheryl Ganz, curator emerita of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, which received more than US$10 million from Gross’ family to build the William H Gross Stamp Gallery, the world’s largest gallery dedicated to postage. “He went for the best of the best in every case.”

Collecting stamps is a hobby that has cooled in popularity in recent decades — and part of the problem is that so many of the most sought-after specimens are in museums or major private collections. This is particularly true of US stamps, once among the most desirable segments. Gross has amassed so many of the best examples that he has effectively cornered the market.

“This is a significant moment in the stamp market,” says Charles Shreve, the billionaire’s long-time adviser. “Once a generation, a great collection comes up for sale, and it gives new collectors a chance to buy something special. It opens up the material.”


This is the largest known sheet of 10-cent 1847 Issue stamps. Only three such unused blocks exist (estimate: US$500,000 to US$750,000)

The group will be offered by Robert A Siegel Auction Galleries in New York at a series of special sales over the next two to three years, according to the auction house. The first will feature 150 lots; the tally is expected to surpass US$10 million. All proceeds from the auctions will go to charities, Gross says in an email.

Gross has the most complete collection of stamps issued by the US Postal Service, with individual stamps, blocks of them, and stamped envelopes. One album has hundreds of examples from the first US federal postage issue in 1847.


This rare envelope was created for a charitable fundraiser during the Civil War (estimate: US$30,000 to US$40,000)

“I have had the privilege and enjoyment of acquiring many of America’s most iconic stamp rarities over the past 25 years or so,” the billionaire bond manager says in a statement. “During that time, I have always thought I was a temporary curator of these treasures and that, one day, others should have the opportunity, honour and responsibility of becoming the new collectors.”

Gross, 73, bond portfolio manager at Janus Henderson Group, has built and sold several top stamp compilations since he began collecting in 1992, according to Shreve. He has raised US$27 million for charity from stamp sales, including Swiss and British treasures. Now he is unloading the US items, his biggest prize.

His collection was valued at US$42.2 million, according to court papers filed in October as part of a divorce settlement between him and his wife, Sue Gross. After the couple divided their assets, including multiple homes and artwork, he retained a personal net worth estimated by Bloomberg at US$1.6 billion.

Gross built his fortune as co-founder and chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co, where he pioneered active bond strategies. When he faced an ouster in 2014 amid a dispute with other executives, he jumped to Janus, where he manages the US$2.2 billion Janus Henderson Global Unconstrained Bond Fund.

He amassed the core of his US collection in 1993, when an important trove of US stamps owned by Japanese bank chairman Ryohei Ishikawa came up for auction. Gross bought more than US$2 million of stamps at the event. Over the years, he has pounced on every important collection that has come to the market. “Just like the 1993 auction brought out Bill, Bill’s collection will draw out other collectors,” Shreve says. — Bloomberg LP

This article appeared in Issue 825 (Apr 9) of The Edge Singapore.

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