The top lot, which fetched $737,500, was the unique block of the 24-cent 1869 Pictorial Inverted Center error—four inverted vignettes. Prices included an 18% buyer’s premium.
The sale took place at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel and held by Siegel Auction Galleries, where Charles Shreve is director and a longtime stamp adviser to Gross. It’s expected to be the first of four sales of his collection, valued at $42.2 million and considered one of the most valuable collections in philately.
The 2-cent Blue Hawaiian Missionary, one of the rarest and most valuable stamps, was bought by Arthur Przbyl, CEO of ANI Pharmaceuticals, for $619,500.
“I lost a lot, but I won the stamp I really wanted,” Przbyl said at the auction, which drew about 100 collectors in person as well as online and telephone bidders.
The Bible Block of six, expected to fetch as much as $750,000, sold for $590,000 to tech entrepreneur Gordon Eubanks.
Wednesday’s auction buzzed with the excitement of collectors such as Larry Hunt, a former real estate investor from Jersey City who returned to his childhood hobby 20 years ago.
“There is so much history in these stamps,” Hunt said. “And these are such rare stamps; some of these don’t go on the market for 20 to 30 years.”
Gross, a bond-portfolio manager at Janus Henderson Group, first began collecting in 1992. He became only the second person to form a complete collection of 19th-century United States postage stamps. He connected with Shreve in the early ’90s and gave the Smithsonian National Postal Museum $10 million to build the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery, the world’s largest such gallery.
“Stamps are historical and geographical. More than coins, stamps tell the history of the world,” Shreve said. “You can collect from any country in the world. It’s creating order out of disorder—getting a whole bunch of stamps and creating something that is important.”