Holy Grail in stamp land disappears under the hammer

Get your stamp book ready for a phenomenal addition. At least, if you want to dig deep into your pockets. The holy grail among stamp collectors, the ''One-cent 'Z' Grill from 1868'', will soon disappear under the auction hammer. Expected to be the most valuable American copy ever.

Bill Gross, a 79-year-old investor and fund manager, is best known as the co-founder of the company PIMCO. But he also has a career as an avid stamp collector. Gross has enlisted the help of auction house Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries to sell his collection.

When the collection goes under the hammer, it is expected to set a new standard in stamp land. Siegel's experts estimate that the entire collection will fetch between $15 and $20 million, with even several stamps individually being able to fetch more than $1 million.

Star of the show

The star of the show? The stamp known as the 'Z' Grill: “We expect the stamp to sell for $4 million or more, which would make it the most valuable U.S. stamp ever sold at auction.” Said Scott Trepel, president of Siegel Auction Galleries.

Only two known copies of the 1868 One-cent 'Z' Grill are known. One of these copies was donated to the New York Public Library in 1925, while the other copy remained in the hands of William H. Gross, making it the only One-cent 'Z' grill was available to collectors. Currently, Gross is the only known owner of this rare stamp.

Siegel Auction Galleries

Concerns about reuse

To understand why the specimen is so rare, we have to go back to America just after the Civil War. Postage stamps were still relatively new at the time and there was concern about their reuse. To prevent this, people developed, among other things, a relief pattern that was made in the paper. The pattern of dots allowed the cancellation ink to be absorbed more quickly by the paper, making it more difficult to wash the stamp ink off the stamp.

More than a century ago, experts classified different grills from “A” to “H”. The “Z” grill, named for its mysterious and distinctive features, was included in the Scott Catalog. Only two 1¢, two 15¢ and six 10¢ stamps of the “Z” Grill have ever been found and certified as genuine.

The William H. Gross collection will go under the hammer on June 14 and 15.