Scarce 1868 One-Cent ‘Z’ Grill Stamp Sells For Record $4.36 Million At Auction

An extremely rare stamp has set an all-time record at auction. The 1868 One-cent “Z” Grill — the only known one in private hands — netted $4.36 million at Siegel Auction Galleries. It broke the previous record held by the 1918 24-cent Inverted Jenny, which sold for over $2 million in November 2023.

The 1868 One-cent “Z” Grill nailed estimates as the value was set between $4 million-$5 million prior to the auction.

1868 One-cent “Z” Grill stamp
1868 One-cent “Z” Grill stamp. (credit: Siegel Auction Galleries)

The stamp came from the collection of Bill Gross. The renowned “Bond King,” who co-founded investment giant PIMCO in 1971, spent decades meticulously assembling what is widely regarded as the most complete and significant collection of American postage stamps ever.

The 1868 One-cent “Z” Grill stamp has a fascinating history. In the years following the Civil War, the United States Post Office sought ways to prevent the reuse of postage stamps by washing off cancellations. One solution was the “grill,” a waffle-pattern embossing that allowed cancellation ink to seep into the stamp, making it difficult to clean and reuse. Various grill sizes and shapes were experimented with, and the “Z” Grill, with its distinctive features, became the most elusive of them all. Only two 1-cent, two 15-cent, and six 10-cent “Z” Grill stamps have ever been found and certified as genuine.

For the past 26 years, Gross was the sole owner of the only One-cent “Z” Grill available to collectors, as the other known example resides in The New York Public Library.

“This is, without question, the most significant and most valuable collection of United States stamps formed this past half century. 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, including iconic One-cent ‘Z’ Grill,” says Charles Shreve, Gross’ philatelic advisor for over three decades.

Scott Trepel, president of Siegel Auction Galleries, adds, “There have been very few times in the history of stamp auctions when the offering is a collection put together by someone of immense wealth and intense determination. The Gross U.S. sale in June is one of them. For collectors who have patiently waited for this to happen, it is an opportunity to buy what they have wanted for a very long time. And for others who just want one stamp — the rarest of the rare, the best of the best — it could well be an opportunity to capture a trophy.”

The stamp was part of The William H. Gross Collection: United States Stamps Complete auction.

The proceeds from this auction will benefit the William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation, a charity that provides financial support for humanitarian efforts, education, and health care.

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