Rare 1868 One-cent ‘Z’ Grill Stamp Estimated To Fetch Record $5 Million At Auction

An extremely rare stamp could set an all-time record at auction next month. The 1868 One-cent “Z” Grill — the only known one in private hands — is estimated to fetch $5 million at Siegel Auction Galleries. If so, it would break the record for any single United States stamp. In November 2023, a 1918 24-cent Inverted Jenny sold for over $2 million.

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

The 1868 One-cent “Z” Grill stamp comes from the collection of Bill Gross. The renowned “Bond King,” who co-founded investment giant PIMCO in 1971, has spent decades meticulously assembling what is widely regarded as the most complete and significant collection of American postage stamps ever. Now, this philatelic treasure trove is set to make history as it goes under the hammer at Siegel Auction Galleries in New York City on June 14 and 15.

The 1868 One-cent “Z” Grill is a stamp with 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 has been 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 iconic stamp, estimated to fetch between $4 and $5 million, is set to become the most valuable American postage stamp ever sold at auction.

“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.

Siegel’s experts anticipate the entire collection will realize between $15 and $20 million, with several individual stamps breaking the $1 million mark. The top 100 stamps will be auctioned at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel on June 14, while the remaining stamps will be sold the following day at the Collectors Club of New York.

“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,” notes Scott Trepel, president of Siegel Auction Galleries. “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 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.

Click here for more information on The William H. Gross Collection: United States Stamps Complete auction.

HobbyListings editor Matt Higgins contributed to this report.

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