Bill Gross, co-founder of the Newport Beach-based bond firm Pacific Investment Management Co., is a passionate and devoted stamp collector. He was inspired by philately thanks to his mother, who had begun buying stamps after his birth, hoping they would eventually grow in value.
Now Gross spends weekends with his stamp album on the lap. And it's not an ordinary album. Its pages are filled with a multimillion-dollar stamp collection. Gross may be best known for being a billionaire bond king, but he is for sure one of the most respected philatelists.
Ken Martin, the executive director of the American Philatelic Society, considers Gross' collection to be the best in the world. It has really unique pieces.
Gross decided to share his favourite hobby with the world. In September 2013, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum opened the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery in Washington.
Gross, the lead donor, gave $10 million to the Smithsonian Institution to help establish the gallery. He also lent the institution three of his rarest stamps for display, including:
- The gallery's oldest stamp from 1847. It's the earliest known use of a U.S. postage stamp. The envelope on display has two 10-cent stamps featuring George Washington.
- The most popular stamp among visitors, a block of four 1918 stamps featuring the most famous mistake in postal history, upside-down biplanes, called the Inverted Jennys.
- A stamp on a letter that traveled by Pony Express in 1860. Native Americans attacked the rider, but the pony still made off with the letter pouch. Two years later, the letter reached its recipient.
Wanting to inspire future generations of stamp collectors, Gross also offered organizers an idea they took up. He wanted gallery visitors to be able to start their own stamp collections on the spot. In the middle of the gallery, visitors find a table with baskets filled with stamps. They are invited to take home six stamps to start their stamp albums.
"I thought that was a cool thing to do," Gross said. "You need to touch something to get close to it."
The article is sourced by Orange County Register (