November 2, 2005

Stamp collectors hail blockbuster New York trade

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street's "Bond King" Bill Gross
and another stamp collector swapped the two most valuable items
in the philatelic world on Wednesday in a trade experts called
the biggest deal in 100 years.

The trade was remarkable in that it was a cashless exchange
involving one $3 million item for another, and because it
completed Gross' collection of every U.S. stamp from the 19th
century -- a feat no museum has accomplished.

Gross is the managing director of asset management firm
PIMCO and the subject of the book "The Bond King." He recently
revealed himself as the mysterious collector "Monte Carlo," who
had been snatching up valuable stamps at auction.

In Wednesday's swap, Gross acquired a 1-cent "Z Grill"
stamp, one of two known to exist, for a block of four "Inverted
Jenny" stamps, now owned by Donald Sundman, president of the
Mystic Stamp Company.

"It is truly the biggest event in the past 100 years. (The
Z Grill) is like the Holy Grail of stampdom," said Charles
Shreve, president of Shreves Philatelic Galleries, which helped
Gross build his collection and represented him at the trading

The Z Grill, issued in 1868 with a profile of Benjamin
Franklin, is valued for its rarity and the waffle-like grill on
the back that better absorbed postmarks and prevented people
from reusing them.

The Inverted Jenny -- a 24-cent airmail stamp from 1918 --
is treasured for the kind of error that drives up the value of
collectibles. Its depiction of a Curtiss JN-4 biplane, known as
the Jenny, was inverted, making the plane look like it is
flying upside down.

Gross tried to buy the Z Grill in 1998, but was outbid by
Sundman, who paid a record-setting $935,000. Gross then broke
the record two weeks ago by buying the Inverted Jenny block for
$2.97 million.

The swap now implicitly values the Z Grill at the same
price -- making it the most valuable single stamp known.

"I had a serious case of seller's remorse," Sundman said of
giving up the Z Grill. "I bought the Z Grill because it was the
rarest stamp in the world. But I get a wonderful item in