Bill Gross's 'tete-beche' stamp pairs could deliver $420,000

Following his $3.2m sale of US Confederate Provisionals and British North American stamps late last year, PIMCO's 'Bond King' and the greatest stamp collector of modern times, Bill Gross, is putting another set of extremely fine and rare stamps back into the market.

This time, it is his Western Europe and its Colonies collection on offer. Specifically, stamps from France and Colonies, German Offices and Colonies, Italian States and Spain will be available to collectors for the first time in a number of years.

The sale is his fifth in recent years, following his Great Britain collection (which in realised the highest amount for any single stamp auction ever in 2007), his Scandinavia collection in May of 2008, his British Empire from October 2008 and the double auction of North American stamps in November 2009.

We will bring you a number of the most exciting lots from the sales in coming days, but two key highlights are to be tête-bêche pairs from the 1849-1850 Ceres issue from France.

A tête-bêche, or head-to-tail, pair is where a joined pair of stamps is printed with one stamp inverted relative to the other. These are occasionally produced in error during printing, or sometimes deliberately for collecting.

Blue On Yellowish Tete Beche Bill Gross
Blue On Yellowish Tête-Bêche pair

One of the finest on offer here is a 6c, 1849 25c blue-on-yellowish pair with facing tête-bêche images. Despite a (well-sealed) tear in the lower left corner, this is a beautiful piece with uniformly large margins all around and deep, rich colour on fresh paper.

One of only three unused examples known (and listed in Life magazine in 1954 as an example of a world rarity - an excellent opportunity for investment), this pair was once part of the collection of Count Ferrary, has some original gum remaining and is listed here with a guide price of $185,000.

A cover featuring a tête-bêche pair of the same kind is also on offer with an estimate of $30,000.

The second unused tête-bêche pair to lead the sale is an 1849 1Fr light carmine-on-yellowish pair with intense colour on fresh paper and ample to mostly large margins all around (slimmest at the top).

Light Carmine On Yellowish Tete Beche Bill Gross
Carmine On Yellowish Tête-Bêche pair

One of four known to exist, and widely recognised as one of the greatest tête-bêche pairs of its kind, the piece has been a key lot in some of the greatest collections of French stamps ever known, including Ferrary once more. It is expected to bring $235,000 here.

The auction, at Spink Shreves Auction Galleries will take place in New York on May 19, 2010 with the proceeds going to Médecins Sans Frontières. Keep checking back here for more news on the highlights.


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