The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum handed out its 2016 Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award on Oct. 22 at a museum-hosted gala event in Washington, D.C.
Established in 2002, the Smithsonian Award honours living individuals for outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of philately. This achievement may include original research that significantly advances the understanding of philately, exceptional service to the philatelic community or sustained promotion of philately to the benefit of current and future collectors.
This year’s winners were billionaire bond investor and prominent stamp collector Bill Gross; former National Postal Museum curator Cheryl Ganz; and International Association of Philatelic Experts member Richard Winter.
“There has never been anyone in philately as philanthropic as Bill, and he wanted to create something special, which he has,” said Charles Shreve, of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Gross’s long-time philatelic advisor and dealer. “Without his gift there would have never been a new Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the finest in the world. Bill has contributed greatly to the general public’s view of collecting in a positive way.”
In addition to donations totalling $10.8 million USD to build the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery in the National Postal Museum, Gross and his wife Sue have donated almost $25 million USD from proceeds of the sales of Mr. Gross’s collection since 2007. Beneficiaries include the PIMCO Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, the Millennium Villages Project, the Hawaii Foodbank, The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, and other charities.
“Stamp collecting has always been a means to an end for me,” said Gross, portfolio manager for Janus Capital Group’s Global Unconstrained Bond strategy. “There is the pleasure of the hobby itself, which has brought countless hours of satisfaction in researching the history behind these miniature works of art. And then there is the knowledge that the returns from my hobby have served a higher purpose in benefiting the less fortunate.”
Gross’s charitable proceeds from the sale of stamps is just one component of his larger philanthropic activities. In addition to donations that include a $40 million USD gift to establish a nursing school at the University of California, Irvine, and $20 million USD to Mercy Ships, The William and Sue Gross Family Foundation annually distributes more than $18 million USD a year to medical and poverty charities, among many more recipients.
Gross also co-founded the PIMCO Foundation when he served as chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., and provided 100 per cent of the foundation’s funding for the first two years following its 2001 founding.
Born in 1944, Gross has diligently assembled one of the finest collections of 19th-century U.S. stamps and postal history ever formed over the past quarter-century.
“Almost unique among high-profile collectors, Gross publicly shares his passion for philately. Through his numerous collecting accomplishments, trade of the Inverted Jenny plate block for the One-Cent Z-Grill, and the generosity he and his wife, Sue, have shown in donating millions from the sale of portions of his non-U.S. stamp collections to charitable causes, he has generated more positive media exposure for the hobby over the past decade than any other single collector,” reads a statement from the National Postal Museum
Gross received the Collectors Club of New York’s Alfred F. Lichtenstein Award in 2011, and the 2016 Distinguished Philatelist Award from the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society, which called him “one of the greatest stamp collectors of all times.”