Stamps Auctioned to Aid Millennium Villages
Image source: Spink Shreves Galleries Inc.
Bill Gross, Wall Street money manager, recently auctioned off another portion of his British Empire Stamp collection and donated all proceeds to the Millennium Villages Project. Stamps range in estimated value from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars and include rare stamps such as the Indigo Blue shade two-pence stamp of Mauritius; a trial printing "square pair" of 1863 Cape of Good Hope triangular-shaped, carmine red, mint-condition, one-penny denomination stamps; and an 1866 Dominica six pence stamp. The auction brought in $1,491,385 USD.The auction took place on October 3rd, but the stamps were on display for several weeks before the event at the Autumn Stampex Show in London and at the Spink Shreve Gallery in New York City, where the auction took place. Stamps sold for anywhere between $800 and tens of thousands of dollars. One group of stamps even sold for $85,000 USD. Stamps from the collection were rare and one of a kind, originating from countries around the world like Mauritius, the Cape of Good Hope, Cyprus, Gibraltar, India, Malta and Australia.
The Millennium Villages Project is a plan of action for lifting communities in Africa out of the poverty trap and give them a hand up, not a hand out. Over 79 villages are involved in the program, incorporating both community and government support to develop a strong, sustainable base for improving and growing the local community, as well as ensure that the UN Millennium Development Goals are achieved. Funding from the Earth Institute and other sources helps to pay for things like high-yield seeds, bed nets to combat malaria, antiretroviral drugs, the internet, and materials to build schools and clinics. The idea is that if you can get the community over the hurdle of not being able to work because of malaria, or not being able to grow crops due to deteriorated soils then communities can take off and become self-sustainable. New villages are added to the program at regular intervals and its hoped that the program will expand to other countries and continents in the future.
So why stamps? Well, according to a recent Economist article, it actually started as a fluke. Bill's mom originally purchased stamps, hoping they would appreciate and thus pay for college. Turns out the stamps were worthless, but the lesson was not. Gross, now ranked as number 897 in list of the world's billionaires, studied sales of stamps and found a method to ensure he sold them at their highest value. He is a legend in the world of stamp collecting, and even reportedly purchased one collection for $100 million. When his method no longer works for British stamps, Gross decided to sell them off and donate the money to charity. An auction in 2007 raked in $9.1 million for a collection valued at $2.5 million. Gross is a Founder and Co-Chief Investment officer at PIMCO.
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