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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - PIMCO's Bill Gross, manager of the world's largest mutual fund, plans to auction rare European stamps from his collection to raise more than $1 million to benefit Doctors Without Borders.
The auction will feature about 200 stamps of Western Europe, including early stamps from France, some German colonies and German government offices in China. One rare vermilion French stamp may be worth $75,000 or more, Gross told Reuters.
The historic stamps, including some of the first stamps in French postal history, will be displayed in London and New York before the May 19 sale.
"I have always believed that there is no joy in hoarding stamps," Gross said. "The joy is in the collecting and then the charitable giving."
Gross is founder and co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co, a unit of Munich-based insurer Allianz, and has more than $1 trillion in securities under management.
He and his wife Sue have donated more than $15.5 million to non-profit groups from auctions over the last three years.
A vermilion-colored one Franc denomination from 1849 -- the first year France issued postage stamps -- may fetch $75,000 or more, according to Spink Shreves Galleries, the auction house that will run the sale in New York and also online.
A pair of 1849 French stamps with one of them printed upside down has a pre-sale estimate of $125,000, and a retail or catalog value of $235,000. Only four such "tete-beche" pairs (face-to-face, or literally, head-to-tail) are known to be in mint condition.
"The 'tete-beche' pair is one of the greatest of all French philatelic rarities," said Charles Shreve, president of Spink Shreves Galleries.
On the other end of the scale, a German stamp mailed from the Marshall Islands in 1897 holds a catalog value of $440. The stamp was originally worth 5 Pfennig, the German penny.
The auction also will offer stamps issued for German overseas offices and colonies, and stamps of Italy, Spain and Turkey.
Dozens of rare 19th Century Reichspost (German Postal Service) stamps used for mailings from German government offices in China also will be on sale.
"Anything related to Chinese stamps is hot," Shreve said. "The Chinese are avid stamp collectors and these could attract a lot of interest."
The stamps will be displayed in London from May 8 to 15, and in New York on May 17 and 18.
Reporting by Walden Siew; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Patricia Reaney