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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - PIMCO's Bill Gross, manager of the world's largest mutual fund, sold $1.5 million worth of his rare European stamps on Wednesday to benefit Doctors Without Borders.
A pair of 1849 French stamps, with one of them printed upside down, drew the biggest single bid of $190,000 from an unknown buyer during an auction in New York. Only four such "tete-beche" pairs are known to be in mint condition.
Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co (PIMCO), a unit of Munich-based insurer Allianz, Europe's biggest insurer, has held on to the collection for about 15 years, he said.
"I'm selling my fabulous French and French colonies collection," Gross said prior to the auction. "I'm parting with old friends but for a good cause."
Charles Shreve, president of Spink Shreves Galleries which ran the auction, said the stamps drew large international interest from buyers in Europe, Asia and the United States.
Irwin Weinberg, 82, a stamp dealer from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, bought about $100,000 worth of stamps, which he intends to resell.
Weinberg, a stamp collector for more than six decades, once owned the 1856 one-cent "Black on Magenta" stamp of British Guiana, considered the rarest stamp in the world.
Weinberg bought that stamp in 1970 for $280,000, he said, and sold it 10 years later for about $1 million.
"I specialize in rarities of the world and consider these to be paper gold," Weinberg said after the auction.
The Gross stamp auction featured about 200 stamps of Western Europe, including early stamps from France, some German colonies and German government offices in China, along with stamps of Italy, Spain and Turkey.
Gross and his wife Sue now have donated more than $17 million to non-profit groups from auctions over the last three years.
"It's a wonderful gift from the giver and for the receiver," Weinberg said.
Spink Shreves Galleries, the auction house which ran the sale in New York and online, also earned a 15 percent fee from the auction results.
All the proceeds from the auction will benefit the emergency fund for Doctors Without Borders.
"We are very happy for the trust the Gross family has for us," said Fabien Dubuet, the UN representative for Doctors Without Borders.
Reporting by Walden Siew; editing by Patricia Reaney