Thursday, 26 November 2009

Auction this Saturday.

On this coming Saturday, I will be conducting my unusual auction - ever. I am being transported to the year 2034 to auction off some post-capitalist artifacts.

See the details here:

Welcome to Adams & Smith, auctioneers of late-Capitalist era artefacts.

The year is 2034.

The era of free market capitalism and neo liberalism is well and truly over, and a new world order has taken its place.

In its wisdom, the Federal Council of Autonomous Zones has issued a directive abolishing all cash transactions. To celebrate, Adams & Smith proudly offer 13 lots of genuine, once ubiquitous late capitalist artefacts taken from the Hollington & Kyprianou estate.

Each lot reveals a curious aspect of that bygone age, shedding light on the odd and dangerously contradictory practices of the time. With provenance certified by Tamasin Cave of SpinWatch, each lot unearths the unsavoury history connecting government, big business and the lobbying industry.

With this last ever auction, Adams & Smith are pleased to offer you a final opportunity to bring the trappings of late-Capitalism back into your life.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Galileo's fingers found in jar bought at auction.

(CNN) -- Two fingers cut from the hand of Italian astronomer Galileo nearly 300 years ago have been rediscovered more than a century after they were last seen, an Italian museum director said Monday.

They were purchased recently at an auction by a person who brought them to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, suspecting what they were, museum director Paolo Galluzzi said.

Three fingers were cut from Galileo's hand in March 1737 when his body was moved from a temporary monument to its final resting place in Florence, Italy. The last tooth remaining in his lower jaw was also taken, Galluzzi said.

Two of the fingers and the tooth ended up in a sealed glass jar that disappeared sometime after 1905.

There had been "no trace" of them for more than 100 years until the person who bought them in the auction came to the museum recently.

"I was very curious," the Galluzzi said.

"There is a description from 1905 by the last person to have seen these objects. It provides us with a very detailed description of the container and the contents inside," Galluzzi explained.

The jar "matches in every minute detail" the description, Galluzzi said.
But by the time the urn went on sale, the label saying what was inside had been lost, so the sellers and the auctioneer did not realize its significance.

"Everybody knew there were fingers and a tooth, but the people preparing the auction didn't know it was Galileo," Galluzzi said.

The owner who bought the fingers wants to remain anonymous, Galluzzi said, so the museum is not giving more details about who sold them or when.

The museum plans to display the fingers and tooth in March 2010, after it re-opens following a renovation, Galluzzi said.

The museum has had the third Galileo finger since 1927, so the digits will be reunited for the first time in centuries, he added.

He said it was little surprise that the 18th century followers of Galileo would have mimicked the practice of those who persecuted him.

It is not yet clear whether enough organic material remains in the newly discovered fingers for DNA testing, Galluzzi said, but if there is, it could shed light on the blindness that afflicted Galileo late in his life and his final illness.

Galileo Galilei invented the telescope -- among many other achievements -- which enabled him to discover that the planet Jupiter has moons. He became the foremost advocate of Copernican astronomy, which denied that the earth was the fixed centre of the universe. He died in 1642.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Painting by Queen Victoria sells in ‘Royal Car Boot’ auction

It is an unpredictable business, selling off the family silver. When the family possessions of the late Duke of Kent were auctioned in London yesterday, there were two things of which one could be fairly certain: that there would be a huge interest in the sale and much speculation about why the Duke’s heirs — who include Prince Michael of Kent — needed to mount what has been described as the Royal Family’s car boot sale.

What might not have been predicted is that an egg cup would be sold for £14,000, while a Coronation chair would fail to sell at all. Even a back-scratcher went for £4,000 and a set of tea towels from Sandringham fetched £2,000, helping the collection of 336 lots to reach a total of £2.1 million.

The red silk-covered chair chair, made for the Duke of Kent to use at the Coronation of his brother, George VI, in 1937, was meant to be one of the star items. It was one of the few lots put on display at the Christie’s sale and had been given an estimate of £15,000 to £20,000.

When bidding struggled to reach £9,500, failing to reach its reserve, Ted Clive, the auctioneer, was obliged to withdraw it from the sale. “I was surprised,” he said afterwards. “But stranger things have happened. It is an important object, but an important historical object. It is clearly an exhibition object — it is not something that could be used. On the day, there was not a potential buyer for an exhibition object.”

He had better luck with the egg cup, but then it was no ordinary egg cup. Billed as a Russian grey Kalgan jasper egg cup with rhodonite egg, it was stamped with the Russian imperial coat of arms, and sold for about ten times its estimate of £1,000 to $1,500.

The auction was not the first time that the late Duke’s property has gone under the hammer. After he died in a plane crash in 1942, Princess Marina, his widow, was dropped from the Civil List. Most of her husband’s money was left in trust for his children, Prince Michael, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra. The three-day sale of his possessions in 1947 raised £92,300. Princess Marina died in 1968.
The family says that many of the lots had been in storage and they decided that it was time for a clear-out. The auction does come at an opportune time: Prince and Princess Michael, who are not working members of the Royal Family, will from next year have to pay £120,000 annual rent for their home at Kensington Palace — previously the rent has been paid by the Queen. In 2006 the couple sold their home at Nether Lypiatt in Gloucestershire for £5.75 million.

The auction included silverware, furniture, tapestries and other works of art. It is a fine art judging how much people will pay at auction, particularly a royal one. Christie’s followed its traditional practice of publishing highly conservative estimates for most lots. A picnic set that belonged to George V, put down at £500-£700, went to an internet bidder from the Netherlands for £11,875. A pair of mahogany George III hall benches estimated at £30,000-£50,000 went for £187,250.

Precious cast-offs

The lots sold included:
Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna’s dressing table service: £6,000
An album of photographs by the Grand Duchess: £8,125
King George II Coronation canopy bell: £13,750
Silver necklace with miniature photographs of Victoria, Albert and their nine children: £2,750
Portrait by Queen Victoria of her daughter Princess Louise, after Franz Xavier Winterhalter: £10,000
Cartier Art Deco gold-mounted clock: £76,850
Silver model of Bentley-Jackson Special “Mother Gun”, as driven by Prince Michael in 1992: £20,000
Gold and enamel necklace by Nardi of Venice, given to Princess Michael of Kent: £7,500
Silver and enamel notepad holder, given to Princess Mary, later Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood: £4,750

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

JFK’s last autograph sold at auction

London, November 16 (ANI): The last autograph signed by late US President John F Kennedy has been auctioned off for a whopping 39,000 dollars.

He had signed it next to the date, Nov 22, 1963 on the front page of a copy of the Dallas Morning News, on the day he was assassinated.

A woman in the crowd had requested for the autograph, just two hours before his death.

Now, Joe Maddalena, president and owner of Profiles in History in Calabassas, California has purchased the item.

He plans to “hold on to it for a while and put it on display with other JFK items at the appropriate times.”

“It’s chillingly historic because it documents the day, documents the location and it’s certainly one of the last signatures of John Kennedy,” the Telegraph quoted Doug Norwine, a director at Heritage Auctions, as saying. (ANI)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

When Auctioneers had bodyguards...

MEN with Uzi machine guns, blackmail from terrorists/criminals and empty auction rooms -- Irish auctioneers have faced them all down through the years. But how will they deal with the fall-out from the credit crunch?

With Finance Minister Brian Lenihan now finally admitting that the Government is facing its toughest economic test in 20 years, watch out for the repercussions.
Auctioneers are going to be up against it to clinch sales under the hammer in the weeks ahead. But don't despair -- the profession has a long track record of battling against the odds.

Our auctioneering professionals are unlikely to come up against anything worse than they have confronted before.

Auctioneering dates back to the earliest times. The Babylonians, for example, held marriage markets at which women were sold by auction.

Commenting on this in 1931, L V Bennett, president of the Irish Auctioneers' and Estate Agents' Association (fore-runner of the IAVI) observed wryly: "No information is given as to the disposal of the unattractive and, consequently, unsold lots, nor are we told if the auctioneer received his commission in kind".

By Roman times, the process of selling by auction had come to be recognised as the most convenient and equitable method of disposing of property in the best interests of buyer and seller.

During this period, the auctioneer was always a soldier who, as a signal of commencing the auction, stuck a spear in the ground -- hence the sale being described as "sub hasta" (under the spear).

As related in the book Under The Hammer: Property in Ireland, the history of the IAVI, auctioneering can indeed be a pretty hazardous business, even nowadays.
Repossessions or bank sales can be particularly tricky. A case in point was related by leading auctioneer Patrick Stephenson of James H North & Co, who described a gruelling experience when trying to sell a farm on the instructions of the High Court and on behalf of the Northern Bank.

The auction was preceded by a number of threatening phone calls to the auctioneer, who then applied to the court for an injunction to stop the owners "watching and besetting". He even received a mass card in the post. The auction was ultimately held with two detectives at the back of the room concealing Uzi machine guns beneath their coats. Happily, there were no actual fireworks.

Other auctioneers have had similar hair-raising experiences over the years (some involving threats from terrorists).

Auctions have always been a pretty hard-nosed business, however -- though much better regulated now than in days of yore.

Selling by an inch of a candle is mentioned by Samuel Pepys in his famous 1660 diary. During the bidding, a small piece of candle was burned and the last bidder before the candle went out was declared the buyer. In the mid-1920s, an auction held some 50 years earlier, during which the auctioneer remained silent is described in the IAA yearbook: "It is only right to mention he was not a Dublin auctioneer -- but, when anyone bid, he gave him a glass of brandy and the person who got the last glass of brandy was declared the purchaser of the lot offered for sale."
Now maybe that's the kind of spirited approach needed to perk up things in the auction rooms over the coming weeks ...
From the Irish Independent.

Friday, 13 November 2009

EBay for the rich: New auction site helps millionaires quietly offload pricey wares

In another sign the economy has plumbed new depths, the rich (who, need it be said, aren't like you and me) have a new, high-tech way to unload their lavish wares -- the Internet. U.S. millionaires down on their luck and looking to offload those heirloom family jewels, or that underutilized limousine, can now turn to an online auction site exclusively for the jet set called BillionaireXchange.

The company says it already has helped sell some $180 million in assets during a 10-month test phase, and has noticed an increase in the number of distressed transactions in the U.S., Reuters reported. "I would say that in the United States market, that's probably the majority of the types of the transactions that we're seeing right now," Quintin Thompson, co-founder and executive partner of BillionaireXchange, told the news agency.

Thompson said the recession has created a need for the rich to sell off luxury items in a discreet way to avoid shame and embarrassment. BillionaireXchange, which launched Monday, acts as a unique conduit to do just that. The company is looking to exploit the void between mass-market online auction sites, such as eBay (EBAY), and traditional luxury auction houses such as Sotheby's and Christie's, which generally focus on fine art and collectibles.

BillionaireXchange's online business model allows it to conduct sales and trades of nearly any type of high-end item, including businesses and foreclosed homes. The Miami-based company's business is aimed at an exclusive clientele, members with at least $2 million in verifiable net worth, Reuters said.

The site, the slogan for which is "Untouched by compromise," will charge sellers a 5% fee on sales, and would have raked in nearly $9 million in revenue if it had charged such a fee during the test phase, it said.

Among BillionaireXchange clients are professional athletes and A-list actors, Reuters said. The five-member firm claims more than 26,000 multimillionaires as well as "nearly a dozen" billionaires as its members.

Rare Jacobean manuscript sells for $84,000

Rare Jacobean manuscript sells for $84,000


A rare Jacobean manuscript found in an old trunk stored in a castle attic sold at auction today for £84,000.

The hitherto unknown play by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, a close friend of the poet John Donne, was discovered in a folder marked “Old Poems” at Powis Castle, in Welshpool, Wales.

It was uncovered when the owner of the castle, the Earl of Powis, Dr John George Herbert, showed a team of experts two trunks of manuscripts during a valuation.

David Park, head of Bonhams’ books, maps and manuscript department said the discovery offered an insight into Lord Herbert’s literary aspirations – setting it apart from the other letters and poems found in the trunks.

“They contained the usual mixture. There were typed letters from the estate’s archive and the like mixed in with 17th century property deeds, themselves not without interest,” he said.

“It turned out later that everything in the trunks had been meticulously listed, item by item. But with one exception. This was a folder, marked, ”Old Poems“. Some of these were just 17th century copies – others were clearly in the hand of Lord Powis’s forebear, Lord Herbert of Cherbury.”

He said Lord Herbert, the elder brother of the poet George Herbert, wrote poems in the same ’metaphysical’ style as his close family friend, John Donne.

Until now, Lord Cherbury has been best known for his works on philosophy and a lively autobiography published by Horace Walpole in the 18th century.

“This tells us a great deal about his military prowess and how attractive women found him, but next to nothing about his literary ambitions,” Mr Park said.

But he added: “In this folder, there it was, a play, and clearly the draft of a play.”

He said the manuscript was full of crossings out and contained one heading, ’The Amazon’.

According to the auctioneers, an Amazon masque – a type of dramatic performance - was due to be performed before James I and his court on New Year’s Day in 1618 but it was cancelled for unknown reasons.

The manuscript itself, which is written in a pre-bound booklet of foolscap size, is set out in a manner favoured by professional dramatists of the period.

It was sold to an agent acting on behalf of an unknown buyer.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Beer Bottle from Hindenburg Disaster for auction

A singed bottle of beer recovered from the ashes of the Hindenburg disaster is expected to fetch $4,000 to $8,000 at auction this weekend -- the highest price ever for a bottle of beer.

Though most of the 62-year-old suds remain in the bottle, auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the contents of the Lowenbrau bottle, discovered by a New Jersey firefighter in 1937 at the site of the airship's historic disaster, are undrinkable.

"It is the most valuable bottle of beer ever sold," said Aldridge of the British auction house Henry Aldridge & Sons. "But you wouldn't like to drink it, let me put it that way. It would taste putrid."

The Hindenburg, an enormous passenger-carrying hydrogen-filled German airship, burst into flames in May 6, 1937, over Lakehurst, N.J., killing 38 people.

The bottle, along with a silver-plated pitcher also discovered by fire Chief Leroy Smith at the scene of the disaster and estimated to fetch $17,000 to $22,000, is part of an auction of Hindenburg memorabilia going under the hammer on Saturday.
Scorch marks on both the bottle and the pitcher bear silent witness to the historic inferno.

"About 20 percent of the beer evaporated from the bottle. Some of the label is still intact and you can make out 'Lowenbrau' and 'Munich.' The label is heavily browned," said Aldridge.

The heat from the fire caused the seams of the pitcher's handle to pop, Aldridge said. The pitcher bears the logo of the Deutsche Zeppelin Reedrei airline that operated the famous Hindenburg

Smith, then the 37-year-old fire chief in Matawan, N.J, recovered six bottles and the pitcher while cleaning up in the wake of the disaster. He buried them in a field when the area was sealed off and dug them up later. He distributed five of the bottles to the members of his squad and kept one and the pitcher for himself.

In 1977, the widow of one fireman gave his bottle back to Smith, who then donated it to the Lowenbrau brewery where it remains today. Smith's niece received the fireman's bottle and the pitcher in the 1960s.

Aldridge, whose firm is the largest auctioneer of relics from the Titanic, said people are endlessly fascinated by disaster.

"The Hindenburg was the most famous air disaster in history," Aldridge said. "It was the largest airship to have ever flown and continues to fascinate people."

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Lock of Elvis Presley's hair goes to auction on November 14th

A lock of Elvis Presley's hair will be on the auction block on November 14th.

The strand of hair from the King was saved for years by fan, Thomas B. Morgan Jr. He says he acquired it from Homer Gill Gilland, Mr. Presley's personal barber.

The auction house, Henry Aldridge & Son said the lock will be accompanied by letters, certification, and has a pre-auction estimate of £150 to £250.

Pound for pound, celebrity hair is now the most valuable commodity in the world. I have a bit of JFK hair for sale in The Green Room.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

$100 K for a single comic book

$100 K for a single comic book?

They may be called "comics", but the money they're generating at auction is no laughing matter.

They're halfway through a 2-day event at Ameristar Casino being conducted by Mound City Auctions, and auctioneer Rob Weiman, reports that on Sunday, they sold a copy of "X-Men #1" for $101,000.

A copy of "Avengers #1" sold for $62,000, and Weiman says the total haul from Session 1 topped $490,000.

On Monday, it's more of the same.

"Justice League of America #1 graded at 8.5 (on a scale of 10)...that one we've been hearing a lot of buzz about from the guys who've been here to buy them," Weiman says. "I would say that one might go for as much as $30,000."

But the big fish in Monday's lot is expected to be a copy of "Amazing Fantasy #15", coveted by collectors because it's the first appearance of Spider-Man.

Even though it's only rated 8 out of 10 in part because it has some "off-white pages", Weiman anticipates the final selling price to be between $50,000 and $80,000, if not higher.

What makes grown men (and the buyers are almost exclusively male) shell out five figures for a single comic that's only 22-pages long and they'll likely never read?

"They're modern-day mythology, is what they are," Weiman submits. "It's the same as any other valuable collectible. A lot of people use them as sort of a hedge fund, an investment so to speak."

"Just like you can take your money and put it into foreign currency, stocks, bonds, gold."

And are comic books "art", or just pop culture?

Weiman casts his vote for "art".

"It might not have seemed that way up until recently," Weiman admits. "But in a lot of cases, I would say that there is definitely artistic quality and artistic integrity in the world of comic books."

For more information about Session 2 of the comic book auction at Ameristar Casino, go to