Sunday, 17 January 2010

Skull withdrawn from auction

A New York City auction house says a human skull that had been used as a ballot box by Yale's elite Skull and Bones society has been withdrawn from sale.

Christie's said Friday that the 19th century skull was being removed from the Jan. 22 sale due to a title claim. The auction house declined further comment.

The skull had been expected to sell for $10,000 to $20,000. Christie's only identified the seller as a European art collector.

The skull is fitted with a hinged flap and is believed to have been used during voting at the mysterious society's meetings. The club was founded in 1832 and publicly known members, called Bonesmen, include both presidents Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Churchill's half-smoked cigar to be auction in Norfolk

A half-smoked cigar, abandoned by wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, is up for sale in Norfolk.

The four-inch unfinished "smoke" could fetch more than £300 because it came from the lips of the famous cigar-smoking statesman before he dashed away to an urgent cabinet meeting.

Proof of its owner is thanks to an enterprising Downing Street valet, Nellie Goble, who grabbed the cigar, and a sheet of number 10 notepaper, on which she penned a note to a friend saying: "Just a small souvenir to remind you at some future date of one of the greatest men that ever lived in England."

The cigar will be sold on Friday, January 29, at Keys auction room at Aylsham, where expert Andrew Bullock expected it to excite worldwide interest among collectors of Sir Winston Churchill memorabilia.

Cigars belonging to Churchill occasionally came up for sale, but "I am not aware of many others that have survived after being half-smoked by the great man himself," he said.

"It was extremely rare for Churchill not to finish a cigar, so it must have been something very, very urgent that demanded his immediate attention in the cabinet room. As this was wartime, it is fascinating to speculate as to what it might have been that was so important," said Mr Bullock.

It was on August 22, 1941, that the cigar was abandoned - a day when the advancing German army reached Leningrad, leading to a historic siege.

And just a week earlier, Churchill had been in top secret meetings with American president Franklyn D Roosevelt, on board a cruiser anchored off Newfoundland, over the Atlantic Charter, a blueprint for a post-war world, which was the seed for the creation of the United Nations.

The call that interrupted his cigar could have related to either of those momentous happenings.

The cigar was treasured by Nellie's friends and proudly shown off to visitors, then passed to a daughter, now a pensioner living in north Norfolk who kept the stub wrapped in the precious note in a drawer.

She wanted to remain anonymous but said: "It rarely comes out of the drawer, so it seems better to sell it to someone who will truly appreciate it. If it doesn't fetch the earth, it won't break my heart. I just want it to go to somebody who will get some real pleasure from owning it."

In November, a butter dish used as an ashtray by Churchill at the London dining and debating club he co-founded was sold for £4,200 - almost three times its estimate.

The cigar and note, lot 1343, will be sold on the second day of Keys' next books auction on Friday, January 29. Contact the saleroom on 01263 733195 or at Viewing is on Wednesday, January 27, 8.30am-7.30pm; Thursday, January 28, 8.30am-10am; and on the day of the sale, 8.30am-11am.

Skull 'ballot box' from Skull & Bones Society to be auctioned

A human skull that apparently was turned into a ballot box for Yale's mysterious Skull and Bones society is going on the auction block.
Christie's estimates the skull will sell for $10,000 to $20,000 when it is auctioned on Jan. 22. Fittingly, the auction house has agreed to keep the seller's name a secret. On Monday, it described the person only as a European art collector.
The skull is fitted with a hinged flap and is believed to have been used during voting at the famous society's meetings. The auction house said it also may have been displayed at the society's tomblike headquarters on Yale's campus in New Haven, Conn., during the late 1800s.
Skull and Bones, an elite society founded in 1832, has closely guarded its members' names and its activities since the early 1970s. Prior to that time, the group published an annual roster.
Publicly known members, known as Bonesmen, include President William Howard Taft, both presidents Bush, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, businessman and diplomat Averell Harriman, publisher Henry Luce and author and commentator William F. Buckley Jr.
"I think it's a macabre artifact," Margot Rosenberg, head of Christie's American decorative arts department, said Tuesday. "It's an intriguing story tied to America, tied to Yale. I think it will generate interest for people who are former Bonesmen, people who collect Americana, people who are interested in history."
The skull is believed to have been owned by Edward T. Owen, who graduated Yale in 1872 and went to become professor of French and linguistics at the University of Wisconsin. The word THOR is etched into the skull; it may have been the nickname given to Owen or another society member.
The skull is being sold with a black book, inscribed with Owen's name, the year 1872 and the numeral 322, a reference to the society's year of inception and to the death of the orator Demosthenes in 322 B.C. It contains the names and photographs of about 50 Bonesmen, including Taft, who became the 27th president of the United States; Morrison Remick Waite, who became U.S. chief justice in 1874; and William Maxwell Evarts, who served as U.S. secretary of state and U.S. attorney general.
Skull and Bones invites 15 Yale seniors to join each year. Bonesmen swear an oath of secrecy about the group and its strange rituals, which include initiation rites such as confessing sexual secrets and kissing a skull.
On Tuesday, the society's secrecy remained intact. Efforts to reach a society member or a representative of its business arm, the Russell Trust Association, through a Yale spokesman were unsuccessful. The Ivy League school, which is not affiliated with the society, did not return a reporter's call.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

$4 million hockey stick on auction block

TORONTO, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A hand-carved hickory stick said to be a 150-year-old precursor to modern hockey sticks will be auctioned next month during the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The online auction firm announced it was offering "the single most important piece of hockey memorabilia in existence" after a Feb. 12-28 viewing in Vancouver in the run-up to the Games, the Canwest News Service reported.
The stick is owned by Gordon Sharpe, of Cobourg, Ontario, who said it was an inheritance from an ancestor who carved it.
The auctioneer claims the stick's historical significance puts it in the $4 million range, although it failed to change hands at a bid as high as $2.2 million in the most recent auction attempt on the eBay online site in 2006.
Sharpe said in a statement announcing the auction potential proceeds wouldn't all be personal profit.
"I realize the sale of the stick could help raise millions for charity," Sharpe said. "I think it's the best thing to do."

Friday, 15 January 2010

Unpublished Diary of Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele for auction

Renowned auctioneers Alexander Autographs has uncovered an incredibly rare find: notorious Auschwitz death camp Dr. Josef Mengele's treatise on eugenics and euthanasia, written by him in 1960 while in hiding in Argentina. The document will be offered along with over 1,400 other lots of historic autographs at auction on January 20th and 21st commencing at 10:00 AM at the auction house's Stamford headquarters.

Mengele, who escaped capture until his death by drowning in 1979, proves himself an unrepentant racist. Ironically penned on over 180 pages in a children's zoological workbook, the unrepentant Nazi incredibly wavers between describing his rescue of a cow trapped in a mud bog, to demanding the extermination of "inferior morons". He claims: "We have to make sure that nature's suspended eradication will continue through human arrangements...the real problem is to define when human life is worth living and when it has to be eradicated...birth control can be done by sterilizing those with deficient genes...". Also included in the sale is a war-date letter written by Mengele while at Auschwitz to his wife looking forward to their "imaginary reunion" and hoping for a transfer to a "combat unit".

When asked if he felt any qualms about offering material signed by such despicable individuals, auction house president Bill Panagopulos replied: "Make no mistake about it – I have no sympathy for these monsters. My father's home town was wiped-out by the Nazis in a reprisal action. But it is of vital importance that such documents remain available as tangible evidence of the evil deeds of the past, as well as to provide further pieces of history's puzzle".

Bids may be left at Alexander Autograph's website (,