Friday, December 28, 2012

Auction News of 2012

If you haven't been keeping an eye on auction items and bizarre historicals of the past, here's your chance to catch up.

John Lennon's tooth. Click to enlarge.
John Lennon's Tooth
One of John Lennon's teeth was expected to sell for $16,000 at an auction in England on November 5, 2011. It fetched 19,000 pounds (about $31,200)... twice the amount anyone expected. The late Beatle gave the tooth to his housekeeper, Dot Jarlett, at his Kenwood mansion in Surrey, England, in the late Sixties. He had originally told her to dispose of the tooth, but upon learning that her daughter was a Beatles fan, told her to give it her as a souvenir. Jarlett has previously sold other items connected to Lennon, such as the jacket worn by the songwriter in photographs in the sleeve of Rubber Soul

Lennon's molar is too fragile to be DNA tested to confirm it belonged to him, but the owner of the Omega Auction House, which listed the item, told CNN that because it was coming from Jarlett, they don't doubt the tooth's authenticity. A Canadian dentist claimed he was the winning bidder.

It was a molar, in case you were curious.

Violin from the Titanic
The violin from the music band that continued to play even as the Titanic sank has been found. The instrument was handed over to the musician's fiancée after he died on the ship. Tests are being conducted to check whether the violin actually belonged to Titanic band master Wallace Hartley, who died along with the rest of his band members, the Daily Mail reported. After the Titanic sank in April of 1912, the band leader was reportedly found with the violin strapped to his chest.But there has been no mention of the instrument after that, and its whereabouts remained a mystery ever since.

Hartley's fiancée, Maria Robinson, was given the instrument after the incident. The bodies of the band leader and two other musicians were pulled from the water by a search crew and taken to Nova Scotia, Canada. Violinist John Law Hume from Dumfries, Scotland, and bass player John Frederick Preston Clarke from Liverpool were laid to rest in Halifax. Hartley's body was repatriated to Britain and buried at Colne, Lancashire, where he was born.

Possessions like his clothes, spare change, ring, pen, silver matchbox, gold cigar holder, watch and chain, collar stud and a pair of scissors were handed back to Hartley's father, but the violin was not found. Maria Robinson never married and died in 1939. The unnamed owner now says Ms. Robinson retrieved the violin after Hartley's death. Ms. Robinson left a 1912 diary where she had drafted a letter to authorities in Nova Scotia thanking them for having sent the violin to her. The violin was stored in a brown leather case with the initials W.H.H stamped on it with an inscription which read: “For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.” If the violin is proven legit, it may go up for auction.

Titanic items up for auction.
Titanic Items on Auction

The largest collection of artifacts from the Titanic went up for auction during the 100th anniversary of the original shipwreck. According to the Associated Press, there were more than 5,500 items in the collection owned by RMS Titanic Inc. The collection included fine china, ship fittings, and portions of its hull – with an estimated value of $189 million. The auction was held on April 1 at Guernsey’s, a New York City auction house. The location of the Titanic was unknown until 1985, when it was discovered by Dr. Robert Ballard and his team of marine explorers roughly 400 miles off the shore of Newfoundland, Canada.

According to a 2010 ruling, RMS was required to make the artifacts available “to present and future generations for public display and exhibition, historical review, scientific and scholarly research, and educational purposes.” The future owner of the collection must also abide by these conditions. In addition, the artifacts were to be sold as a complete collection.

The collection of some 5,500 artifacts were appraised at $189 million in 2007. But that doesn't include additional intellectual property – video of the dives, 3D images of the ship, and the first comprehensive survey map of the site – gathered from a scientific investigation in 2010.

Premier Exhibition, Inc, which sold the artifacts, pushed back the announcement of the winner with an unknown date. “The Company announced today that it is in discussions with multiple parties for the purchase of its Titanic artifacts collection. In order for the Company to settle on the most appropriate bidder and maximize the ultimate value of the artifacts for shareholders, it will conduct these negotiations and due diligence in confidence,” Premier Exhibitions said in a statement. The relics range from a 17-ton piece of the ships hull to china used to serve first-class passengers.

As of today, we still don't know who the winner of the auction is.

JFK's hearse went up for auction.
JFK's Hearse on the Auction Block
My wife, a tomboy at heart and a passion for cars came across this one. Anything related to John F. Kennedy, from a used tissue to the American flag pin on his lapel, is worth more than your average journalism or political science degree. For someone who has been dead for nearly 50 years, Kennedy remains a relevant and popular figure in our nation’s culture. Stephen King recently wrote one of the best novels of 2011 about an alternate history surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. (I'm still waiting for the movie.) Movies and documentaries about the former president and his family continue to attract the attention of millions. Conspiracy theories about the Kennedy family curse seem to never die, and neither does the market for Kennedy memorabilia.

According to Time magazine, the hearse that transported JFK’s body to Air Force One in Dallas was recently sold at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event in Scottsdale, Arizona. It sold for $160,000, (four times what it would typically be worth), relayed one collector car insurance company president to CNN Money, which reported the sale. A commercial real estate developer, Stephen Tebo, bought the vehicle, and will add it to his collection of over 400 cars. Even though the vehicle sold for a six-figure sum, it was once listed for $1 million on eBay, reported The Arizona Republic.

The hearse is just the latest JFK-related vehicle to be sold. In August 2010, a Kennedy White House limousine was auctioned for $390,000. And in January of last year, a 1963 Pontiac ambulance that carried the president’s body from Air Force One when in landed in Maryland was sold for $132,000. At the time, the ambulance was said to be a fake by historians cited by Jalopnik. The ambulance’s new owner, Addison Brown, was quoted by Reuters saying that she had “no doubt” the vehicle was real.

Stolen Moon Rocks
Stolen Moon Rocks
I don’t know how I missed this story, but a few years ago, a NASA intern was convicted of moon rock theft — specifically, he stole moon rocks so he could have sex with his girlfriend on them. No, I am not joking.

Author Ben Mezrich, who also wrote The Accidental Network (which was turned into the movie The Social Network), recently published Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History and you can find the book on Amazon.com.

In brief, a few years ago, Thad Roberts, who was in love with his girlfriend of three weeks, decided to show her a grand, romantic gesture by stealing moon rocks so they could jam the rocks under their motel room mattress and have sex on the moon. Because Roberts was an intern at NASA, he didn’t have to go far for his moon rocks… but he had to circumvent NASA’s security system, a heist worthy of Ocean’s 11.

Of course, things went wrong for our sexonaut when he decided to sell the moon rocks on the Internet. “He really wasn’t a criminal,” said Mezrich. “He didn’t think through the after-effects. I asked him dozens of times over the year, ‘How did you think you were going to get away with this?’ And he said it just wasn’t part of the thought process… He only thought of it as a college prank; he thought, ‘Even if I do get caught, what’s the worst they’ll do to me?’”

What “they” did to him was send him to a federal prison for seven and a half years.

For the complete details of the heist, click here.

The General Lee Number One
General Lee (Dukes of Hazard) for Sale
The first car ever used in The Dukes of Hazard TV series, which can be seen jumping over a police car during the opening credits, pulled a disappointing high bid of just $110,000 over the weekend at the Barrett-Jackson auctions in Scottsdale, Arizona. My wife, who watches the Barrett-Jackson auctions on the Speed Channel and wishes she was a millionaire, said she would have paid more than that. 

“Lee 1” spent most of its life in a junkyard after being wrecked filming the famous flight through the sky. It still had a trunk full of cement ballast when it was purchased by the president of the North American General Lee fan club for less than $1,000 about a decade ago. Since then it has been fully restored to the original, imperfect condition the 1969 Dodge Charger was in when it was brought to Oxford College on Veteran’s Day in 1978 to film the iconic scene. Over 300 more General Lees would follow it during the seven-year run of the program. But to my wife, there is only one.

Added comment from the wife: Cars are offered at Barrett-Jackson with no reserve and no official pre-sale estimate, but a replica of the General Lee that was built for John Schneider, who played Bo Duke on the show, sold at the auction in 2008 for $450,000, setting a high bar for the original.
This time around, it couldn’t clear it.

The Green Hornet Car
Okay, so it has nothing to do with the fabled radio, TV, movie, and comic book character, but my wife brought this to my attention. “The Green Hornet,” was also a one-of-a-kind Ford Mustang that will be up for bid in Barrett Jackson’s January 2013 auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. Created as a prototype, the car nicknamed "The Green Hornet" was intended to be destroyed back in the 1960s. Instead it ended up being sent to performance specialist Carroll Shelby, who assigned it to his chief engineer, Fred Goodell. Long thought by car collectors to have been destroyed all these years, there’s no official estimate of what it will bring when the final hammer comes down.

The Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia
It is the biggest and the best privately held collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in the world. There are one-of-a-kind posters, rare serving trays, unique bottles, colorful jewelry, lighted signs, artistic clocks, antique delivery trucks, Santa icons and even the side of a barn. Altogether, there are some 80,000 items worth as much as $10 million.

It’s a collection that traces a large portion of U.S. history and includes early vintage pieces and iconic images. Who wouldn’t want to get their hands on a piece of this collection – a piece of history? Well, now you can. 

The Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, is divesting its vast collection which dates back to the 1800s and fills a museum and warehouse totaling 32,000 square feet. “A big portion of our life has gone into collecting these wonderful, artistic pieces,” says Jan Schmidt, who, along with her late husband Bill Schmidt, started the collection in 1972 when they went to an antique art auction and came home with a carload of Coca-Cola memorabilia. “We didn’t set out to accumulate the world’s largest (privately owned) collection. All we wanted to do was tell a story and put it on display.”

The Schmidt family collection has raised the awareness and prestige of the art and craftsmanship that has gone into Coca-Cola merchandising and branding. The quality of the work is unsurpassed by advertising standards, and the sheer volume is hard to fathom. While the Schmidts are proud of their collection and the way it’s been showcased, it is time for a change. “The collection has become inert,” says Jan, “and the way to keep it alive is to pass it on – to give others the opportunity to own and showcase the items they want.”

This soda fountain was part of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. It became a part of the Schmidt museum in 1976. Bill and Jan Schmidt posed for this photo in 1983. The soda fountain was sold in the first auction.

“This collection is the best of the best,” says Allan Petretti, author of “Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide,” which is in its 12th edition and is filled with 645 pages of Coca-Cola merchandise. “The Schmidts defined collecting. The depth and breadth of their collection is beyond incredible. They have the rarest of rare pieces. They have things from every era and from every category – clocks, posters, toys, trucks, bottles. You name it, and they have it.”

The items of most interest will be sold at live auctions. “These will be events,” adds Petretti, “because the interest will be vast.” Plans are still underway for the first event, which is tentatively scheduled for mid-September. Each event will see about 1,000 items sold and will take place at the Schmidt Museum in Elizabethtown. Much of the collection will also be sold online in a typical bidding process or at fixed prices. Every item sold, no matter its value, will have a commemorative tag explaining its origin and significance. It will likely take several years to completely divest the collection.

Two pieces stand out, according to Petretti, and each is conservatively valued at $30,000 but could conceivably go for many times that. One is a large, bright-yellow poster, circa 1895, that was designed to be in a soda fountain for about six months then thrown away. This poster, which is in immaculate condition, is the only one of its kind to survive more than a century. Like most Coke posters, it features an attractive woman with a beverage in her hand. It reads, “Drink Coca-Cola. Delicious. Refreshing. Cures Headache. Relieves Exhaustion. At Soda Fountains 5 cents.” (Pictured below) 

The other crown jewel in the collection is referred to as the “Victorian Girl” serving tray and is one of only two known in existence. It’s a circular tray, 9 3/8" in diameter, and is made of lightweight tin. It’s circa 1897 and is among the first-ever Coca-Cola tin trays. Over the years, Coca-Cola produced more than 200 styles of trays, and the Schmidt Museum has the only complete collection. 

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