Weekly News Roundup: May 11-May 15, 2009

Making headlines in art, antiques and collectibles news is a chess set that brought in five figures at auction, Jeff Koons’ giant blue egg and a rash of thefts at English estate homes.

From BBC News:
£10,000 for ‘rubbish’ chess set

The chess set that was headed for the rubbish bin back in the 1800s sold for £10,625 ($16,100) at auction at Christie’s in London. Saved by the butler, James Baxter, the carved French chess set once belonged to Welsh landowner Lord Mostyn. Baxter’s great-grandchildren sold the set, which is prized for its completeness—a rarity among sets from that time.

From Bloomberg:
Loeb Sells Koons Egg for $5.5 Million at Sotheby’s in New York

Jeff Koons’ turquoise egg, topped with a huge pink bow, defied naysayers and sold for $5.5 million at Sotheby’s. The final bid was half a million shy of the lot’s low estimate of $6 million, but in what was the smallest contemporary-art sale in New York in six years, it was fortunate to sell at all. In contrast, Koons’ “Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold)” went for a truly prerecession $23.6 million when it went under the hammer in 2007.

From The (U.K.) Telegraph:
Stately home thief steals thousands of pounds of antiques on five-day tour

British thief Andrew Shannon is starting a three-year prison term for stealing nearly £5,000 ($7,575) worth of paintings, antiques, and other collectibles from large manor houses around England. Shannon was caught at Castle Howard by a security guard who found two of the estate’s paintings in Shannon’s laptop bag, each valued at £800 ($1,200). During visits to six homes last summer, Shannon and an accomplice nicked antique books, porcelain vases and the Duke of Rutland’s antique walking stick, among other things.

From NBC New York:
Old Yankee Stadium Seats Going for $750 Each

After Yankee Stadium is dismantled this summer, the New York Yankees will sell an expected $11.5 million worth of stadium memorabilia. The ball club came to an agreement with New York City to sell stadium seats for $750 each or $1,499 a pair. Seats from Shea Stadium, former home of Yankee rivals, the New York Mets, are still available for a relative steal at $869 a pair.

From Bloomberg:
Yankees Offer the Real Dirt on Stadium Memorabilia, for $80

In addition to seats from the old Yankee Stadium, the baseball club is selling dirt from the field—and it’ll run collectors a cool $80 for a coin-sized disk of the soil. All of the dirt used in Yankee Stadium since the ’50s came from New Jersey’s Beam Clay, which will also supply dirt to the new stadium. After the final home game at Yankee Stadium in September of last year, dirt on the field was gathered into buckets, sealed and marked.

Delaware Library Latest to Deaccession

The Wilmington Library in Wilmington, Del., plans to sell a collection of drawings by N.C. Wyeth in order to raise funds for building maintenance and library endowment. The 14 illustrations will be auctioned at Christie’s in New York in December. The Wilmington Library joins the company of several museums that came to the decision to deaccession works from their collections due to declining donations and endowments.

From The Associated Press via Auction Central News:
Thieves raid six paintings from Dutch museum

In the second major theft from a Dutch museum in the past 10 days, six paintings were stolen from the Ijsselstein City Museum early Monday morning. The thieves left two paintings behind but made a quick getaway with works by Jan van Goyen and other 17th- and 19th-century artists. Just 10 days prior, an armed robbery at Spanbroek’s Scheringa Museum for Realism took two paintings. Police believe the two thefts are not related, but that because of the museums’ small sizes, it makes them easy targets for theft.

From The Associated Press via Auction Central News:
Second man pleads guilty in Missouri River artifacts case

Richard Geffre of Pierre, S.D., is the second man to plead guilty to federal charges of trafficking American-Indian artifacts. The 7,930 items, taken illegally from the Missouri River in South Dakota, include tools, instruments and jewelry. Eliot Hook pleaded guilty to the same charges.

From The (Asheville, N.C.) Citizen-Times:
Brunk auctions Chinese vase for $1.2 million

Asheville-based Brunk Auctions hosted a memorable sale last weekend as a bidding war ignited over an antique Chinese vase. The vase, made during the Qianlong-era (1736–1795), ended up selling for $1.2 million—a price more often seen at international auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. It was the highest price ever paid for an item in the history of Brunk Auctions.

From The New York Times:
Tintin Breaks Record at an Auction

Belgian cartoon hero Tintin was the focus of a record-breaking auction last weekend. A total of $1.57 million worth of Tintin artwork and other items sold on Sunday at Rops auction house in Namur, located in southern Belgium. Presale estimates valued the sale at $900,000. The most expensive of the 600 lots was a hand-drawn page from the 1963 book, “The Castafiore Emerald,” which went for $424,000. Tintin was created in 1929 by cartoonist Georges Remi.

From The New York Times:
In Leaner Times, Classic-Car Auctions Turn On the Charm

Next weekend’s Ferrari auction at the company’s headquarters in Italy is a good example of the rise in prominence that classic-car auctions have enjoyed over the past half-century. Though auctions like the Leggenda e Passione—the Ferrari event’s official name—have always catered to high-end clients, they’re making even more effort to court potential bidders this year given the economic circumstances.

From BBC News:
Small house may fetch bigger price

A Victorian dollhouse is expected to fetch as much as £8,000 ($12,100) when it hits the auction block later this month at Bonhams in London. The 19th-century toy comes complete with a secret garden, spinning wheel, butter churn, billiards table and other authentic details.

From Bloomberg:
Beatle Harrison’s Unseen Lyric Goes on Show in London

Handwritten lyrics to an untitled song penned by late Beatle George Harrison are on show at the British Library in London. Discovered by biographer Hunter Davies, the paper’s backside has written directions to the home of Beatles manager Brian Epstein. It is thought to have been written in early 1967—Epstein died in August of that year—when the band was spending time in the studio prior to the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

From The (Eureka, Calif.) Times-Standard:
Curator charged for selling museum’s fishing antiques

Robert Newell, former curator of Fortuna Depot Museum in Fortuna, Calif., has been charged with grand theft and possession of stolen property after police found items from the museum in his home. Newell allegedly stole approximately 40 pieces of antique fishing equipment from the museum and sold several of the items on an online auction.

From Bloomberg:
Slain Gold Magnate’s Art Sale Breaks S. Africa Record

A new record for South African art was set last week at the auction of the estate of Brett Kebble, a wealthy gold magnate who was killed in 2005. Kebble’s collection of 133 works by South African artists raked in an impressive 54 million rand ($6.42 million), with individual works such as Alexis Preller’s “Christ Head” and Irma Stern’s “Woman Sewing Karos” selling for seven figures.

Elizabeth Hendley is a WorthPoint writer based in Seattle.

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