Weekly News Roundup: March 9-13, 2009

Art, antiques and collectibles headlines include the London preview of next week’s Versace villa sale, a recovered stamp collection worth thousands, the unveiling of secret inscriptions on Lincoln’s pocket watch, a missing aristocrat’s desk at auction and allegations of fraud at the largest sports-memorabilia auction house. Also: Roy Rogers’ guitar goes up for auction in April.

From the Telegraph (UK):
Gianni Versace’s villa’s contents go on preview

Highlights of Sotheby’s 550-lot sale of items from Gianni Versace’s Lake Como (Italy) villa are on display in London before going under the hammer next week. Included in the preview are classical statues, furniture and paintings, which are expected to bring in a combined £2 million ($2.8 million) at auction. The late designer hosted many a celebrity at his parties at Villa Fontanelle, which he decorated in a neoclassical style.

From the Statesville (N.C.) Record & Landmark:
Thousands of dollars in antique stamps recovered

A 29-year-old man has been charged with charges of breaking and entering and larceny after stealing an antique-stamp collection, among other items, from an outbuilding in Harmony, N.C. Parts of the stamp collection, estimated to be worth thousands of dollars, has been in the owner’s family for more than a century. Among the notable stamps in the collection is a $10,000 book of Vatican stamps, as well as German and Japanese stamps from World War II. Police have recovered the entire collection, some of which had already been sold to buyers.

From The New York Times:
Timeless Lincoln Memento Is Revealed

The Smithsonian revealed this week secret engravings on a gold pocket watch that once belonged to Abraham Lincoln. The inscriptions, done by the Jonathan Dillon, the watchmaker who repaired Lincoln’s timepiece, were merely the stuff of family legend to Dillon’s descendants. It wasn’t until curators at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recruited expert watchmakers to open the piece that Dillon’s inscriptions were revealed. The engravings are two short sentences recording the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. Dillon was working on repairing the watch when he learned that the first shots had been fired.

From Bloomberg:
Missing Aristocrat Lord Lucan’s Desk Sells for 13,200 Pounds

A Bonhams sale of the infamous Lord Lucan’s desk sold for almost twice its high estimate in London on Wednesday. The Victorian-period table went for £13,200 ($18,165), remarkably more than the £5,000–£7,000 estimate. Lord Lucan vanished in 1974, alledgedly after murdering his children’s nanny, and was officially declared dead in 1999.

From The New York Daily News:
Bill Mastro folds sports memorabilia’s largest auction house amid FBI probe

Amid allegations of fraud against its chairman, Mastro Auctions is officially closed for business. Bill Mastro, owner of the largest sports-memorabilia auction house, has found himself at the center of an FBI investigation of shill bidding and card doctoring, among other allegations. Business will carry on without Mastro, however, in the form of a new company, Legendary Auctions, founded by three former Mastro Auctions executives. Legendary Auctions plans to cater to the same high-end clients that Mastro Auctions served.

From Reuters:
Rare Roy Rogers guitar heading for auction block

Christie’s will auction off the C. F. Martin OM-45 Deluxe guitar which had been owned since 1933 by everyone’s favorite singing cowboy, Roy Rogers. One of only 15 produced by the Nazareth, Pa., company, Rogers’ guitar was the first one crafted. The auction house expects the rare instrument to sell for between $150,000 and $250,000 when it goes under the hammer on April 3.

From The New York Times:
Is This a Shakespeare I See Before Me?

A recently discovered portrait of William Shakespeare was revealed in London on Monday. Experts believe it is perhaps the only portrait of Shakespeare made during his lifetime. Through a family connection with Shakespeare’s only known patron, a single family, the Cobbes, has owned the painting for nearly three centuries. Shakespeare scholars are already having a field day discussing the painting’s implications—among them, the Bard’s oft-debated sexuality—and if, in fact, the portrait is a true likeness of Shakespeare.

From The Associated Press via The Denver Post:
Collector: Lincoln photo found in Grant album

The great-great-grandson of Civil War Gen. Ulysses S. Grant has discovered what could possibly be the last photograph taken of Abraham Lincoln before he was assassinated. Though Grant’s relative had seen the photo before in a private photo album that belonged to his great-great-grandfather, it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that Ulysses S. Grant VI examined it more closely. After consulting with Lincoln aficionado Keya Morgan, Grant discovered an inscription on the back of the photo that labeled the figure, standing in front of the White House, as Lincoln. Morgan bought the photograph from Grant last month for $50,000.

From The Associated Press via Auction Central News:
Connecticut dealers push for Antiques Trail designation

Several antiques dealers in Woodbury, Conn., are asking local and state legislators to designate the town, known for its galleries and antique shops, as the Historic Woodbury Antiques District. The dealers say that the designation will help bring in business—something not to be taken lightly in the current recession—and could be the beginning of a Connecticut Antique Trail to connect towns with multiple antiques shops and galleries.

From BBC News:
Rare tin toys go under the hammer

Bidding begins later this month for one of Britain’s largest antique toy collections. The collection of rare tin plates is 50 years in the making and includes several one-of-a-kind toys.

From The New York Times:
Barbie at 50, Popular, Ponytailed and Primo

Happy 50th birthday to Barbie, one of America’s most iconic dolls and certainly one of the most collectible. Even with the re-release of several “retired” models in honor of her birthday, the original 1959 “#1 Ponytail” remains the most highly coveted Barbie. And despite the recession, die-hard collectors are willing to shell out big bucks for Ken’s companion as a surge in interest has accompanied the birthday celebrations. Barbie’s all-time high price auction price is $27,450.

From Auction Central News:
Auctioneer reacts to Michael Jackson lawsuit over Neverland contents

A week after Michael Jackson left the public scratching its collective head following a press conference announcing the performer’s upcoming tour, the entertainment memorabilia auctioneer responsible for the sale of hundreds of Jackson’s personal items is similarly bewildered. Darren Julien doesn’t understand why Jackson filed a lawsuit against his company, Julien’s Auctions, over items and conditions that the two parties had agreed upon in a contract regarding the April sale.

According to Julien, his company has followed through on its end of a contract drawn up and signed by Jackson’s manager, Dr. Thome Thome. (No, your eyes don’t deceive you—his name really is Dr. Thome Thome.) In the suit, Jackson claims that Julien’s Auctions took items from his Neverland ranch without permission to sell them.

Stolen Artworks Recovered in Sting Operation

It took 22 years, but now the case is closed. Eight artworks that were stolen back in 1987 from a Maastricht, Netherlands, gallery were recovered in the southern part of the Netherlands this weekend. Dutch police made three arrests in connection with the theft, including a mother and son. Among the works stolen from the Noortman Gallery were paintings by Renoir and Pissarro. Investigators believe a ninth work was destroyed by the gallery’s (now-late) owner, who was paid $2.8 million in insurance money back in 1987 and was an original suspect in the case.

From Bloomberg:
Chinese Art Dealer Weeps After Refusing to Pay for YSL Bronzes

In the art world, credibility means everything for dealers. That’s why Cai Mingchao—whose now-infamous bid for two Qing dynasty bronze sculptures at the recent Yves Saint Laurent sale turned out to be an empty one—is wringing his hands over his decision not follow through with $40-million payment. In 2006, for example, Mingchao dropped $15 million on a bronze Buddha statue at Sotheby’s, and his reputation as a trustworthy dealer allowed Christie’s to register him as a bidder at the YSL sale without a guarantee or proof of ability to pay. Mingchao bid on the bronzes fully intending to pay for them. It was in the hours after the auction that he began to regret his action. Only time will tell if his decision will tarnish his reputation as a dealer and buyer in the long run.

From The Associated Press via The Denver Post:
First edition Harry Potter sells for $19,120

A soft-cover, first-run copy of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” sold for $19,120 in Dallas at Heritage Auction Galleries. One of only 200 originally printed, the 1997 book is the first in J. K. Rowling’s seven-book series about a boy wizard in England. A vintage comic-book collector in Dubai placed the winning bid, almost doubling the previous record for a soft-cover Harry Potter book.

Elizabeth Hendley is a WorthPoint writer based in Seattle.

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth