News 6-27-08

Recent news saw a record for Impressionist art, a Las Vegas collectibles convention on the heels of the sale of a $1 casino chip for $29,000, a life preserver from the Titanic selling for $68,500 and soaring prices for midcentury furniture. Gear belonging to Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson will be auctioned at Yankee Stadium, and the U.S. Mint is unveiling the first readable Braille coin.

Monet’s Lilies
The 1919 “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas” (“The Water Lily Pond”) set a record for the artist this week when it sold for $80.4 million, dispelling any claim that the Impressionist market is dead. American owners sold the work at Christie’s in London where, according to the Bloomberg news, a “weak dollar and strong demand from Russian buyers have encouraged Americans to sell Impressionist works” there. The story focused on the financial side of the sale that brought in $284.5 million total, a European record, while an article in The New York Times looked closely at the individual works and at their public, some of whom belong to Russia’s newly rich.

Coin Collectors Roll the Dice
Also in The New York Times, coin collectors cum chip collectors turned their attention to defunct casino collectibles at the annual Casino Chip and Gaming Tokens Collectors Club convention in Las Vegas this week. Chips as collectibles from the Desert Inn and the Showboat Casino, both long gone from the Vegas Strip, have recently sold for $20,000 and $29,000, respectively. Most items were moderately priced at the convention. Recent sales indicate that with the right chip, a collector can cash in big. Antique ivory poker chips, casino ashtrays and swizzle sticks competed with slot-token collections for sale.

Titanic at Auction
A canvas, cork-filled life preserver, bloodstained and with the provenance of the Titanic, was estimated to fetch $80,000 at Christie’s Ocean Liner sale June 25. According to the auction house’s Post Sale Summary, it brought in $68,500.
Bloomberg news reported that the preserver belonged to a farmer from Nova Scotia who assisted with the cleanup of the wreckage and found the vest. The 1912 relic is said to bring out “everything about the tragedy,” including the elegant vessel itself, surrounded by frozen passengers floating at sea.

Third Coin’s a Charm
The United States Mint will debut the design for the first United States coin to feature readable Braille on July 2 in Dallas, Texas. According to a press release from the U.S. Mint, the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar coin prototype will have the word “Braille” in Braille code on the tail’s side of the coin. The mint has printed Braille coins twice before, but neither was readable. The Alabama commemorative quarter-dollar, part of the 50 State Quarters® Program, used Braille in the Helen Keller image, but the Braille was too small to be readable by the blind. The 1995 and 1996 Paralympics Silver Dollar featured Braille, but, again, the code was too small to be readable. Read the entire press release on CoinLink.

Functional Art
According to insiders, swelling prices in the contemporary-art market are pushing up expectations in the contemporary-furniture market, possibly to its detriment, The New York Times reported. High prices were realized by big names like George Nakashima and Pierre Jeanneret, whose pieces sold for well above their estimated auction prices. Tiffany lamps were a hit, including a rare “Apple Blossom” table lamp that sold for $775,000, setting a new world record. A Jean-Michel Frank wrought-iron table from the 1920s went for $420,000 (estimate: $60,000 to $80,000) while many lots went unsold.

All-Star-Studded Auction
This summer’s All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium will host the auction of 140 collectibles belonging to former New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, including his World Series rings, Most Valuable Player trophy and uniform. Also included in the July 14-15 sale are Lou Gehrig’s warmup jacket, which he wore during the last game of his 2,130 consecutive-games streak, Hall of Famer Whitey Ford’s ball signed by President Kennedy, the ball Babe Ruth whacked for his 712th home run and a Jackie Robinson game bat. An article on ESPN by the Associated Press notes there couldn’t be a more appropriate place for the star-studded sale than a big game at Yankee Stadium.

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