It’s been a great end of the week for anonymous private collectors. On Friday, the green velvet and gold saddlecloth used by Queen Elizabeth I on her official visit to Bristol in 1574 was purchased by an unnamed buyer for £19,000 ($30,000), £23,560 ($38,000) including buyer’s premium. The estimated sale price was £8,000-10,000, so it more than doubled the minimum and almost doubled the top end of the range. Not a surprising outcome given how beautiful the saddlecloth is, its historical significance and its excellent condition considering it’s almost half a millennium old.
Nothing else at Dreweatts’ Arms, Medals & Militaria sale even came close. World War II lots were the runners up on sale price. A Distinguished Flying Cross medal awarded to Flight Lieutenant Marcas Kramer for gallantry and devotion to duty while under attack by German aircraft over Rotterdam on May 10th, 1940 sold for £4,200 ($6,800), £5,208 ($8,400) with buyer’s premium. That’s more than double the high estimate, a suitable tribute to a Jewish pharmacist from Bermondsey who calmly told his pilot how to avoid attack while he dismantled and repaired his gun, then used the gun to drive off the enemy. Marcas Kramer would not survive the war. He was killed on May 21st, 1941.
The second runner up in sale price is the other side of the pendulum. It’s a Nazi-era porcelain vase by the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur (Royal Porcelain Manufacture in Berlin) with an image of the Old Reich Chancellery in Berlin on the front. That’s the building where President von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany on January 30th, 1933. The Führer’s standard flies above the chancellery, and there’s a Third Reich eagle over a swastika on the back which dates the piece to between 1933 and 1938. The Old Reich Chancellery was destroyed in the war. The vase sold for £3,800 ($6,100), £4,712 ($7,600) with buyer’s premium, below the minimum estimate of £4,000.
Those buyer’s premium prices, by the way, do not include VAT or sales tax. That’s just the 24% cut the auction house gets. Nice work if you can get it.
The two Colt handguns taken from the still-warm bodies of outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow by former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer sold, as expected, for considerably more than their pre-sale estimates. Clyde’s Colt .45, retrieved by Hamer from the waistband of his pants, sold for $240,000. Bonnie’s Colt .38 Detective Special, retrieved by Hamer from her inner thigh where she kept it taped with white medical tape, sold for $264,000. They were both purchased by the same person, a Texas collector who wishes to remain anonymous.
The full results of Sunday’s American Gangsters, Outlaws and Lawmen sale at RR Auctions in Nashua, New Hampshire will be posted on the auctioneer’s website today. The news stories note that several other Bonnie and Clyde objects sold well, among them a gold pocket watch found on Clyde’s body ($36,000), a 1921 Morgan silver dollar from his jacket pocket ($32,400), and because it’s important that we fetishize Bonnie as much as possible, one of her silk stockings found in their car after the shootout ($11,400). If the same Texas collector bought the stocking, he could recreate Bonnie’s entire leg with her sexy bullet-riddled outlaw accessories.
It’s fitting that the auction also included a giant hand-painted banner advertising a Bonnie and Clyde freakshow from the early 1930s. It’s 12 x 9 feet and features Bonnie in a red coat, smoking a cigarette, holding a gun and wearing her famous beret. Clyde is behind her looking like a dandy. He’s smoking too but carries no visible weapon. Clearly the outlaw lady is the star. The slogans (“The Wages Of Crime Is Death”) promise a stern moral lesson to justify their customers’ salacious gazes at whatever it is about “Boy & Girl Gangsters” they had on display.
I personally would have bid on Meyer Lansky’s hat. That’s a fine looking chapeau.