Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
Joseph Romito, armed solely with a hobbyist’s interest in John C. Calhoun and his multi-volume set of Calhoun’s correspondence, caught one Daniel Lorello in the act of selling a letter purloined from the New York State Archives on eBay.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Mr. Romito said. So he bid on the item himself. “I knew I wasn’t going to end up buying it — I wasn’t going to pay for it — but I put in what I thought was a very high bid to try and keep it from going somewhere else. The government can be slow.” [...]
Last Tuesday, the day the auction was to end, bidding for the letter stood at $274 before Mr. Romito took matters in his own hands and indicated that he was willing to go as high as $1,777.77, should a bidding war break out.
At 8:55 p.m., with five minutes to go, a member of the attorney general’s office took up Mr. Romito’s tactics and began bidding for the item — only to be automatically outbid by Mr. Romito. Finally, a bid of $1,802.77 stuck, and the government was declared the winner.
Turns out, Mr. Lorello has been funding his daughter’s credit card excesses with the theft hundreds of rare books and documents, ranging in value from 10 bucks for some crappy stuff to $3,000 plus for a rare “Davy Crockett’s Almanack”. Most of the missing items have been found in boxes at his home, thankfully.
The last line of the NYT is gold: “Most of the artifacts were known among dealers as trash, he wrote, although he used a trashier word than trash.”