Jacko's auction treasures now extra hot stuff

If you thought prices at the canceled auction in April for Michael Jackson's belongings were high -- $20,000 for one of the front gates to Jackson's Neverland Ranch -- the pop icon's death on Thursday will likely push the prices off the charts.

A Michael Jackson auction is a garage sale of the century, if it ever happens.

The auction set for April 22-25 in Beverly Hills was canceled a week earlier after Jackson's lawyers and the auction house agreed to settle and have the items returned to Jackson.

He had initially agreed to allow the sale of items taken from his home -- valued at $10 million -- but in March he filed a lawsuit seeking the return of some of the 2,000 personal items. A judge ruled the auction could continue as set, but both sides later reached an agreement.

A joint statement by both a Jackson spokesman and Julien's Auction House suggested that the items would be put in a museum for the public to view, and that putting them into the hands of private collectors wouldn't serve Jackson's fans.

But with the King of Pop's untimely death, all bets are off. One option is for Jackson's estate to turn Neverland Ranch over to the state as a tax write-off, which would then allow the cash-strapped state of California to charge admission and earn some needed money. Sound callous? It's been done before. Hearst Castle in San Simeon was given to the state in this way so that William Randolph Hearst's heirs didn't have to pay taxes on the property.

Jackson had more than $24 million of debt, and the failed auction was intended to help him pay some of it off. I'm not a lawyer, but my limited knowledge of estate law is that heirs don't have to pay the debts of the deceased. Jackson's debt may be wiped out.

As for mementos of Jackson's life, I think one of the best reads, if they're still for sale, may be the five-catalog box set, listing everything for sale at the canceled auction. The set went for $200 in April and is a relatively cheap way to look at his life.

Except, ahem, it's now going for up to $2,000 on eBay.
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