Madoff's belongings up for auction: How much for Bernie's boogie board?

Half the pain of selling keepsakes and mementos lies in the realization that one's life is worth only a fraction of "face value." But for Bernie Madoff, it looks like the opposite may be true.

On Saturday, the U.S. Marshal's office will be auctioning off approximately 200 pieces of Madoff's life in an attempt to raise money for his victims. The event will be held at the New York Sheraton Hotel and Towers, and registered bidders will also be able to attend through auctioneer Gaston & Sheehan's website.

Although most of the items don't carry any apparent connection to Bernie, they have the combination of too much money and too little taste that characterized much of the Madoff style. In addition to Rolex watches that display his notorious fixation for the über-expensive brand, the vast collections of silver and china presumably represent years that Ruthie spent picking through auctions and pricey antique stores.

While there is certainly some cachet to eating off Madoff's plates or drinking from his glasses, my preference is for the sort of tacky, personalized items that display the Ponzi schemer's desperate desire to show off his bottomless wallet. The big winner is probably lot 276, Madoff's flashy blue satin Mets jacket with his name sewed across the back. Of course, that much tacky doesn't come cheap, and the jacket will probably go for several hundred dollars.

On the bright side, there's always swag. A few weeks ago, I was wandering around Manhattan when I noticed an art vendor had an umbrella printed with the words "Bernard L. Madoff Securities." In New York, it's pretty common to see this sort of big business freebies -- T-shirts with "AIG" printed across the front, tote bags that scream "CITI" -- but Madoff goodies are quite the find. I tried to get the vendor to sell me his umbrella, but I think he was offended that I wasn't interested in his art. He turned me down flat.

Many of these Wall Street goodies have become tragedy souvenirs, like a life jacket from the Titanic. For some collectors, they are totems, suggesting bullets dodged and events survived; for others, they are exhibits for a "Wall of Shame." Even now, over a year after it stopped working in banking and private equity, Lehman Brothers is still doing a brisk business on eBay, where logo-emblazoned t-shirts go for around $20, yo-yos are around $22 and one can pick up a Lehman humidor -- just like Dick Fuld's! -- for $70.

Bernie Bought Boats

Speaking of the Titanic, Bernie left behind a lot of nautical memorabilia. Lot 383, for example, is a ink and pencil sketch of the Bull, one of his boats. Drawn by Sherry Frink Muhs, it was commissioned by Captain Dick Carroll, who presumably gave it to the Madoffs as a gift. For those who prefer more tangible assets, there is also lot 346, a life ring marked with the words "Bullship NY," showing the playful, silly side of the famous money man.

Then again, why should one settle for a whimsical nautical curio when one can buy the whole boat? On November 17, the U.S. Marshal's office will be auctioning off three of Madoff's boats, including the 55-foot Bull and its little sisters, the 38-foot "Sitting Bull," and the 23-foot "Little Bull." Detect a trend?

For most of us, boats are out of the question right now; luckily, it's possible to get close to the famed Ponzi schemer for a lot less money. Sure, you could buy Bernie's college ring (lot 366) or one of Ruthie's fur coats (lots 387-401), but the good money is on lot 347. In addition to Madoff's tackle box, reels, and fishing lures, this batch of goodies contains three boogie boards with the name "Madoff" scrawled on them in black marker. For the bargain estimated price of $80, this lot's new owner will have the honor of sliding his or her body along the same stretch of greasy plastic that once supported the sweaty, bloated belly of America's biggest thief.

Personally, though, my eyes are on lot 350, which should fulfill all my Madoff Christmas shopping needs. To begin with, there is the perfect gift for my sisters: three beige canvas duffel bags monogrammed with the legend "Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities Montauk 1993." As if that wasn't enough, however, there are also six vinyl letters (two each of "B," "L," and "M") in a Macanudo cigar box.

Best of all, though, there's a nice big nylon golf umbrella sporting the "MADF" logo and the words "Bernard Madoff Investment Securities, New York and London." I can already see myself brandishing it as I wander past a certain art vendor in Manhattan.
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