The Madoff auction take shows Bernie-mania is hardly waning
There was some doubt headed into Saturday's auction of Bernard Madoff's belongings. Strong interest was anticipated, though many thought the public was tired of the Madoff saga. The asking prices for his (former) Manhattan and Palm Beach homes had just been cut by 10% and 7%, respectively. Presale estimates were kept to reasonable levels. Simply, everything was priced to move.
When the gavel came down for the last time, though, expectations were shattered. The personal effects that once belonged to the architect of the world's largest Ponzi scheme fetched as much as 20 times the presale estimates. It looks like bidders will always shell out for even small pieces of sordid history.
The prices fetched at the Manhattan auction, hosted by the U.S. Marshals Service and conducted by Gaston & Sheehan, ensured that you had to have Madoff's money (or close to it) to own Madoff's belongings. A blue satin New York Mets jacket was offered for $720 -- after all, it bore the previous owner's name. It ultimately sold for $14,500.
Ruth Madoff's earrings performed well, too. Each pair went for $70,000, despite having an estimated value of $9,800 and $21,400. The item garnering the most hype, though, failed to deliver. Madoff's Rolex watch -- called the "Prisoner Watch" -- sold for a mere $65,000, short of the low-end presale estimate of $75,000.
Plenty of other lots went under the gavel, including pens, dishes, furs and decoy ducks. Close to 200 lots moved. If you needed anything, it was a good idea to go to Bernie, the guy who had everything. Some items even sold at attainable prices, such as seven Swatch watches, which went for $850 (versus the presale estimates of $100 to $150).
Absent from the auction were the trappings normally found in the lives of the wealthy. The Madoffs didn't have any impressive artwork, for example, which left the items sold to the public almost disappointingly mundane.
Proceeds from the sale are set to be divided among Madoff's victims, who must have been happy to see so many items surging past estimated values.