Category: Auction

The “Pick” Of A Lifetime

My wife and I always want to believe we are going to attend a sale or auction and find that hidden gem, well it looks like Nancy Lee Carlson, from her Chicago suburb has donejust that! From what I understand Nancy is a 62-year old geology buff. And about two years ago she stumbled across an online auction in Texas that was offering a supposed bag of “moon dust”. Like most Nancy was skeptical, especially as the moon dust was bundled in a group with a launch key for the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz T-14 and a black padded headrest from an Apollo command module. She thought the items might be fun conversation pieces, then bid once and won all three items in the lot. Once she received the items she couldn’t believe how “real” they looked, so she started to do some investigating. Nancy contacted friends as well as her local rock club, and actually went as far as to contact NASA, who told her she could send the items in for testing. What happened next is unbelievable. The NASA scientist realized Nancy had actually purchased the first ever bit of “moon dust” scooped up by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong right after he took “one giant leap for mankind” in 1969. They say the first thing Armstrong did after he stepped on the moon was to unzip a bag the size of a dinner plate and fill it with a scoop of lunar dust and rocks. He then shoved the bag into a pocket of his spacesuit and turned it over to scientists at a Houston lab. Somehow it disappeared and was eventually forgotten, even by NASA. Although the bag was labeled “Lunar Sample Return,” somehow it wasn’t among the 350-plus Apollo 11-related objects Johnson Space Center eventually sent to the Smithsonian. The story gets even crazier as NASA refused to give back the historic items. So last December Nancy sued the agency and actually won. Now, she’s planning to resell the bag of “moon dust” for at least $2 million in Sotheby’s first space-exploration sale in New York on July 20. My bet is it goes for much higher! I also thought it was kind of cool that NASA decided not to appeal the case. NASA did say they would love for the bag to be on public display somewhere because it “represents the culmination of a massive national effort involving a generation of Americans, including the astronauts who risked their lives in an effort to accomplish the most significant act humankind has ever achieved.” (Source: The Wall Street Journal; The Chicago Tribune; Sotheby’s) 

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You Better Keep What Grandma Gives You… It Might Be Worth A Small Fortune

I don’t watch much t.v. outside of the occasional sporting events, but as I get older I have caught myself watching more episodes of the Antiques Roadshow and American Pickers. I love watching folks make flea market finds or bring in something that has been passed down from generation to generation. Obviously, both shows tend to present the “big finds” for the viewing audience and share their associated history. In fact most often it’s the “story” I love more than the actual item itself. What is it about uncovering an unknown or “hidden” treasure that intrigues us so much? A few weekends back I was traveling to an auction to bid on a very rare Civil War clock. I had Michelle doing some research in the truck on the item and she ran across the Antiques Roadshow’s 20th anniversary season’s Top-10 items. I thought I would share, hope you enjoy the stories. If you have a family heirloom or item you have found and want to take it to the Antique Road Show be sure and visit their site early. I believe tickets for their summer events in Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin are already sold out. Visit their site HERE (Source: Antique Road Show & Entertainment)

Joseph Kleitsch Oil Painting: Appraised in New York in 2014, this oil painting by Joseph Kleitsch was dated around 1925 and originally purchased for approximately $100. Fine art appraiser Debra Force gave the owner quite the surprise when she offered an estimated gallery price of $500,000.

1907 Robert Henri Oil Painting: A woman brought a classic oil painting by American artist Robert Henri to the show’s stop in San Diego in 2010. She explained that it was given to her by her father and that the woman in the painting is her grandmother. Appraiser Peter M. Fairbanks told her that the family treasure should be insured for $250,000-$300,000, a total that was later raised to $500,000-$700,000 in 2016.

1896 Frederic Remington Portrait with Letter: A man was in for a surprise when he brought a painting of his great-grandfather, Lea Febiger, to Antiques Roadshow’s 2014 stop in Birmingham. The piece was done by a friend of Febiger’s, artist Frederic Remington, and included a letter from the painter to the subject. Appraiser Colleene Fesko told the owner his piece would likely sell for between $600,000 and $800,000 at auction.

Alexander Calder Mobile: A participant in Antiques Roadshow’s 2010 show in Miami Beach brought in a mid-20th century mobile by American sculptor Alexander Calder. Appraiser Chris Kennedy told the owner that her family heirloom could auction between $400,000 and $600,000 and even retail when Calder is trendy for $1 million.

Navajo Ute First Phase Blanket: A man brought in a piece of history to Antiques Roadshow when the show stopped in Tucson in 2001. “I don’t know an awful lot about it, except that it was given by Kit Carson, who every… I’m sure everybody knows in his history. Given to the foster father of my grandmother,” he said of the 19th century Navajo blanket in his possession. Appraiser Donald Ellis gave the owner a shock when he informed him that the item was valued at $350,000-$500,000 — a total that was raised to $750,000-$1 million in 2016.

18th-Century Qianlong Jade Collection from Qing Dynasty: In Raleigh in 2009, a woman brought in a stunning collection of Qianlong Jade, dating back to the 18th century. Appraiser James Callahan gave the owner her first idea of just how much the items were worth, offering an appraisal of $710,000-$1,070,000 at auction.

1904 Diego Rivera ‘El Albañil’ Oil Painting: In Corpus Christi, Texas in 2012, a man brought in a painting by Diego Rivera, which had been hanging behind a door in a family home. Dated to 1904, the ‘El Albañil’ work was authenticated and appraised by Colleene Fesko, who put the value at $800,000-$1 million.

1871-1872 Boston Red Stockings Archive: A woman brought some very special sports memorabilia to the Antiques Roadshow in New York in 2014. She explained to appraiser Leila Dunbar that her great-great-grandmother had a boarding house in Boston, where the Boston baseball team stayed in 1871. That relationship resulted in a family heirloom of original Boston Red Stockings baseball cards and a letter from the first lineup, a collection appraised at $1 million.

Chinese Rhinoceros Horn Cups: Antiques Roadshow saw one if its most valuable lots in Tulsa in 2011. A man said that he had been collecting rhinoceros horn carvings for decades and had a particular affinity for a certain cup, going on to purchase its full set. Made around 1700, the ornate collection was originally purchased by the owner for approximately $5,000. Appraiser Lark E. Mason gave the owner a significant margin when he appraised the set at $1 million-$1.5 million.

Patek Philippe Pocket Watch: A modern pocket watch from Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe can already fetch quite a pretty penny. But a pristine timepiece from the brand dating back to 1914? That’s Antiques Roadshow gold. The owner brought the treasure, which was handed down from his great-grandfather, to the show’s stop in St. Paul, Minn. in 2004. Appraiser Paul Hartquist estimated the auction value at $250,000, a total that was increased in 2016 to $1.5 million.

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What’s Your Auction Bidding Strategy?

My wife and I love attending auctions. In fact the kids make fun of us now, telling us we are getting old, because date night often consist of going to a local Kansas City auction on a Wednesday or Thursday night. Interestingly we’ve always liked attending auctions, just during some of the leaner years we clearly couldn’t bid as often or as high on an item of interest. Now a days we primarily attend art, antique, automobile or charity auctions. Occasionally we will hit a farm auction if the ground is of real interest and within proximity of our home base. It seems to both Michelle and I that auctions are starting to once again get more popular, as attendance seems to be on the rise. I ran across an article the other day that that made me think about my bidding style. “Are you a “stealth” bidder, who bids with a wink, a nod or a surreptitious wave? Or do you bid aggressively, hoping to scare off the competition? What’s your online bidding style? Are you a sniper or a squatter? Do you bid online using the same style of bidding that you use at a live auction? When you offer your own online auctions, can you tell where your price will end up by the type of bidders you are attracting? Like most everything else in our search for the truth, academia has thoroughly researched these topics and we’re going to have a look at some of their results. (Source: Antique Trader)

  • Auction Sniping – It’s the auction equivalent of military sniping. It’s the S.W.A.T. team of auction bidding. When the winning bid in your auction comes from “out of nowhere,” you have been sniped. Bidders never know when a sniper lurks in the background until, in the final few seconds of an auction, the sniper’s bid appears. Most snipers will use a stealth type style of bidding. Often times you are not even certain where the bid is coming from. Other bidders are rattled up and simply can’t respond fast enough to top the sniped bid. Providing that the sniped bid is the highest, it wins the auction suddenly and aggressively. If are bidding on a extremely rare or unique item that will not be available at other auctions or sales and multiple bidders ar entrusted, then snipe the auction. Set up the snipe with your maximum bid written down and then leave it alone. You’ll either win it or you won’t.

  • Auction Squatters – These are the opposite of auction snipers: They enter an auction early and take up residence until the bidding ends. Squatters bid early and often. They respond to competing aggressively, they let the crowd know immediately they want the item. Most squatters will use a loud and attention getting signal to bid. Studies make a strong case in favor of squatting, and claim that the strategy produces a “competition effect,” which can help drive others away. Unfortunately in if an item is extremely rare or highly unique the edge shifts to “snipping”. Bottom-line, if item seems less than unique and can be found at other auctions or sales, the edge seems to go to the squatter type style. If you decide to squat, be aggressive about it. Don’t bid the minimum amount; doing so just invites competition. Instead, bid a significant percentage of what you are ultimately willing to pay. Bid bigger early so it doesn’t allow others to get in the game and become personal, sort of like bluffing or raising the pot early in a poker game so as not to let others draw out and win the hand.

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Evel Knievel and Olga Korbut Headline Fantastic Sports Auction

Heritage Auctions of Dallas Texas will host an impressive Online Sports Memorabilia Auction Feb 25-26. Heritage Auctions is a leading purveyor of direct-from-the-source sports collectibles and will put its reputation on the line again during their Platinum Night Auction featuring personal keepsakes from Evel Knievel and Olga Korbut. Items being auctioned off from their estates are expected to realize six-figure returns while the event itself should see over $10 million in sales. For those in the sports collectibles community this event has become the most anticipated semi-annual sale. “Hobbyists have been waiting 40 years for the chance to own Knievel and Korbut treasures,” Heritage Sports Collectibles Director Chris Ivy said. “We are thrilled to be the venue to present them to the collecting world.” I’m certain everyone above the age of 50 has a memory of Evel and Olga performing in the 70’s. Evel’s attempt to clear the Snake River in Colorado in a custom made rocket and Olga’s performance at the 1972 Olympic games where she won three gold medals will be lasting memories for that generation. Highlights from Evel’s collection include th e ” Motorcycle Leathers ” Knievel wore in 1972-73 and his Famous Diamond-Studded Walking Stick with a hidden liquor compartment. The current bid for those items are $32,000 and $26,000 respectively. Korbut’s 5 Olympic Medals – 3 gold and 2 silver – were personally consigned by the gymnast and are expected to gross over $100,000. The balance of the sale will feature an array of top-end trading cards and memorabilia. Let’s take a look at some other key pieces and their current bids:


  • Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps – $500,000

  • Jim Brown PSA Mint 9 rookie card – $190,000

  • Bart Starr PSA Mint 9 rookie card – $140,000

  • Bart Starr PSA Mint 9 rookie card – $30,000

  • Ty Cobb/Cobb Back T206 -$180,000


  • Mickey Mantle Jersey worn hitting homer #535 – $280,000

  • Ted Williams bat – definitely used in historic 1947 Triple Crown season -$80,000

  • Piedmont Tobacco Tri-fold baseball advertising sign – $20,000

Other Top Lots

  • Christy Mathewson Portrait T206 Piedmont PSA NM-MT+ 8.5: est. $80,000

  • USA Olympic Team Blazer Worn in 1960 in Rome by Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali): est. $100,000 A 1916 Standard Biscuit D350 Babe Ruth #151 Rookie PSA VG-EX 4: est. $250,000

  • Jackie Robinson 1948 Leaf #79 PSA NM-MT 8: $100,000

  • Babe Ruth-Signed New York Yankees Player’s Contract which inspired a reporter to ask Ruth about the idea of making more money than then-president Herbert Hoover, prompting one of the most famous quotes of his career: “Why not? I had a better year than he did.” Est. $500,000

  • Lou Gehrig MVP Sheets and a Handwritten Letter Signed in 1939 from The Thomas Jacob Archive: est. $40,000

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