Now is a good time to review 2010, which will be remembered in the antique and auction trade as a year of surprising prices – including many records – and great stories. Here are highlights gleaned from kovels.com.
It was “save our history” week at New York auctions, with record prices set at Sotheby’s for three items:
1 – The highest price ever paid at auction for a U.S. Presidential document was $3,778,500 for an 1863 copy of the Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation;
2 – The guidon (the flag that identifies a unit going into battle) carried in Custer’s 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn sold for $2,210,500;
3 – The third bit of history was the document that listed the 13 rules for the game of basketball invented by James Naismith in 1891. It sold for the highest price of all, $4,338,500.
Another piece of history was auctioned in February. George Washington’s personal map of the Battle of Yorktown, which descended through the family of an aide to Washington, auctioned for $1.15 million at James Julia Auctions.
Some of the jewelry owned by the Duchess of Windsor (Wallis Simpson) was sold at Sotheby’s London on Nov. 30. Her flamingo pin made of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds sold for $2.7 million.
Bottles of vintage champagne were salvaged last summer from a shipwreck that happened near Finland and Sweden sometime between 1832 and 1844. Close to 50 sealed bottles are expected to sell for about $68,000 each.
A signed Babe Ruth home run baseball the New York Yankees slugger hit in 1934 sold for $264,500 at an auction at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky.
The Maltese Falcon, the 1941 classic movie starring Humphrey Bogart, also featured an 11 1/2-inch statue of the bird. A group of collectors paid $305,000 for the movie prop made of resin.
Another found-in-the-attic story has a happy ending. Two relatives were cleaning up their inherited house near Heathrow Airport in England. They found a number of Chinese items, including a colorful 16-inch vase. They were wise enough to take it to a suburban London auction house, Bainbridge’s. Peter Bainbridge estimated the value of the vase at $1.3 million to $2 million. But the final auction price was $85.9 million (including the buyer’s premium and value-added tax). It’s a new world record price for a piece of porcelain and for a piece of Chinese art. It’s also the 11th-most-expensive piece of art ever sold at auction.
A Honus Wagner T206 baseball card in poor condition sold for $262,000 at a Heritage Auction Galleries sale. The card belonged to an order of Catholic nuns, the School Sisters of Notre Dame. However, when the winning bidder failed to pay, the auction house contacted another regular customer, who paid the full bid price to ensure the nuns got all the money.
Carnival glass set some records this month. A Northwood opal aqua Grape & Cable cracker jar sold for $67,500.
A treasure hunter with a metal detector found a second-century Roman helmet in England earlier this year. It sold at a Christie’s auction in London for $3,629,469.
The Jazz Bowl sold for over five times estimate at Rago Arts and Auction Center. The Viktor Schreckengost art pottery masterpiece brought $158,600.
A 1943 zinc-coated steel Lincoln penny is worth less than 10 cents today. But a 1943 one-of-a-kind copper alloy Lincoln penny struck at the Denver Mint was sold by a New Jersey coin dealer for a record $1.7 million.
A lot of comic books set records this year. The price for the rare 1940 Batman No. 1 comic book was $55,269. Found in Alaska, it was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries.
Another very valuable comic book has been found. It’s a copy of Action Comics No. 1, the 1938 issue that introduced Superman. That comic book has been attracting super prices since 2009. A couple was packing to move out of their foreclosed house when they found a copy of the famous comic book. They had read about the record-breaking sales and contacted ComicConnect. Presale estimate for the comic was $250,000. It sold for $436,000. The house was saved!
Not many stuffed horses sell for $266,500, but probably no other horse is as famous as Trigger, the palomino used by Roy Rogers on television and in the movies. Christie’s and High Noon jointly auctioned the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum collection, including Trigger.
The world record price for a sports uniform was set at a Canadian auction house. The 1972 hockey jersey worn by Paul Henderson of Team Canada in the Summit Series sold for $1.275 million (U.S.). Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada in the deciding game against Russia.
An autograph by a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett, sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $722,500. The rare Gwinnett signature was on a letter.
“Dave the Slave,” the famed Edgefield, S.C., potter from the 1830s, made news in 2010. A jug bought for $25 years ago sold at an Eagles Basket Auction in Travelers Rest, S.C., for $13,000.
A cigar store Indian that had been in the family basement since the 1960s gave the owner an unexpected legacy. The Indian, in fine unrestored condition, was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries for an amazing $203,150.
Another very expensive comic book sold in June. A copy of Flash Comics No. 1 in pristine condition sold privately for $450,000.
Action Comic No. 1, the famous first appearance of Superman, has sold for an even higher record price. The new record: $1.5 million.
An ivory box, described as a 19th-century Persian piece estimated at $700 to $900, auctioned in Cleveland a year ago for $471,528. It was auctioned in 2010 at Sotheby’s London for $3.68 million.
The Gutenberg Bible is probably the most famous book in Western civilization – the first book printed with moveable type. There are 21 complete copies of the 42-line Bible in existence. It sold for $5.4 million at Christie’s, a record price at auction for a printed book.
The rare deep sapphire blue flask called “General Washington and Bust” (McKearin GI-14) brought $100,620 at an online Heckler Auction. The flask has the names Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on the ridge and is called the “Firecracker flask” because both men died on July 4, 1826.
A 1925 Buggati Type 13 Brescia race car that was pulled from a lake in Switzerland last summer auctioned for $368,686.
Batman can beat Superman – at least he did once in 2010. On Feb. 25, Detective Comics No. 27, which featured the first appearance of Batman, sold for the new record price of $1,075,500 at Heritage Auction Galleries.
Action Comics No. 1, one of about 100 copies known to exist, sold in a private sale for $1 million. It was in great condition.
Terry Kovel has written more than 98 books about collecting, including the best-selling annual price book, Kovels’ Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide. The 2011 guide is now in stores. Terry publishes a subscription newsletter and writes a syndicated newspaper column that appears in more than 150 newspapers and digital publications, including Auction Central News. She and Ralph starred in the weekly HGTV program, Flea Market Finds with the Kovels. The Kovels website, Kovels.com, offers 700,000 free prices and other information for collectors, including books, special reports, a weekly e-mailed letter to collectors, marks and an archive of other informative material. Since Ralph’s death in 2008, the Kovel brand has been continued by Terry Kovel and her daughter, Kim Kovel.