Three consecutive nights on the Larry King show, including bumping O.J. Simpson attorney, F. Lee Bailey, back a night. $34.5 million dollars - a grand total auction sum 7.5 times Sotheby's high estimate. Arnold Schwarzenegger (who helped to create this market with his Planet Hollywood restaurants) shelled out $772,500 for a set of JFK's golf clubs. $63,000 was paid for a putter. An oak rocking chair the president used to soothe his bad back fetched $453,500. A humidor exceeded its pre-sale estimate by 200 times, bringing a half million dollars. Jackie's fake pearls brought $211,500. Now we know why John-John was pulling on them in the Life magazine photo. "Give me!" he was saying.
Antiques and the people associated with them are big news. Lets begin by dispelling some myths about the Jackie O' sale. "This will never happen again," a reporter said. "It's a testament to the greatness of the lady." Rubbish. Although the towering prices shelled everybody, this was not some kind of freakish, isolated event. The sale simply brought to light a new facet in the business. The third spot titled, Hooray for Hollywood, in my top ten events of 1995 article raised an eye-brow amongst one of my dealer friends when it ran last January. "What does $145,000 for John Travolta's "Saturday Night Fever" suit, or $84,000 for Ian Flemmings' gold plated typewriter, or $13,800 for Frank Sinatra's mailbox have to do with the antique business?" he asked. Everything.
It began several years ago when someone paid in excess of $20,000 for a ho-hum cookie jar at the Andy Warhol sale. As demand for antiques continues to outgrow supply, the market adjusts by re-defining what an antique is and opening new inventory. Last year, I re-defined antique as anything old with class, so you wouldn't overlook valuable pieces made in the 20th century. Now, it seems the item itself need not have class, it merely has to have been associated someone, like the late President or First Lady, who had it. These kind of sales and these kind of crazy prices are with us and will continue to be so for years to come. Rather than fight such trends it is better to live with them and anticipate emerging ones.
When I was teenager, Peter Anderson gave me his outgrown blue jean jacket. It was worn, torn, and it smelled like cigarettes, but it was my single favorite possession because Peter Anderson wore it. He was "the Fonze" the coolest guy in the neighborhood and when I put on that jacket I walked a little taller and talked a little tougher. In the years to come, when someone pays a fortune for Captain Kirk's Star Trek Uniform or Forrest Gump's shrimp cap, don't be surprised. When Abraham Lincoln's tall hat, or Hemingway's fountain pen, or Ronald Reagan's wood ax, or Larry Bird's dirty socks bring more than you make in a year, don't begrudge those spending their money. They, like you and I, all want a little piece of Peter Anderson's jacket.