Laurence and Sally's 3 Most Prized Auction Items

Laurence and Sally Martin from Baggage Battles recount their best auction buys, the items they'd never sell -- unless, of course, the highest bidder came along.

1. Presidential Proclamation Regarding George Washington's Death

This amazing document, one of only 7 known to still exist, was purchased at White’s Auction House outside of Boston. This document is original, dated Jan. 14, 1800, just 1 month following the death of Gen. George Washington, the first president of the United States. In the document, John Adams, then the second president of the US, recommends to the people of the United States that they assemble on the 22nd of February next to testify their grief over the death of Washington. This would have been the announcement of the very first Washington’s Birthday or Presidents’ Day celebration.

Apparently this exact document was last seen in 1964, and was in someone’s closet for the past 50 years. The other 6 known to exist are in private collections as well as the Smithsonian Institution. Other than us, there was a telephone bidder who was extremely anxious to own this item. We had a very aggressive bidding competition. We won the item for $2,000 and are now a part of US history as the current owners of this rare document.

A rare document and bookseller gave us an estimated value of $3,000 to $5,000. Frankly, we think that this is a low estimate. We would estimate that the right person, with the right budget, would pay from $10,000 to $100,000 for it. For now, we will happily hold onto it.

2. Bronze Sculpture of Krishna and Radha

When buying at a US Customs auction in New Jersey, we came upon a sealed wooden crate. It was one of 5 crates in a single lot. This particular crate was paneled in wood and we couldn’t see what was in it. We could see what looked like brass leaves on top. This truly was a mystery crate. What could it be?

We had lots of competition for the lot. The room was filled with people with “deep pockets.” I know that because our competition was spending, literally, $26,000 for a single lot. We don’t even have close to that to spend at auction. After all was said and done, we had to pay $1,200 for all 5 crates, so this particular crate represented 20% of the lot, or $240.

When we opened the crate it was a magical feeling! Laurence had to pry the sides off very carefully. When the front side and wrapping were removed it was amazing! A golden statue was revealed. Although it is bronze, it really did look like gold. Wouldn’t that have been amazing! The large statue featured 2 figures, Krishna and Radha. Krishna was the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, and Radha his favorite consort. The pair stands under a tree with peacocks. It is a stunningly detailed example. Our appraiser told us that the scrap value of the item was at least $900 to $1,200. A very similar statue had sold recently for $3,600.

3. 18-Karat Gold & Diamond "Gypsy" Ring

One of our favorite auctions was Greasby’s in London. They had available a beautiful 18-karat gold ring, set with 5 large diamonds, referred to as a “Gypsy” ring. Gypsy refers to the type of setting. It is said that the setting allowed the Gypsies an easy way to mount the gems that they found in their travels. As Sally’s English family heritage is said to have been Gypsy, there was no doubt that we needed to win this item.

The room was full, but our biggest competitor at the auction was Billy. He dropped out of the bidding after it reached a high of nearly $800 (what we paid for the ring). We took it for an appraisal, where we were told that it was a “bobby dazzler,” a person or thing considered remarkable or excellent. The diamonds were brilliantly set in a very high grade of gold. The ring dates to the 1920s and has been valued (here in the States) at $5,000.
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