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An Auctioneer's Lot

Triumphs and Disasters at Christie's

Charles Hindlip

Sotheby's auction of furniture managed surprisingly high prices. Turned out the chairman, "that clever old fox" Peter Wilson, had taken two prominent coillectors, Charles Clore and Savros Niarchos, to dinner, and skilfully engineered an argument between the two. At the sale the next day the two sat on opposite sides of the room and bid fiercely against each other for almost every important lot.

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Bugatti Royales originally designed to be sold only to royalty, but in 1932 few could afford them. In the end only 3 were made. The King of Spain ordered one but was deposed before he could take delivery. The only other royal customer was King Zog of Albania, but Ettore Bugatti refused to sell him one bc "The man's table manners are beyond belief!" The car which Christie's sold in 1987 for £5.5 million was bricked up during WW2 to hide it from the Germans, and then swapped after the war to Briggs Cunningham for $570 and 2 fridges, which were unobtainable in France at the time.

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An attractive C19 German calculating machine, regarded as a forerunner to the big computers of 1950's. Cautiously estimated at £20,000. But the auction went completely bananas, eventually stopping at £7.7 million. But found out afterwards that the buyer was suffering terminal cancer and was heavily drugged at time of sale. The underbidder declined to take up the deal.

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