Linza de Jager
An out-of-pocket journalist attends a virtual live auction and is gobsmacked at the big bucks and bold bids.
Wealthy collectors are not letting lockdown cramp their style. A bottle of Pétrus 1989 sold for a robust R75 000 at Strauss & Co’s live virtual auction on Sunday. Impressive, eh. It made me wonder if this wine was to be quaffed or kept, and gloated over.
Silwerware is golden
More surprises were in store at the following day’s auction. It seemed as if everyone wanted silverware badly. A George III tureen sold for R75 000. That’s despite the wear and tear the tureen is said to have suffered during its long life of service. The auctioneers described this in some detail: “Age related wear and scratches. There is a minor dent to the inner rim of the cover measuring 0,3 by 0,1cm. There is wear to the inside of the cover where the wing nut rests. The base of the tureen has a worn maker’s mark. There is wear to each foot. One entire handle of the tureen is possibly repaired as seen by evidence of pitting.” It sounded tragic but perhaps it was hyperbole. The photo (above) shows a tureen so beautiful that most people would give their eyeteeth for it.
Let me state up front that I am not the sort of person who gets to bid at this sort of auction. That person has money to burn and no South African journalist fits this description. Such a person coughed up R22 000 for seven Russian papier-mâché boxes. Such a person paid an eye-watering R50 000 for a Victorian cigar box. It was shaped and painted to look like a soldier in a sentry box, but still, would you pay that price?
A cabinet with a difference
A japanned and chinoiserie cabinet got everyone excited. And by everyone I mean even the otherwise unflappable female auctioneer. “Do I have three hundred?” she asked at some point. “I would really like three hundred!” Well, she got her wish. The cabinet sold for
R380 000 before you could say ‘quick sticks’.
More silvery highlights
A very grand George IV presentation cup also caused excitement. It sold for R130 000. It was manufactured in 1829 and it’s perfectly beautiful. With its ownership comes bragging rights. Imagine being able say ever so casually, “I recently bought a rather nice silver presentation cup.” Watch people’s interest and respect for your person pique after that!
An item described as “an Edwardian silver plated revolving breakfast dish” reminded me of my mother’s butter dish. This one was far grander, however, and it sold for R4000. Now I’m a newbie and ignoramus when it comes to auctions. But the prices set me thinking. It made me wonder how many of the bids came from overseas buyers? How many items were destined to leave the country? Strauss & Co have always had international clients. But one suspects that this trend would have increased as the rand weakened.
I found the auctions fascinating. It was like watching a movie called The Collector’s Game. It’s life on another level. One where there are no constraints, only the means to get what one wants. As a friend said cryptically, “What do you do with your money when you’re a billionaire? Elon Musk is worth 40,7 billion US dollars!”