Archive | February, 2012

Auction Spotlight: Illustration Art

29 Feb

Illustration Art Auction
March 1-2
Beverly Hills

Number of lots: 872
Pre-Sale Estimate: $1.52 – $2.37 million

An incredible group of artworks from the finest illustrators will be going up on the auction block tomorrow in our Beverly Hills saleroom.  The sale includes works from all the usual big names in pin-up, paperback, pulp, magazine, and children’s literature:  Bolles, Cornwell, Dunn, Elvgren, Flagg, Leyendecker, Moran, Rockwell, Sundblom, Vargas, Ward, and the list goes on and on.

Ones to watch:

HANNES BOK (American, 1914-1964)
Hocus Pocus Universe, Science Stories digest cover October 1953, 1950
Mixed media on board
16.25 x 11 in.
Signed lower left
From the Collection of First Fan, Jack Cordes.
Estimate: $3,000 – 5,000.


Kuppenheimer Good Clothes (Banjo Player), House of Kuppenheimer advertisement, circa 1920
Oil on canvas laid on board
26.75 x 20 in.
Judy Goffman Cutler Fine Art, New York (label verso).
Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000.


NORMAN ROCKWELL (American, 1894-1978)
The Roadblock, preliminary drawing for the Saturday Evening Post cover, July 9, 1949
Pencil and charcoal on paper
24 x 19 in.
Signed and inscribed to the artist’s goddaughter
This Post cover image represents one of the most fondly remembered of Rockwell’s famed run and comes from the peak period of the 1940s. The drawing contains a great deal of detail and is one of the most important that we’ve had the pleasure to offer by the greatest illustrator of all time; the artist himself obviously thought highly of it as he gifted it with a warm inscription to his god-daughter, Sue Rockwell.
Estimate: $40,000 – $60,000.


Death and Taxes

28 Feb

Can the IRS invent a recluse Chinese billionaire?  Apparently they can. reported last week on the saga surrounding Robert Rauschenberg’s masterpiece, Canyon (See image).  It’s a short article, so I’ll re-post it here:

What’s the market value of a Robert Rauschenberg that can’t be sold without risking a year in the federal pen? According to the art mavens at the Internal Revenue Service, it’s $65 million, because a theoretical Chinese billionaire might pay that much on the black market. Really.

The backstory: After legendary modern art dealer Ileana Sonnabend died in 2007 at the age of 92, her heirs sold off some of her collection to pay a whopping estate tax bill:

$331 million to Uncle Sam and $140 million to New York State. They sadly parted with works by Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly, reportedly to such billionaire collectors as French luxury-goods titan François Pinault.

But they couldn’t sell Sonnabend’s most famous holding–Rauschenberg’s collage “Canyon”–because it includes a stuffed bald eagle, and two federal laws bar possessing or trafficking in the bird, dead or alive. (After U.S. Fish & Wildlife agents spotted the verboten eagle in 1981, Sonnabend got a special permit to retain “Canyon” and lend it to museums. It’s now hanging at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

The Sonnabend estate tax return pegged her total worth at $876 million, including $0 for “Canyon,” based on appraisals from Christie’s and others. The IRS billed the estate for more tax, valuing “Canyon” at $65 million.

Ralph E. Lerner, the top art lawyer representing the estate, has sued the IRS in Tax Court and is vowing to fight the issue “all the way.” The IRS has long taken the position that it can tax stolen or illegal items in an estate based on “illicit market” value. But Lerner says this is different–Sonnabend ­complied with the law, and the estate isn’t ready to go rogue to sell “Canyon.” Plus, there’s no black market for an iconic piece, anyway.

When he called the chairman of the IRS art panel to complain, Lerner reports, “He told me there could be a market. For example, a recluse billionaire in China might want to buy it and hide it.” Says Lerner: “It’s bizarre. It sounds like a James Bond movie.” The IRS declined comment.


Seriously?  The IRS is claiming a black market value?  Where did they find their comparables? 

Personally, I would have taken the position that the artwork has no value, too.  For fair market value, we appraise property in a hypothetical world assuming a willing buyer and a willing seller in a public market.  If federal regulations prevent the buying and selling of an item in a public market, then fair market value by its definition cannot be determined.  I also think taxpayers should not be penalized for following federal laws – even in a hypothetical world set forth for an estate tax appraisal. 

Appraisers are keeping a very close eye on this case to see how it is resolved.  This very well could be a landmark case setting precedence for future appraisal practice.

POLL: How much will Munch’s The Scream bring at auction?

27 Feb

The Financial Times Reports:
How much will Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (1895) fetch when it is auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York in May? A British bookie is offering odds of 3/1 that it will break the $125m barrier, way over its $80m-plus estimate – the first time, to my knowledge, that the price of an artwork has been subject to public betting. But then “The Scream” is one of the best-known art images in the world. This picture has rarely been seen in public, however, because of the four versions Munch painted it is the last in private hands. (The other three are in Norwegian museums.) “I think that bidding will be totally international, it’s a trophy that any collector would love to have,” says Munch specialist and dealer Jens Faurschou. As well as museums (if they can afford it), a surprising number of other collectors might step up: Qatar, currently the biggest buyer of modern and contemporary art, or perhaps a Russian oligarch, a US hedge-funder or indeed another Norwegian collector.


Comics and Comic Art Soars to New Record – $8.8 million sale

27 Feb

It was three days of comic madness.  The auction garnered massive international media attention and captured the imaginations – and bids – of collectors all over the world.

All told, the auction realized $8.8+ million on 1,854 lots, translating into a mind-boggling 99.9% sell-through rate by total value.  Only three lots are still available for post-auction buy through March 1.

The star of the auction was, without a doubt, the inimitable Billy Wright Collection, which realized $3.5 million by itself, led by Wright’s incredible CGC FN+ 6.5 copy of Detective Comics #27 (DC, 1939). The comic brought $522,813, including 19.5% buyer’s premium.  Other highlights from Billy Wright include Batman #1 (DC, 1940) CGC VF+ 8.5, which brought close to double the Overstreet Price Guide value when it finished the day at $274,850, All-American Comics #16 (DC, 1940) CGC VF 8.0, the first appearance of Green Lantern, which realized $203,150 on its way to becoming the most ever realized for any copy of this comic and Captain America Comics #2 (Timely, 1941) CGC NM 9.4, which became the rare non-major “Key” comic book to break the $100,000 mark when it realized $113,525.

9 of the top 10 lots in the sale broke six figures!

“The mix of rarity, value and quality was simply irresistible to collectors,” said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President of Heritage. “We knew that we had something special going in to this one, but we had no idea just how special. Now we know and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Consider this: before Heritage started Comics auctions more than a decade ago, no comic auction had ever exceeded $2.2 million. We’ve now almost quadrupled that.”

Congratulations to the Comics department for an amazing sale.

Greatest Comics Auction Ever…and it’s not even over

24 Feb

Now I’m not necessarily a big comic book fan, but I do LOVE watching my colleagues hit a homerun out of the park, over the wall, over the parking lot, and even over the next town.  Apologies for the Sports metaphor, but our Comics and Comic Art team is having the sale of a lifetime.

Wham!  Bam!  Zap!  Zowie!

Today is Day 3 of a three-day auction of Comics and Comic Art.  Held in New York, the sale has garnered attention from over 700 media outlets, was mentioned on the Greta van Susteren show last night, and has had millions of Google hits. 

The prices realized for the first two days at auction is just over $8.1 million.  Today’s internet only session should bring another $500,000-700,000, which brings the total sale numbers up to just shy of $9 million.  Phenomenal!  Heritage set the Comic auction record in May 2011 with a $6.077 million dollar sale, but this week’s auction completely obliterated the old record.

The auction was led by an incredible private collection sold by the heirs of Billy Wright.  Mr. Wright collected comic books as a child and amassed one of the greatest collections of comics that was completely unknown before appearing on the auction block.  While a relatively small collection of little more than 300 comic books, The Billy Wright Collection represents not only five of the top six comics in the business, but also 45 of the top 100 comics overall, all unrestored.  Expected to sell around $2 million, the collection found spirited bidding and soared to a grand total around $3.5 million.

My favorite quote about the Billy Wright collection is the first few lines of a story that appeared yesterday in The Washington Post

AS A CHILD IN THE ‘30s, BILLY WRIGHT was blessed with two of the best gifts a boy cartoon collector could hope for:  He had a precociously keen eye for quality comics.  And his mother seldom threw out his things.

Top lot:
Detective Comics #27 Billy Wright pedigree (DC, 1939) CGC FN+ 6.5 Off-white to white pages. sold for $522,812.50, including buyer’s premium.

We’re number 2967!

22 Feb

We’re number 2967!  We’re number 2967!  Sounds kinda funny, but we are definitely excited to be ranked number 2967th in the top 150 million American web sites., proved itself the dominant online auction source last month, obliterating its competition with nearly 725,000 unique visitors to the Heritage Auctions site in the first month of 2012, according to, a website devoted to tracking web traffic. ranked as one of the top 3,000 sites (#2967 to be exact) in America of over 150,000,000 American web sites.


The total number of unique visitors to is nearly double the combined total number of unique visits the websites of Heritage Auctions’ five closest competitors’ web sites (Christies ranked as #9093, Sothebys #36,342, Bonhams #36,363, Stacks & Bowers #154,997 and Phillips De Pury #244,256) received in the last 12 months., was the closest, with just more than 238,000 unique visitors.


Quote from the Co-Chairman:
“We put a tremendous amount of research and time into making our website comprehensive, customer friendly and easily accessible,” said Jim Halperin. “Collectors, historians and art aficionados alike have responded with great enthusiasm. We’re humbled and grateful for that support and will continue to strive to make one of the most useful sites on the web.”

I think there are great positives to our website.  It has tons of information if you know where to look.  I, personally, discover new bits all the time.  Just the other day, I found a link under our historical department that takes you to our Testimonials page.  Now you too can read comments from happy clients.

AND I found the World’s Largest Hallmark Database.  Who knew?!

But my very favorite reference guide is the U.S. Coins Price Guide for Beginners.  You can find images of the front and back of each type of coin, with the years it was minted, and an easy to use value guide.  It’s handy!

Image:  1793 S-4 With Periods Chain Cent, MS65 Brown
Sold for $1.38 million (January 2012)

It’s Mardi Gras!

21 Feb

It’s Mardi Gras!  Time to celebrate.  Yesterday, I found in the Heritage Archives a beautiful Belgian poster from 1910.  Today, I found this unique coin silver presentation pitcher, and it’s a beauty.  Once belonging to a Civil War veteran and founder of modern Mardi Gras in New Orleans – how utterly Southern and romantic.  And a nice design by Gorham too!
Read on and enjoy!


An important piece owned by the founder of modern Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Civil War: Coin Silver Presentation Pitcher to Captain Joseph Ellison, Founder of the Mistick Krewe of Comus, by the Members of the New Orleans Confederate Guard, Louisiana Volunteer Infantry, March 20, 1862. The magnificent pitcher is engraved “Presented/ Capt. Jos. Ellison/ By the Officers and Members of/ Co. C. Confederate Regt./ Camp Caroline, March 20, 1862”. Below the presentation are the engraved names and ranks of every member of the unit as well as six honorary members, including Joseph’s brother William P. Ellison. The pitcher is stamped with early Gorham company marks and “Coin / 250”. It stands 11.5″ tall and is in excellent condition.

The Ellison brothers originally from Louisville, Kentucky moved to New Orleans by way of Mobile, Alabama and soon became prominent in business and social circles. In December 1856 the Ellisons and four other men organized a secret society to observe the old Creole Carnival of Mardi Gras. The men chose the name Comus, the Lord of Misrule in John Milton’s masque of the same name for their society. The inspiration for the krewe was a Mobile Carnival mystic society called the Cowbellion de Rakin Society which Joseph Ellison was a member. Associated with Comus was the private Pickwick Club.

During the Civil War, when Federal forces under General Butler and Admiral Farragut closed in on New Orleans, Joseph and William Ellison raised Company “C” of the New Orleans Confederate Guard, Louisiana Infantry, with members of the Mystick Krewe of Comus and the Pickwick Club in the ranks. The unit entered into military service in March, shortly after the krewe published a notice to its members that read, “War has cast its gloom over our happy homes and care usurped the place where joy is wont to hold its sway. Now, therefore, do I deeply sympathizing with the general anxiety, deem it proper to withhold your Annual Festival in this goodly Crescent City.”

Company “C” of the Confederate Guard under the command of Captain Joseph Ellison took part in the defense of New Orleans before the fall of the city in May of 1862. The unit was disbanded upon the surrender of the Confederate garrison. A 1955 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune tells of Joseph Ellison’s continued service to the Confederacy by raising money from Southern sympathizers in the North. He was arrested as a spy and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner on Dry Tortugas, Florida. Included is extensive research on Captain Ellison. An important piece owned by the founder of modern Mardi Gras in New Orleans and a romantic soldier of the South.

Estimate $6,000-10,000.  Sold for $22,705 (June 2010)