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Antiques & Collectibles

Consumer confidence is down, but obviously not in the auction world when a worn baseball jersey sells for over $4.4 million and a wristwatch for nearly $3 million.

The baseball jersey that sold at SCP’s online auction last month for $4,415,658, the highest price ever paid at auction for a sports memorabilia item, was, of course, no ordinary one. It was the circa 1920 jersey that baseball’s all-time great Babe Ruth wore during his first season with the New York Yankees after being sold by the Boston Red Sox.

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The Bambino’s 1927-28 bat and his Yankee game-worn cap also sold at the auction, the bat for $591,007 and the cap for $537,278, setting an auction record for a baseball cap. It was consigned by the former Yankee pitcher David Wells, who had owned the cap for years and had added to its lore by wearing it on the mound during the June 28, 1997 game against the Cleveland Indians as an homage to his idol, Ruth.

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The $2,994,500 paid on June 14 for the Patek Philippe 18-karat gold minute repeating wristwatch is the highest price ever realized for a wristwatch at Sotheby’s worldwide. Commissioned by Henry Graves Jr. (1869-1953), a New York banker, it was the only example of that watch made in yellow gold. Its mate in platinum is housed in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.

The wristwatch, which had a $600,000-$800,000 estimate, was part of the 61-lot watch collection formed by Graves and his grandson Reginald H. Fullerton Jr., of Watch Hill, R.I., who died in March, The collection grossed $8,339,813.

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Other watches also were newsmakers this month.

The Omega Constellation that once belonged to Elvis Presley sold at Antiquorum’s auction in New York for $52,500, more than five times its $10,000 estimate and setting an auction record for an Omega wristwatch of that reference.

Of Boston interest was the Patek Philippe platinum wristwatch that was given to the late Louis E. Kirstein, vice president of Filene’s from 1911-42, by his wife, Rose, on his 60th birthday. The watch, which was inherited by his son Lincoln Kirstein (1907-96), founder of the School of American Ballet and the co-founder, with Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine, of the New York City Ballet, sold for $14,375 against a $10,000 estimate.

The top seller of the auction, which saw participation from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States, was a Patek Philippe Ref. 5016 tourbillon minute repeater with a custom gray dial which sold to a phone bidder from China for $542,500. The auction’s gross was $9,073,713.

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Memorabilia of the late actor and dancer Gene Kelly, featuring mostly gifts from his former co-stars and film workers, sold at Sotheby’s June 15 auction with a gold and enamel money clip the top seller.

The money clip, which brought $15,000 against a $7,000-$10,000 estimate, was given to Kelly by Cyd Charisse, with whom he partnered in “The Broadway Melody” ballet sequence in the 1952 film “Singin’ in the Rain”

A group of Kelly’s accessories, including a pair of gold, coral, colored stone, and diamond cufflinks depicting dancers, a gold tie clip, and a pocket watch brought $4,375 against a $4,000-$6,000 estimate.

A gold notepad given to Kelly by Frank Sinatra, his co-star in the 1949 film “On the Town,” and inscribed “Thank you, Gene, for your wonderful common sense and help. I wouldn’t have made it without you, Frankie,” failed to find a buyer. The estimate was $4,000-$6,000.

The memorabilia was consigned by Kelly’s daughter Kerry Kelly Novick, a psychoanalyst and author.

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A Cartier Art Deco pendant necklace and a Tiffany Art Deco 3.92-carat solitaire were among the top sellers at Skinner’s June 12 Fine Jewelry Auction. The necklace brought $325,000 against a $200,000-$300,000 estimate and the solitaire fetched $142,200 against a $60,000-$80,000 estimate.

Rings set with sapphires and pearl necklaces also were top sellers. An antique diamond ring set with a 9.92-carat Kashmir sapphire (estimate: $30,000-$50,000) brought $189,600, the auction’s second highest price.

A five-strand natural pearl necklace with an emerald and diamond clasp brought $77,025 against a $25,000-$35,000 estimate, while a double-strand natural pearl necklace with a platinum, opal, and diamond clasp sold for $56,880 against a $15,000-$20,000 estimate.

The auction included four unmounted diamonds that brought prices ranging from $98,355 for a 3.05-carat emerald-cut D color diamond with a $90,000-$110,000 estimate to $13,035 for an emerald-cut 2.36-carat diamond with an $8,000-$10,000 estimate.

Other important jewels that sold for well above their estimates included T.B. Starr’s four Art Deco stacking rings, set with a diamond, an emerald, an amethyst, and a ruby, that went for $22,515 against a $4,000-$6,000 estimate and Edward Everett Oakes’s circa 1930s Arts & Crafts gold, opal, and pearl cross and chain (estimate: $8,000-$10,000) that brought $20,145, which also was the price realized for George Jensen’s silver and labradorite master brooch with a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.

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The top lot at Kaminski Auctioneers’ inaugural Photography Auction last month was a Manhattan Project collection of photographs, including aerial shots of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombing in World War II. The lot, which sold for $53,000, also included photographs taken by Fritz Goro (1901-86) a Life magazine scientific photographer, and that were consigned from the collection of a scientist who worked on the atomic bomb and was a friend of Goro.

Other offerings were as diverse as a 1970 photograph of Salvador Dalí ($14,400) by Philippe Halsman, the Latvian-American photographer; a framed photograph of Winston Churchill ($5,850) by the renowned Armenian-born Canadian portrait painter Joseph Karsh ($5,850); and a circa 1857 ambrotype of the Niagara Falls ($4,972) by Platt D. Babbitt, who opened a daguerreotype studio in 1853 on the American side of the Falls.

Correction: Because of a production error, a caption in last week’s June 17 Antiques was incomplete. It should have read: A highlight of Skinner’s 20th Century Design Auction is George Nakashima’s walnut dresser with a $12,000-$15,000 estimate. Sample Chest with compartments holding samples of the finish materials used by Paul Evans for his metal sculpted furniture will be sold with a $4,000-$6,000 estimate.

Virginia Bohlin can be reached at globe
antiques@globe.com.

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