Jennifer Gwynne — a North Providence High School class of 1992 graduate who now lives in South Carolina — saw a news story from December about an auction of test papers that Elon Musk graded. They sold for more than $7,700.
Gwynne ran to her husband right away. She had much better stuff than some papers with the initials “EM”: Gwynne had dated Musk in college, and had some photos of him, and a birthday card from him, and a necklace he once gave her.
They’re available for auction through the Boston auction house RR Auction, with a deadline of later on Wednesday. People are bidding thousands of dollars on items in Gwynne’s collection, which includes photographs of Musk hanging out in North Providence.
“If Elon wants to bid, I totally welcome him to do it,” Gywnne said in an interview.
Gwynne met Musk when they were both resident advisers together at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1990s. They dated from 1994 until 1995, when Musk graduated, moved to California, and said he couldn’t talk on the phone because it seemed like a waste of time to him, Gwynne said.
“We broke up just before he started conquering the world,” Gwynne said.
There are still no lingering hard feelings or regrets about the relationship nearly three decades ago, Gwynne said, just memories of the man who’s now considered the richest person in the world hanging out in Providence and North Providence.
You’ll see some of that Rhode Island connection in the items that are being auctioned off. The photo of Musk opening an orange carton? That was taken in the 1994 holiday season at her mom’s house in North Providence after a long drive.
Gwynne recalls going to the pool hall Snookers in Providence with Musk. Afterward, they got into a fender bender in Musk’s car with a friend. Although Musk was driving, Gwynne felt bad about it — so bad that she ponied up the money to fix it. This is a guy who is now the CEO of a car company, but back then she shelled out what she recalls as around $200.
“I felt bad,” Gwynne explained. “He was in Rhode Island because of me.”
The auctions, all told, are now up to $45,000 total, Gwynne said Wednesday. That more than covers the fender. She decided to sell the items in part because her stepson is 13 and will need college money.
Gwynne, who studied English at the University of Pennsylvania, now works in supply chain at McKesson Medical-Surgical.
So far the highest-ticket item is a little over $12,000 for the birthday card he wrote for her, in which he professes his love and calls her “Boo-Boo.” Gwynne recalls he only wrote that because she was teasing him as he wrote it — “he was/is a very practical person. Nicknames were a bit lost on him,” Gwynne said.
The necklace, just under $10,000 so far, had 39 bids. As of Wednesday afternoon you can score a photo of Musk in North Providence for a couple hundred bucks.
Boston-based RR Auction has a reputation as a place where collectors of space age artifacts can find things like, for example, a seat on a ride into space with Jeff Bezos.
Fellow billionaire and one time Rhode Island visitor Musk has generated controversy for years. He is the CEO of the electric car company Tesla, the rocket company SpaceX, and the would-be buyer of social media site Twitter. He was named Time magazine’s person of the year in 2021.
Musk always been an intense person, Gwynne said, talking about electric cars even back in college. It’s no surprise when she sees on the news about visions of colonizing Mars, Gwynne said. The two haven’t kept in touch, Gwynne said, citing his multiple subsequent relationships and children.
But Musk apparently remembers her, and is certainly aware of the auction. On Wednesday, he changed his Twitter picture to one in Gwynne’s collection.
“Based on his Twitter profile today,” Gwynne said, “I think he’s all good with me too.”