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Bidders take their pick from Pennsylvania Treasury's 'unclaimed' vault in Morphy's million-dollar auction
Platinum engagement ring with a 4.25ct European-cut diamond and two flanking baguettes, each weighing .30 carats, $19,800. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, PA.- Morphy Auctions’ Feb. 8-9 collaboration with the Pennsylvania Treasury’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property resulted in an exciting weekend of transactions that tallied over one million dollars (inclusive of basic 20% buyer’s premium). Of that total, 26% was attributable to prices realized by 200 lots of fine jewelry, watches, coins and other valuables from the Treasury’s vaults in Harrisburg, Pa. The greater portion of the 1,146-lot sale included consignments of paintings, mechanical music, a collection of vintage violins and a broad selection of decorative art, including Part II of a highly refined Amphora pottery collection.

“There was a lot of interest from the media in the run-up to this sale, especially because of the Treasury Department items,” said Dan Morphy. “It was the first time in 10 years that the Treasury had sanctioned a live auction of unclaimed goods from safe deposit boxes. The quality was there, all the way.”

There were 2,179 registered bidders for the sale, and more than 100 people attended the event in person, including representatives from the Pennsylvania Treasury. The phone bank was active throughout the auction, and Internet bidders made their presence known in a big way, with online purchases representing 62% of the gross over the two-day period.

Of the Treasury consignment, the earliest representation of Pennsylvania’s history was a Spence-authenticated, handwritten 1787 property deed signed by Benjamin Franklin. Estimated at $7,000-$10,000, it was bid to $13,200.

Bidders dipped into the Treasury’s jewelry box with glee, taking away many exquisite gold, diamond and platinum pieces just in time for Valentine’s Day. A heart-shape diamond-encrusted pendant set in 14K gold featured a 1.25ct pear-shape center diamond surrounded by smaller rough-cut pave diamonds. Its sparkle and heft encouraged bidders to ignore the $7,000-$10,000 estimate, and ultimately it checked out at $18,600.

A stunning platinum engagement ring with a 4.25ct European-cut diamond and two flanking baguettes, each weighing .30 carats, came very close to achieving its high estimate at $19,800. The ring would have made quite a spectacular statement if paired with another retro-chic design that finished high amongst prices realized: a platinum, diamond and ruby bracelet with an Art Deco feel. It featured an eye-filling medley of round, Asscher- and emerald-cut gems, and drew a winning bid of $15,600.

Timepiece highlights included an impressive 18K diamond-face Rolex Presidential watch, $10,800; and a sporty Swiss-made Breitling Chronograph with cobalt blue and gold face, $5,700.

Patrick Orbe made his debut as Morphy’s fine art consultant with the selection of paintings he curated for the Feb. 8-9 sale. The auction’s top fine-art lot was a Ferdinand Richardt (Danish, 1819-1895) oil on canvas titled “View of Niagara Falls.” The signed 33 x 43in painting presented in a custom-made gold leaf frame realized $37,200.

Bidders competed aggressively over rare pieces of Amphora from the Les Cohen collection, especially the monumental 18½in “Daughter of the Rhine” vase with applied jewels and enameled flowers. Well exceeding estimate hopes, it rose to $18,000. Another crowd-pleaser was the 22½in Amphora Saurian & Crab vase. Estimated at $7,000-$9,000, it was chased to $13,800.

Other decorative-art categories also held up very well. Desirable Loetz glass was led by a circa-1903 pink luster vase with a blue pattern reminiscent of peacock feathers, $4,800. The top Rookwood lot was an initialed and dated 1927 monumental vellum vase in a hibiscus motif, created by Elizabeth Lincoln. The vessel garnered $6,000.

“I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way bidders responded to the fine jewelry and other articles from the Pennsylvania Treasury,” said Dan Morphy. “Even though all of their items were offered without reserve, nearly every piece met or exceeded expectations, with sales totaling $260,000. We’re very much looking forward to presenting the next Treasury selection, which we anticipate will be sometime in the fall.”

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