Sotheby’s New York Sale: The Weirdest and Most Wonderful Things That Sold (and Didn’t)

April 2, 2015

L to R: Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda’s original NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual; Mets Bullpen Cart; Gage Gold Freedom Box

The highly anticipated New York Sale, an online auction hosted by eBay and Sotheby’s, took place yesterday. The first platform of its kind, the sale offered 91 NYC-related lots, including many photographs and artworks, as well as rare city mementos like Andy Warhol’s 1963 lease for his first studio on 87th Street (which sold for $13,750, over the $12,000 high-end estimate). Not only does the auction site feature pricing information for the items, but it offers thorough descriptions and historic information about them, accompanied by relevant media.

In total, the sale raked in $2,101,814 for Sotheby’s, with the most expensive item being a replica of Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi’s clay model of “La liberté éclairant le monde”(the Statue of Liberty) that sold for $970,000. Other top sellers include a gold “freedom box,” the Mets Bullpen Cart, and a Tiffany & Co. silver Art Deco cigar box.

Sotheby's, Andy Warhol Lease, The New York Sale auctionAndy Warhol’s lease

Sotheby's, The New York Sale auction, Bartholdi, Statue of Liberty model

It’s not surprising that the Statue of Liberty model brought in the most cash, as it was estimated to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million. Though not an original work of Bartholdi, it was cast in 2010 as part of an edition of 12 from the plaster in the collection of the Musée des arts et métiers, Conservatoire national des arts et métiers, Paris.

Gage Gold Freedom Box, Sotheby's, The New York Sale auction

The second-highest sale at $175,000 was for the Gage Gold Freedom Box. As Sotheby’s explains, “the ‘Freedom of the City’ is an honor given by a municipality to an important resident or visitor, often as an address in a decorated box or casket. This box, presented by the Council of the City of New York in 1773 and chased with the arms of the City, is the only known Colonial gold freedom box in private hands.” It was created by goldsmith Otto Philip Daniel Parisien and was given to Lieutenant General Thomas Gage, who fought alongside George Washington and was appointed Governor of Montreal for a time.

Sotheby's, Mets Bullpen Cart, The New York Sale auction

Coming in third was the New York Mets Bullpen Cart from 1967, which sold for $112,500, well over the $30,000 high-end estimate. The auction describes the lot as “A fantastic example of whimsical Major League Baseball marketing from the late 1960s, used intermittently at Shea Stadium for more than 20 years. Highlights of its use include a memorable appearance at the 1986 World Series versus the Boston Red Sox and then again in 2003 when Mets Captain John Franco drove Mets legend Tug McGraw onto the field as part of the team’s celebration of the legendary 1973 team.”

Sotheby's, Tiffany & Co., Art Deco cigar box, The New York Sale auction
Tiffany cigar box

Glow of the City by Martin Lewis
Glow of the City by Martin Lewis

Other big sales were a 1930 silver Art Deco cigar box from Tiffany & Co. for $87,500, Martin Lewis’s original 1929 print of “Glow of the City” for $50,000 and Ormond Gigli’s photograph, “New York City (Girls in the Windows).”

Massimo Vignelli, Bob Noorda, NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual
The NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual

Surprisingly, some classic New York City memorabilia did not find a buyer, including the 1970 “rules and procedures in the iconic Max’s Kansas City,” signed by Brigid Berlin, who was one of the Warhol superstars, Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda’s original NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual and a 1976 Yankee Stadium sign from the collection of Reggie Jackson that was expected to sell for up to $600,000. Several silver pieces from Tiffany’s also remain unsold, as do a mix of photographs and paintings. You can see all the lots in the auction, as well as their descriptions and pricing information, here.

RELATED: A History of New York in 101 Objects: 6sqft Edition

All images via Sotheby’s/The New York Sale

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