NEW YORK – Anyone wanting to walk in the shoes of fallen financier Bernard Madoff was in luck Saturday: Thousands of belongings from his New York City penthouse, including his used shoes, went on the auction block.
An anonymous bidder paid the highest price of the auction – $550,000 – for a 10.5-carat diamond engagement ring that belonged to Madoff’s wife, Ruth. The winning bid topped the $300,000 minimum pre-sale estimate.
Ruth Madoff’s French diamond earrings fetched the next highest price. Valued at $100,000 to $137,500, they went for $135,000 to an undisclosed buyer.
The man who became a symbol of greed and deceit on Wall Street also had a lavish collection of watches. One of his vintage steel Rolex “Moon Phase” watches sold for $67,500, topping a $60,000 minimum estimate.
The sale started Saturday morning at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, with an auctioneer from Texas-based Gaston & Sheehan rattling off lots at a tongue-twisting speed all day and into the evening.
Buyers responded at a fever pitch.
They raised their hands to signal a bid – accompanied by bloodcurdling shouts from bid-spotters marking a winning price.
While many of the more than 400 lots included luxury items, the Madoffs’ penthouse did have touches of culture.
A 1917 Steinway grand piano from their living room went for $42,000 – six times the minimum estimate of $7,000. The buyer was an 81-year-old Long Island real estate executive.
“I’ve got loads of pianos, but this one has history – it’ll make an interesting conversation piece,” said John Rodger, an amateur pianist who will keep the Steinway in his home in East Islip.
An oil painting by the late American artist Frederick Carl Frieseke sold for $47,500, against a pre-sale estimate of $20,000 to $45,000.
The Manhattan sale is the last auction in New York of Madoff belongings. A third and final auction is to be held in Florida to sell off items from a Palm Beach home that went for more than $5.5 million last month.
The disgraced 72-year-old trader is behind bars for life in a North Carolina prison, and his wife was ordered to leave their homes.