NEW YORK – From diamond-encrusted watches to satin jackets emblazoned with his name, the personal goods of Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff were to go under the hammer Saturday in New York to raise money to help pay those who lost their fortunes.
Collectors and curious members of the public gathered Friday for an open viewing of the objects in a room at the Sheraton Hotel in New York as police marshals kept a strict eye on the crowds.
Some two hundred lots are up for grabs and auctioneers are hopeful they can raise some 500,000 dollars -- a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 21.2 billion dollars the court-appointed liquidator says his investors lost.
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"I am going to bid on a vintage Rolex, and on the Audemars which I would like to keep for me, and maybe on the jacket," said Chuck Spielman, president of "Only Yesterday" Classic autos in San Diego, California.
"It all depends how the bidding goes. My wife is looking at some purses."
Dian Gilmore, executive director of the American Board of Certification, came from Iowa for a congress of the Commercial Law League of America and took time off to wander around the displays.
"This is part of history. We came out of curiosity," she said.
Madoff, it seems, had a weakness for luxury watches. Around 20 are on display, including a Rolex estimated to be worth some 75,000 dollars, a Blancpain, a Patek Philippe model with a platinum frame, a Audemars Piguet and several Cartiers.
The catalogue of spoils reflects the gaudy life enjoyed by Madoff and his wife Ruth as a result of his decades-long, multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
It includes diamonds, fur coats, crocodile-skin belts and numerous items of jewelry.
On a more personal note, there was a blue satin New York Mets baseball team jacket emblazoned with "Madoff" on the back. Estimated price: 500 to 720 dollars. Nearby was a Mets cap embroidered in silver.
The Madoff name along with that of his wife appears on many other goods, ranging from golf clubs to beach boards to personal stationary.
Ruth Madoff's furs, all neatly hanging in plastic bags, attracted little interest, but the crowds were fawning over her designer bags bearing labels such as Hermes, Prada, Chanel or Vuitton.
"I would buy some bags for my son's girlfriend, for my ex-wife," said Tony Almeida, retired, from New Jersey.
"I don't think it's bad luck, I want to be able to say I have Bernie's purse."
One young onlooker, overwhelmed by the amount of ostentatious luxury on display, laughed: "This is not Madoff's. It must have belonged to a drug trafficker, although you see no difference."
Gaston and Sheehan auctioneers are handling the sale at a Sheraton hotel in New York, but the goods were seized by the US Marshals Service to raise compensation for hundreds of investors cheated by Madoff.
Properties, including a Manhattan penthouse and Palm Beach retreat, have also been seized. A Long Island beach getaway sold for eight million dollars.
Madoff, now serving a 150-year prison sentence for fraud, claimed just before his arrest last December to have been managing 65 billion dollars. However, much of that appears to have comprised phony funds.
The world of art however would seem not to have been one of the Madoffs' passions.
Apart from a few photographs, some sketches valued at 70 to 200 dollars, some copies of African masks and a heron sculpture bearing a 25- to 28-dollar price tag, there were no art works to be found among the sale.
Copyright 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.