The auction of Oprah Winfrey's personal collection of art, antiques, furniture and memorabilia on Saturday was a stunning demonstration of just how much fans want a piece of the O.
A set of six 18th century Louis XVI armchairs with hand-embroidered details elicited a winning bid of $60,000 at the sale, held at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria. But more staggering: the extent to which prices on lesser items were driven up by online bidders, in many cases fans who simply wanted something from Oprah's house.
The auction started around 11:30 a.m. with the first two items in the sale, canvas banners promoting Winfrey in "The Color Purple," fielding winning bids of $4,100 and $6,000. The exuberance -- irrational or otherwise -- built from there.
A 16-by-20-inch print of a TV Guide cover photo featuring Winfrey had a pre-auction estimate of $200 to $400 but ended up selling for $3,000. A pair of simple crystal lamp bases (no shades) estimated at $200 to $400 went for $2,500. Bidding on a painting estimated at $300 to $500 rose to $6,000, and a dog portrait generously characterized in the catalog as "folk art" went for $1,400 -- about three times its estimated value. Those prices do not include the buyer's premium, a 20% or 23% commission to the auction house paid on top of the winning bid.
A rudimentary chair that a fan painted for Oprah was estimated at only $100 to $200, yet bids rose to $1,000. A teapot worth less than $100 also sold for $1,000. One anonymous online buyer bought not one but two 13-foot-long sofas, upholstered in crushed velvet with roped fringe, with bids of $4,000 and $4,750.
The usual quick pace of a live sale dragged as Kaminski Auctions, which ran the event, fielded a relentless stream of incremental bids on practically every item. After the first two hours, the auctioneer's gavel had fallen on just 55 of 584 lots in the sale.
Eventually the pace did quicken, and by 6:16 p.m., with more than 250 lots still for sale, Winfrey had brought in winning bids totaling more than $600,000. At that point, the auction transitioned from Winfrey's belongings (many from her Montecito mansion, but also from homes in Hawaii, Illinois and Indiana) to those of Bob Greene, her exercise guru, who donated some of his furniture and equipment to the event.
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