July 25, 2014

A Gustaf Adolf Cedergren Just Slipped Through My Grasp

There was an auction at the London, South Kensington branch of Christie’s yesterday that I missed because I was too busy with the bedroom set that finally arrived for the home renovations.  I lost one of the items I wanted very badly because I forgot about it and never got around to putting in an absentee bid!  It’s not a huge deal but it is an oversight that shouldn’t have happened.  

Christies Auction Silver Sailor Decanter

Silver-mounted cut-glass claret jug made by Gustaf Adolf Cedergren in Stockholm, Sweden in 1882. Christies Lot 6106 on May 29th, 2012 at London, South Kensington.

The treasure-that-got-away was a silver-mounted cut-glass claret jug made by Gustaf Adolf Cedergren in Stockholm, Sweden in 1882.  It ended up going for £1,000, or roughly $1,570 in United States currency, which was smack in the center of the pre-auction estimate.  This was supposed to be a juice decanter for the dining room when we have brunches with friends and family on the weekend.  Look at it!  It’s in pristine condition despite being 130 years old.  It first saw use when Chester Arthur was President of the United States.  It was in service when my great-great-great grandparents were alive.

I’m so irritated with myself.  I never allow oversights like this to happen.  It is bothering me still, a day later.  I never talk about my auction activities on the blog, or at least not very often.  At work today, Aaron told me to just design a set and commission them with a silversmith since they would be just as beautiful and rare.  Still, mental models, the disutility of loss, and all of that.  

It may be years before I find one I like as much.  Such a pointless oversight.  Live and learn, I guess.  To whomever won, congratulations.  You’re lucky.  I would have fought tooth and nail for it had I been paying attention.  I’ll be optimistic.  The universe has a funny way of working these things out in the end.  I may come across one I like even better.

I love stuff like this because, ultimately, it will all get donated or sold for my foundation.  How cool would it be if I kept it for the rest of my life and, God willing, lived to the age of many of my forefathers (or longer)?  If that happened, it would be around the claret jug’s 200th birthday mark that it would re-emerge and be donated to a museum or sold for cash to fund charitable programs.  For all those years, my family and I got to enjoy it, use it, treasure it, and protect it.

The upshot is, Aaron is right.  I can always have some commissioned, or someone else may put something on the block that is completely unexpected and equally as cool.  Families find treasures in their attics every day, collectors decide to exit a certain specialty, estate sales need to raise cash … you never know what surprises might walk through the door of the auction houses.  That is what makes it so enjoyable.   

  • FratMan

    Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, choo choo. My Johnson & Johnson and IBM shares have got some years to run before I can start hitting the auctions ;)

  • Anon

    Create a Google alert.  It might go back on the auction block in some years.

  • Ian Francis

    It is funny the nonsense ideas we apply to objects sometimes.  That decanter is worth so much more to you than simply designing one yourself because it has “history”.  In the end, it is physically the same as a brand new one.  There is no test you can do on them to differentiate the one with “history”, yet just about everyone sees history as something that adds value to an object.  That is why natural diamonds are worth so much more than lab-made ones, even though they are physically the same thing.  I am not trying to detract from your valuation of the decanter, just pointing out the ridiculous way our brains work sometimes.

    • Joshua Kennon

      It’s funny you mentioned that; we were just saying the same thing about paintings. If I look at an original at auction for a lot of money, but you can have a nearly identical replica painted for 1/100th of the cost, they appear exactly the same, they give the same amount of joy, and it frees up more money for higher returning investments, isn’t buying the original irrational? Or, is the replica effectively a waste of money?

      The diamond paradox has perplexed me for some time. Even though I intellectual know they are absolutely identical, the “social fact”, as they are called, that people won’t pay as much for them keeps me from wanting them in any of my purchases.

      • Gilvus

        The same can be said of lunar rocks retrieved during the Apollo missions, worth millions of dollars apiece. My department has terrestrial rocks in the basement that are geologically identical – same method of formation, more-or-less same composition, same appearance. They aren’t worth a penny so we use them for propping open doors and (occasionally) home security.

        There are multiple mental models at work  here, but I can’t recall all of their names.

    • Anon

      I think “history” is valuable in an intangible, inexplicable way.  People also generally prefer the real thing to an imitation/forgery/knockoff/substitute.

      • Ian Francis

        History has no scientific definition in regards to objects. It holds value because we give it value. An object with a fabricated history has as much value as an object with actual history as long as no one knows you are lying. That fact alone proves history is a completely man-made, arbitrary property.

        In regards to paintings, what’s the “real thing”? They are all made of the same material, same colors, same patterns. There may have been a first painting, but when a painting is made doesn’t affect it’s beauty. A forgery that people think is the original is preferred only because people don’t know any better.

        • Gilvus

           Ian’s right. Take the Ship of Theseus for example. If you “restore” works of art to their former glory or “renovate” historical buildings to maintain their grandeur and structural stability, are they still the original even though they now contain prosthetic replacements?

          Let’s take it a step further: if you do this maintenance repeatedly over several centuries but keep all the replaced parts in a controlled environment, you’ll eventually end up with all of the components that were originally part of the masterpiece. If you reconstruct the work of art/architecture using these original components, which one is the real one? The “old” one made of new parts sitting in the display gallery? Or the “new” one made of old parts sitting in the curator’s office?

        • peterpatch79

          The idea of authenticity is generally a hoax. However I could see how carefully purchasing an item such as this , at a fair price , and putting it to good use in ones life makes sense. Not only are you getting to enjoy the object but you can be more confident that the object is holding its value and will remain a unique and sought after item in the future.