Newsletter #86

June 4, 1999

Greetings Accumulators!
Spring has begun to meld into summer in the Northeastern U.S. It is glorious out there today.

A woman from Staten Island, New York just received a letter from her husband. Unfortunately, he mailed it to her 57 years ago. Her husband, who died three years ago, sent the letter to his then-fiancee from Fort Washington in 1942. The envelope contained a blank postcard. The card and its envelope wound up at an antique paper show, where it was purchased by a middle school teacher who tracked down the intended recipient, now a resident of California. She revealed that her late husband was an avid stamp collector, which would explain why her had sent her the blank postcard.

Great Britain's Royal Mail issued a Freddie Mercury stamp this week. Mercury was the openly bisexual lead singer of the rock group Queen, who died of AIDS in 1991. Some Britons were not pleased, no not at all. Simon Heffer, columnist for The Daily Mail wrote, "the queen we would rather see on our postage stamps is not stripped to the waist and wearing spray-on red trousers." However, the real queen, the one no one (probably not even Prince Phillip) has ever seen stripped to the waist, must approve every stamp, so the Royal Mail hopes that everyone will pipe down.

You may remember it was reported here a week or two ago that Alastair Duncan, one of the world's foremost experts on Louis Comfort Tiffany and Art Deco style, had been arrested in connection with a cemetery burglary operation. Here is an update:

Mr. Duncan is accused of many things, but the standout is the charge that he hired one Anthony Casamissina, a professional grave robber, to acquire a 9-foot-tall Tiffany stained glass window from a mausoleum in the Salem Fields cemetery in New York City. For this service, the FBI says, Mr. Duncan paid $60,000. He then sold the window to a Japanese buyer for $219,000,the indictment alleges.

The chatter this case has stirred amongst art world denizens and local media goes beyond the 10 years in jail now faced by Duncan. He was absolutely at the pinnacle of his profession, with a sterling reputation. He was the undisputed expert on Tiffany, one on whom art dealers relied to confirm the authenticity of their late 19th century decorative art. And he had authored more than twenty books, all of which were very successful. So, the art world wants to know what could drive a man who had it all to risk it for something like burglary and fencing.

And the tabloid press would just love to provide you with an answer. It seems that Mr. Duncan and his wife reside at different addresses now, and that he and his secretary are "close", he having borrowed the money to finance her purchase of a Manhattan apartment. The insinuation is that his messy private life resulted in certain economic "pressures". Mr. Duncan's attorney, a high profile defense lawyer, says , "We believe when the dust settles in this case, Mr. Duncan will be vindicated and his reputation restored". He went on to say that Duncan "will be found to have been a victim in this case". So far, no one is denying that he did it.

At auction at Sotheby's June 12: Ralph Kramden's (Jackie Gleason)bus driver unifrom from The Honeymooners (estimate $15,000); Elvis' black wool jacket; Christopher Reeve's Superman costume; Kurt Cobain's totally smashed-up guitar. Also, 1939's Best Picture Oscar, awarded to "Gone With The Wind", with a pre-sale estimate of $300,000.

New files released from the National Archives will supposedly show that the bronze casket used to transport the body of Pres. John F. Kennedy from Dallas, where he was assassinated to Washington, DC, where he is buried, wwas dumped in 1965 from a military plane into 9,000 feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean. Why? To keep it out of the hands of memorabilia collectors. Am I the only one who thinks this is ridiculous? Why would they be concerned about the casket, of all things? And couldn't they just lock it up somewhere, like they did with every other shred of material relating to the case?

Coming on October 27 to Christie's: a major Marilyn Monroe sale. There will be more than 1,000 lots in the auction, including the skintight dress Monroe wore to sing "Happy Birthday" to JFK (presale estimate: a cool million); the wedding ring she received from Joe DiMaggio and her certificate of conversion to Judaism, issued before she married Arthur Miller.

If you admire chintz, the profusely flower-patterned English china, you'll want to visit ChintzNet, your one-stop site for learning about and shopping for chintz. Very informative!

Well, Accumulators, I fear I've overstayed my welcome today. This newsletter has been very long by our mutual standards. I'd like to say Artie and I are going up to the country house on this splendid weekend, but all of our automobiles have conspired to go on strike, so we are Big Apple bound for a while. I'm not complaining - there are worse places to be stuck for a weekend. But, if I were able to be there, I'd attend the onsite auction in Montgomery, NY by Roberson's on Saturday morning, and then the antiques and snappy patter (jokes as old as the furniture) of auctioneer Vince Bambina in Cuddebackville, NY in the evening. So, I leave all the bargains to you! Have a great week, Accumulators. Happy hunting!


1999 Judith Katz-Schwartz. All rights reserved.
Antiques and Collectibles Newsletter #86
U.S. Library of Congress
ISSN 1520-4464


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1999 Judith Katz-Schwartz. All rights reserved.