Auction hysteria as buyers spend $34m for snippet of Jackie O's life

THE four-day auction of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's possessions came to a tumultuous end yesterday, raising a total of $34,457…

THE four-day auction of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's possessions came to a tumultuous end yesterday, raising a total of $34,457,470, (about £22,971,600) Sotheby's announced last night.

Before bidding, the auction house had estimated the auction could bring in about $4 million.

The proceeds will go to the late Mrs Onassis's children, Mr John Kennedy and Ms Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg.

Customers scrambled for a last chance to buy a piece of Camelot, as the late First Lady described the Kennedy presidency.


The cheque books were out and pens poised from the moment Sothebys' New York salesroom opened as buyers battled over a bound volume of presidential inaugural addresses that President John F. Kennedy had planned to give his in-laws shortly before his assassination in November 1963.

The book, which had been estimated to sell for about 55,000, went for 5123,500 because of its unique inscription in Mrs Kennedy's handwriting: "For Mummy and Uncle Hugh, Jack was going to give you this for Christmas - Please accept it now from me with all my love, Jackie, December 1963."

Sothebys admitted that when it said it expected the sale to fetch only $4 million it had grossly underestimated an American public eager for anything that Jackie O wore, touched, bought or stored in a dusty closet.

Bidders on Thursday paid record prices for her fake pearls and $772,000 for a set of President Kennedy's golf clubs. The nine hour auction of costume jewellery, Indian art and sporting equipment and paintings rang up $7.7 million, pushing the overall total to $28 million on the third day.

An unknown phone bidder bought the MacGregor Woods clubs and a red and black golf bag inscribed "JFK Washington, DC" for $772,500, more than 800 times the estimated pre-sale price of $700 to $900. Another set of Kennedy clubs, Ben Hogan Power Thrust Irons, sold for 5387,500.

A simulated pearl necklace, worth $700 at most according to the catalogue, fetched 5211,500, setting a record price for fake pearls. The necklace was worn by a laughing Mrs Kennedy in a famous 1962 photograph with her infant son John-John, who is pictured grabbing at them.

The price, more than 10 times what Sothebys estimated the necklace would cost if it were real, easily beat the old record, set in 1987 when the Duchess of Windsor's make-believe pearls sold for 551,400.

The Franklin Mint, which makes collectibles, bought the fake pearl necklace for its museum near Philadelphia and plans to create copies of it for sale.

The biggest price so far in the sale was the 52.6 million paid for the 40-carat diamond ring the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis gave Mrs Kennedy when he proposed marriage in 1968. The ring was bought by Dr A.J.F. O'Reilly, chairman of Heinz and Independent Newspapers.