Published: April 26, 2011
The original World Chess Championship chess set used by Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky at their historic match in Iceland in 1972, signed by both men, soared to $76,275 at a weekend multi-estate sale conducted April 1″ by Philip Weiss Auctions.
The chess set was used in the third match of the series, dubbed the “back room game” because Fischer blamed his loss in the first match (and subsequent default in the second match) on cameras in the room. But for the third match, he got Spassky to agree to play in a small room, away from the cameras’ glare and out of view from spectators. He won that match and the title.
Also, an archive of personal material pertaining to Fischer †an intensely private and even reclusive man †crossed the block, fetching $9,888. The lot included a copy of the book My Seven Chess Prodigies , by John W. Collins, inscribed by Fischer “to adorable Zita from Bobby,” dated 1991; and several love letters written to Zita (evidently the love of his life), from the 1990s.
The chess set was the top lot in a three-day auction event that was a blockbuster by anyone’s standards. More than 1,500 lots in a wide array of categories crossed the block, and in the end more than $600,000 had been spent by eager bidders. They participated in person, over the phone, via absentee bids and online, with more than 500 registered bidders, plus 300 more bidders using the Philip Weiss Auctions website.
The auction kicked off April 1 with a session dedicated to postcards, paper, autographs and rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. Saturday, April 2, featured folk art, Native American items and militaria. The Sunday session had stamps, coins, transportation, aviation, automotive and marine. “Outstanding live, Internet and phone participation made this sale a success,” Philip Weiss said.
A turn-of-the-century cigar store Indian, nicknamed “Chief Poke in the Nose” because some mishaps over time caused some damage to his nose, went for $62,150. The Indian, more than 7 feet tall and made sometime in the 1890s, had previously stood guard at the Schweizer Sporting Goods & Cigar Store in Hoosick Fall, N.Y. It is a wonderful example of Americana.
A 45 rpm record sleeve with bold blue ink signatures of all four Beatles, plus 1960s radio disc jockey Charlie Murdock from WQAM, dated September 11, 1964, realized $6,215. The lot also featured Murdock’s business card, three black and white magazine clippings of the Beatles, a letter telling the story of how the signatures were obtained and a letter of authenticity.
A rock ‘n’ roll concert poster from 1969 for the California Rock Festival in San Jose, Calif. (May 23-25) featuring artwork by Linda Segul breezed to $2,034. The poster, measuring 14 by 20 inches, listed some of the biggest names in rock history, such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Eric Burdon, Chuck Berry and Santana.
A complete sheet of stamps commemorating the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan at the end of World War II, signed by 18 members of the flight crew of the Enola Gay and other planes (Paul Tibbets, Dutch Van Kirk and others), soared to $5,650. Also, a Samurai sword with metal scabbard with leather overlay, overall about 38 inches (blade length 27 inches), hit $2,712.
In ocean liner memorabilia, a brown bowl from the British North American Steamship Line, 12 by 10 inches and 2 inches deep, stamped on the bottom “Crystal Florentine China, Alcocks Indian Ironstone,” commanded $1,808; and a covered sauce boat from the North German Line in two pieces, stamped “Florio Palermo” and with the NGL crest, garnered $1,356.
All prices quoted include a 13 percent buyer’s premium. For information, 516-594-0731 or www.WeissAuctions.com .
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