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'Dogs Playing Poker' sell for $590K
New York auction house says two paintings set world record for the 1903 series.
February 16, 2005: 2:19 PM EST
"A Bold Bluff" was one of two C.M. Coolidge "Dogs Playing Poker" paintings sold at auction for $590,400.
Waterloo: Two
Waterloo: Two
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Two "Dogs Playing Poker" paintings cleaned house at Doyle New York's annual Dogs in Art Auction, fetching a staggering $590,400, the auction house said.

Before the sale it was estimated that the two rare paintings from Cassius Marcellus Coolidge's 1903 series of dogs playing poker would fetch $30,000 to $50,000, said Alan Fausel, senior vice president of paintings at Doyle, after Tuesday's auction.

After intense bidding, "A Bold Bluff" and "Waterloo: Two" sold to a private collector from New York City. The buyer was not identified.

"A lot of people came to speculate on the piece, a lot of whom were outside our traditional area of collectors," said Fausel, who is also the specialist in charge of the Dogs in Art auction. "It was a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Poker's current vogue is another factor that likely contributed to the sale price, the auction director said.

"The (paintings') sequential narrative follows the same 'players' in the course of a hand of poker," said an auction note from Doyle. "In the first, our main character, the St. Bernard, holds a weak hand as the rest of the crew maintains their best poker faces. In the following scene, we see the St. Bernard raking in the large pot, much to the very obvious dismay of his fellow players."

Comedian Caroline Rhea of Manhattan, who attended the auction, told the New York Daily News that the Coolidge paintings were the highlight of the event.

"It's not the Mona Lisa -- we were joking it's the 'Bona Lisa'," she told the paper.

The sale set a world record for work by Coolidge, who created the oil paintings in 1903 for a St. Paul, Minn., advertising firm, the auction house said. Of the sixteen paintings of dogs in a human situations created for Brown & Bigelow, nine of them depicted dogs around a card table.

Since the stellar sale, Doyle's said it has been inundated with inquiries from people asking about the value of their "Dogs Playing Poker" prints.

For those wondering if their dog reproduction could fetch a million dollars, or for more information on the iconic paintings, there is www.dogsplayingpoker.org.

The site also includes information about the artist Coolidge, who is credited with creating the life-size Boardwalk cutouts into which one's head is placed, allowing the person to be photographed as a character or animal.

Coolidge was also a banker, shopkeeper, inventor and painter. He even penned an opera.

Although his name is not commonly remembered, the auction house believes his images are "permanently seared" into the American consciousness.

"These are unique originals of a very important American icon," Fausel said.

Coinciding each year with the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the auction offers two centuries of canine paintings, prints, bronzes and other objects.  Top of page

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