Madoff's Mets jacket sells for ... $14,500

Artifacts once owned by Bernie Madoff went on auction in New York on Saturday, pulling in almost a cool million.

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By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer

Pieces of Madoff
Many of Bernie Madoff's victims wanted a piece of the felonious financier. This week they could get one: Hundreds of his and Ruth's possessions went up for auction Saturday and they fetched nearly $1 million, a lot more than expected.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It was a very good day for the victims of Bernie Madoff. Several hundred of his former possessions were auctioned off in New York City on Saturday, and most of them sold for prices that crushed their high estimates.

In total, the auction brought in more than $900,000 from goods seized from Madoff's properties.

Bernie's New York Mets jacket fetched $14,500 -- more than 20 times what was expected. Ruth Madoff's diamond dangle earrings knocked down a cool $70,000, more than three times the high estimate of $21,400. A pair of her onyx-and-diamond earrings also went for $70,000, more than seven times the high estimate of $9,800.

Three duck decoys, which were sold in separate lots for a total of $11,500, had been estimated to sell for $184 -- total.

"This is great for the victims," said Roland Ubaldo, the U.S. Marshal who was supervising the proceedings. "But it's just a fraction of the money they lost."

But more is expected to be made on Tuesday, when Bernie's boats, including "The Bull," go up for auction in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Plus, the Manhattan penthouse and Palm Beach house are still for sale. And there are expected to be at least two more auctions of his possession -- including his clothes.

Bidders less satisfied

The bidders were often entertained by the drama that the skyrocketing bids produced, but they were less pleased with the prices. One attendee named Silvio, who didn't want his last name used, came hoping to pick up a watch. But he never made a bid. "Everything was too expensive," he said.

Indeed, almost all the Madoff watches -- Rolexes, Cartiers and others -- went for way more than projected, often double or more the high estimate.

The watches did, however, account for some of the only disappointments. One Rolex, a vintage Oyster Chronograph from 1931, did not sell at all, missing its minimum $35,000 bid.

The item with the highest estimate, a Rolex "Prisoner Watch" sold for less than $65,000, less than the $87,500 that was hoped. The watch was named because the company sold them, on credit, to British POWs during World War II to boost their morale. The prisoners could pay for the watches after war's end.

Madoff premium

The crowd was there to purchase pieces of Madoff, of that there's no doubt. Alan Richardson, an attendee who runs Estatebuyer.com, expressed consternation at the offers on many of Madoff's merchandise.

"It's ridiculous," said Richardson, who bid on, and won, several items. "You can go on eBay and buy these things for less. The estimates are right but people are bidding five times the estimate. It's only because of Madoff."

Still, Richardson might be guilty himself of overbidding on one item: the Mets jacket. He helped drive the price all the way to $14,000 before dropping out. But according to him, the satin jacket is a real collectible and worth that price.

Richardson and the auctioneer, Bob Sheehan, had a bit of interplay during the jacket bidding bidding. The auctioneer urged him to stay in the bidding, whereupon Richardson quipped, "What size is the jacket?"

"One size fits all," was Sheehan's response.

Other goods

The Madoff lots were part of a larger auction filled with seized goods from all around the country, but Madoff was the only well-known name and easily the star.

The lots sold before Madoff did not command the premiums above the estimates that Madoff's good did, and the proceedings had a different feel.

As the time neared for the Madoff merchandise to go before the bidders, the room got more crowed -- and more tense. People started sitting up in their chairs. They yelled out their bids. The momentum carried right through to the end of the Madoff lots and the prices the last Madoff items fetched were no less astounding.

Lot 347, which included a couple of boogie boards with the name MADOFF hand printed in black marker, carried a high estimate of $90 and sold for $1,000. An address sign from the beach house on Montauk with his initials on it, the lowest estimate in the catalog at $20, went for, get this, $2,000.

Finally, there was Lot 346, a life preserver from one of Bernie's boats. The white ring with "Bullship NY" emblazoned on it was expected to bring as much as $160. It instead attracted a bid of $7,500.

That's pretty hard to top.

Additional reporting by Ross Levitt, CNN NY field producer. To top of page

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