The woman carrying the large whale's tooth to Sotheby Parke Bernet's Heirloom Discovery Day thought it might be worth something, but she wasn't prepared for THAT much.
William Stahl, Sotheby's Americana expert, said that the whale's tooth, ornamented with scrimshaw decorations, is one of 18 carved by Frederick Myrick. "It's worth $25,000 to $30,000," he told the surprised owner. "Another whale's tooth, not as rare, recently auctioned for $20,000."
The tooth carried a carving of the whaling boat Susan T, the date Sept. 1, 1829, and the legend: "Death to living/long Live the Killers/Success to the Sailor's Wives/and Greasy to the Sailors."
About 1,500 people lined up on the sunny May day outside the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill, carrying paintings, watches, teacups, Russian icons, oriental vases and jewelry. Each paid $15, proceeds going to the Folger Shakespeare Library. The event marked the opening of Sotheby's new office in Georgetown.
Among other high appraisals were a 1915 diamond brooch appraised at $15,000 and a set of Rosanjin plates from Japan estimated at $15,000 to $6,000.
On Sunday night, a dinner dance at the New Zealand Embassy, also in celebration of the opening of Sotheby's, (as well as the 10th anniversary of the Friends of the Folger Library), attracted a large number of art collectors and Anglophiles. The dinner benefited the Folger's acquistions fund.
The halls were full of paintings and decorative arts lent by Sotheby's including an enormous Faberge silver bowl.
Lord Westmoreland, the new chairman of Sotheby's international firm and Queen Elizabeth's Master of the Horse, was in the receiving line along with Joan Tobin, the head of the new Washington office. New Zealand Ambassador and Mrs. Merwyn Norrish received congratulations on his new post at home (he's the new secretary of state), but expressions of sorrow about their leaving.
Others who had dinner at white-skirted tables in the great hall and the library of the new embassy chancery were Richard and Cynthia Helms (talking about her new Classes for Connoisseurs project); Bermuda Gov. Peter Ramsbotham, former British ambassador here; and Lady Ramsbotham (guest of honor); and a planeload of art experts from Sotheby's in New York. Edward Lee Cave, head of the Real Estate division, said he'd dusted off his middle name to come home to Virginia. "I don't bother to use it in New York," he said.