If there was ever a story of not one, but two, auction houses getting it spectacularly wrong, then this is it...
The owner of an antique gold pocket watch approached a small auctioneer in Wellington, Ohio, in the U.S. The watch had a cloaked history.
Its owner had contacted two of the most prominent and well-known auction houses in New York.
But both had declined the item, stating that, "after review, the watch did not appear to meet their $5,000 minimum auction value."
They recommended that the owner contact a smaller auction house to consign the watch for sale. This led him to Antiques and Estate Auctioneers of Wellington.
Initial examination of the pocket watch showed that no value was visibly apparent. But that was only the beginning.
What followed was a journey of diligent research, a story involving Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering and a 101 year-old watch that would eventually sell for $621,691 at auction...
The face of the watch, marked A. Lange & Sohne, is where the story began.
Research into the company's history revealed that the watch was a very rare and important 18k gold design; described by its manufacturers as 'Grand & Petite Sonnerie Clockwatch - Minute Repeating.'
Then the amazing history of the watch began to emerge...
Further digging revealed that the watch was extraordinary in its craftsmanship with exceptionally complicated works - and one of only four watches of its type made between 1883 and 1934.
Records showed that it was manufactured in 1905 and eventually sold to Adolf Lunser in Berlin on December 24, 1934 for 2,760 marks - making it a very expensive item at the time.
Amazingly, the watch was 101 years old and in impeccable condition. Then another remarkable fact emerged...
Closer examination of the engraved crest on the front of the watch revealed that it had belonged to the German politician and military leader Hermann Goering.
An inscription on the inside the case, when translated, read: 'In cordial friendship at Christmas 1934.'
Below it was the engraved signature of Adolf Hitler.
Hitler, it transpired, often gave fine watches as gifts to favored political and military leaders - and the purchases were frequently handled by Adolf Lunser.
The true extent of the watch's history and its exceptional quality had been revealed.
It was decided that the piece should be offered to the world market at auction. This was a massive coup for Antiques and Estate Auctioneers, putting them in the global headlines.
Europe was clearly the most profitable location for the auction - and the watch was presented with a presale estimate of $365,000-460,000.
The item sold to a European collector on May 14, 2006 for a staggering final price of $629,691.08, including buyer's premium.Thanks to the investigative digging of Antiques and Estate Auctioneers, a piece which might otherwise have remained forgotten is now rightfully recognised as a key historical artefact. ____________________________________________________________