Scintillating Details From The Madoff Auction Preview

by Ross Kenneth Urken · November 10, 2010

    Today at the U.S. Marshals Service Madoff II Auction, I gleaned a few telling patterns about the Ponzi schemer's sybaritic tastes and how his troubled psychology can be demonstrated through these items--from Ruth Madoff's blingity-bling engagement ring to the infamous slippers. 


    Held on the second floor of Building 25 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the press preview featured remaining items from Bernie Madoff's Montauk beach house and his $7 million Park Avenue apartment laid out on the concrete floor; the luxury and excess curated in what felt like mini parlors mixed with the drab surroundings and barred windows ironically made the domestic Madoff comforts feel placed in a jail. Gaston&Sheehan, which has a contract agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service, will hold the auction this Saturday at the New York Sheraton Hotel & Towers Metropolitan Ballroom.

    I had the opportunity to contribute research on Steve Fishman's Madoff cover story for New York magazine Madoff cover story two years ago, and having spoken to quite a number of Madoff's business associates, fellow members of the Palm Beach Country Club, and high school classmates, I have uncovered an overwhelming insistence upon the meticulousness and monomaniacal aspects of his habits and purchases.

    Take the prevalence of bull paraphernalia, for instance. There's the obvious obsession with, if not insistence upon, this metonym for a thriving stock market; perhaps, by armchair psychology, this could be some sort of shrouding mechanism to hide the bad shady business dealings.

    Here's how to get your Ponzi tchotche and doo-dad fix:

    Sterling silver trophy belt buckle for a bull rider, engraved: CHAMP 1967; 127.0 grams. $1,200-1,700

    Bronze bull, Moselsio 1929, Roman Bronze Works $500-$720

    Mexican green onyx bull $520-$740

    Bronze by the French artist Henri Vallette,"Standing Bull," 20th century: $800-$1,400

    And again (here, we're intentionally stretching) maybe the bevy of taurine figures stems from a Freudian association with the colloquialism "bull" (read: "bullshit") to describe something thought to be spurious or nonsensical (such as his investments).

    Auction house Gaston&Sheehan retains about 10% of revenue from this sale, which will mark the end of the disquisition of assets from the Montauk and New York City properties; the U.S. Marshal Service will still have to deal with other properties, such as the Florida digs.The ultimate goal, naturally, is to provide restitution to the victims.The U.S. Attorneys Office and the Department of Justice manage the asset forfeiture fund, where all money from sales will go for the allocation of funds to victims. The Marshall Service plays the role of making the inventory and selling process more efficient.

    "We're not out here selling things on street corners," said Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Roland Ubaldo. "We're out here to get fair market value for the items and more to give back to the victims."

    Ubaldo said there's a mix of people fascinated with making a purchase that will attach them to a dark part of the past.

    "This is the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time," he said. "Whether it be a good history or a bad history, there is history involved in this. And I think that's what's bringing the crowds into this auction."

    Though there are obvious financiers and jewelry connoisseurs who come in droves, some of the items at lower price-points like kitchen utensils and inscribed books can be valuable for more modest collectors.

    Madoff is widely known for his taste obsessions and idiosyncrasies, Bob Sheehan, owner of Gaston&Sheehan, pointed out; when he discovered an article of clothing he liked, he would buy many of the same item--sometimes switching colors and branching out in shades.

    Here's how to dress like a con:

    A selection of Madoff's worsted wool double breasted suits, coat size 42: $480-$690

    Of course there's the chance to get cozy in the infamous Madoff monogrammed slippers (a better bet than the Madoff boxer shorts that are on sale. Seriously!):

    Black velveteen slippers, size 81/2 (ahem), with red quilted lining, "BLM" embroidered with gold thread:

    You may not be surprised, though, to discover that beyond this guise of conservative, hoity-toity dressing, Madoff seemed to have a bit of a fetishistic side--especially in shoes. His shoe collection, with a fair share of cheetah patterns, is much large and flamoyant than his wife's selection.

    Check out the orange boat shoes and the cheetah loafers. They'll set you back $210-$240.

    Camp Madoff: How Fulfill Your Madoff Extracurricular Fix

    To be able to fit into those swank clothes, you may need a world-class workout, the type that earned the con-man that sexy paunch. Try the Madoff gymnasium out for size.

    Yoga mat, thera-ball, Bosu jump ball, treadmill "Trotter Super Trainer 540" and LA Fitness Life Cycle R7: $430-$500

    You may be so inclined to run never-ending, always upscale arpeggios on your Madoff piano.

    Model M Steinway and Sons Grand with a bench ca. 1917: $7,000-$16,000

    Need a little bit of reading time? Add a few vanity items to your library with titles including Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, Paul Auster's Moon Palace, and Peter Evans's Nemesis. Of course, for your interest in food and diet, here's a great title for your kitchen rack:

    Dean Ornish's Eat More, Weigh Less:

    For arts, you can check out this frighteningly prescient cartoon:

    Framed political cartoon by David Brion (Washington Post) titled "A Broker and the Andry Exchanges"

    On upper left side hand written in black ink "Forever More Peter & Bernie"

    Maybe try out the Madoff bed for a little shut-eye or (the illusion of) financially lucrative sex.

    George III inlaid mahogany and satinwood tester bed with intense sun fading, early 19th century: $2,500-$3,600

    Glitz and Glamor:

    Of course there's the infamous bauble though to be Ruth Madoff's engagement rock. Check out how Bernie liked it and put a ring on it:

    Platinum custom ring set with one emerald cut diamond, 10.54 carats: $300,000-$350,000

    If you're into Madoff's fancy watch collection, check these out:

    179: Men's 18ky vintage Rolex "Dato Compax" Anti-Magnetique Chronograph wristwatch, black crocodile strap w/ Rolex tang buckle, Model 4768, ca. 1947: $65,000-$70,000

    181: Men's 18ky vintage Patek Philippe "Hausmann&Co." chronograph wristwatch, black alligator strap w/ Patek tang buckle; Patek Philippe 23 jewel movement (Serial 868740), ca. 1952: $55,000-$65,000

    183: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster Chronograph Antimagnetic watch with a white dial and black leather band, model #6036: $60,000-$70,000

    193: Men's 18 ky vintage Rolex Oyster chronograph wristwatch, brown stitched alligator strap, 17 jewel Rolex Geneve mechanical winding movment: $54,000-$58,000

    Of course it's hard to predict exactly what's to become of Bernie and his legacy, but you may do well to glance into your financial future through the Madoff stock-predicting crystal ball:

    Rock crystal ball on brass stand: $390-$440