Thursday, March 4, 2010

What price the Mummy's head? At Heritage Auctions, it was $31K+ last January...

March 04, 2010
Written by Yinan Wang

(It is my pleasure to turn the blog over today to Yinan Wang, a new-ish addition to Heritage's Natural History Department, and - as you'll see by reading below - an entertaining blogger. I can confirm everything that Yinan writes about in the following post, especially the cool creepiness of the mummy head, and how working at Heritage - all of Heritage - can often feel like that last scene in Raiders of The Lost Ark, when Indy is watching the ark as it is buried by a forklift in a the back of a non-descript warehouse somewhere in Washington, D.C. The difference here, though, is that things are only put away briefly - until bought at auction - and they are relatively easy to get to - as long as you know someone with security clearance and you never, ever, touch! Trust me, when I get to make my happy rounds to any number of Heritage departments to look at the amazing stuff, well, let's just say that my hands are always behind my back and I do the appreciating with my eyes. Thanks Yinan, for the Natural History update. Read on and enjoy! -Noah Fleisher)

How much is a human head worth? About $31,070 if it happens to be the head of an Egyptian mummy.

Before I go any further, I apologize for the late blog entry; after the January auction the staff here at the Natural History department disperses around the world to look for exotic pieces for the next auction and I didn’t get much internet access in Marrakech. Now that I’ve had a chance to dust off my boots, let us examine some of the interesting pieces from the January Signature Natural History auction.

Back to the head: yes, the head dates from sometime between the New Kingdom and Ptolemaic eras (1500-300 BC) and fetched $30K+ after some fierce bidding. I’m actually quite glad it’s no longer sitting in the office; it was getting kinda spooky walking past his eyeless stare on the way to the coffee room every day. If I knew my head was going to be on someone’s shelf in 3000 years, I’d be rather annoyed.

Another fun item that sold was a 9 foot tall Russian Brown Bear that went for $9,560. It was rather entertaining watching people try to figure out how to move it out of the warehouse. You can just hear the bear saying, with a perfect Russian accent: “In Mother Russia, you are not moving bear, bear is moving you!”

Eventually the bear was successfully moved onto a truck before it could crush capitalism.

There were many exciting fossil pieces sold at the auction as well, including a beautiful Pteranodon from Kansas that went for $33,460. The amazing piece looks great and it would look nice on my wall (secret Santas take note).

Some other great pieces that went to good homes? T-rex teeth, dinosaur bones, fossil fish, etc.

The mineral section brought the highest prices of the show, with the top bid being a giant aquamarine crystal from Pakistan, bringing in $143,400. It essentially looked like a nice big piece of blue ice bigger than a flashlight. Although minerals don’t quite have the organic aspect of the other Natural History categories, they’re generally very pretty.

So what is it like working in Natural History? Remember that final scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where the box containing the Ark is wheeled into a warehouse full of boxes? Yes, it’s like that. Our shelves are chuck full of oddities, taxidermies, dinosaurs, crystal skulls, and the occasional human head.

At the moment we’re working on processing our new inventory for the next Signature Natural History auction; June 6th 2010 in Beverly Hills. I’ll post again before the auction to give you a preview of some of the special pieces on our shelves! Until then, happy bidding!

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-Yinan Wang

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