Monday, July 29, 2013

Original Schindler's List Offered At $3,000,000

by Stephen J. Gertz

"Don't miss your chance to own a piece of history that has inspired many on the difference one person can make in the face of great danger. This exceedingly rare original Schindler’s List is the only one ever on the market. It emanates from the family of Itzhak Stern, Schindler’s accountant and right hand man (played by Ben Kingsley in the Academy Award-winning film). There are 3 others known which are in institutional hands. It is 14 pages in length and lists 801 male names, dated April 18, 1945. It is guaranteed authentic… Itzhak Stern typed up the 14 page list on onion skin paper. Up for auction is not a copy of that list, but the actual one. It was sold by Itzhak Stern's nephew to the current owner. It is dated in pencil on the first page, April 18, 1945."

An original of Oscar Schindler's list of factory workers to be saved from Nazi gas chambers was offered through an online auction that ended Sunday July 28th at 9PM EDT. On eBay. For  $3,000,000. That's three million george w's. It did not sell.

I, as most professional antiquarian booksellers, am customarily dubious about rare books and documents sold through eBay. Prices often appear to be calculated within a Martian atmosphere with little connection to market realities by sellers who are often amateurs, at best, and authentication can be a challenge. So, when I learned of this offer I simply shook my head: another wacko episode on eBay, the auction network at the bottom of the ratings.

However, when I casually mentioned this offer to a highly respected trade colleague here in Los Angeles he told me that he knew the seller. Not only that but the seller, Gazin Auctions/Auction Cause, was his next door neighbor.

Prior to the auction's end, I contacted Eric Gazin to find out if this is real or if I can share the opium pipe he's been sucking on.

SJG: How did you arrive at the offering price? Can you tell me something about the owner? How did the owner find you? I ask the last because I find it curious that it is being offered on eBay and not through Sotheby's, Christie's, or any other major auction house.

EG: The owner [in Israel] wishes to remain anonymous. This came to me through Gary Zimet, owner of Moments in Time, a document dealer. He is the one who arrived at this price. Contrary to conventional wisdom, eBay is a great location to offer these kinds of rare pieces. Our clients and buyers love the fact there is no 10% buyer's premium too, means more funds to spend on the auction item.

We sold the Rush Limbaugh - Harry Reid letter there for $2.1 million, the highest price ever achieved for a modern document. We have an active base of high net worth individuals who often make purchases from us.

SJG: At that price any serious collector will want to personally view it before committing to buy. What arrangements do you have for previewing the List?

EG: Yes, the winner will be able to see the List in person in Israel while his/her funds are in an escrow account and can bring along their expert.

SJG: If you have no bidders what's your next step?

EG: We have a few interested parties that may or may not bid, and if it ends without them bidding, we will be continuing the purchase discussions with them.

SJG: What sort of business do you have? What do you trade in?

EG: My company is a high profile auction management agency. We help mainly celebrities, charities, corporate brands, TV shows, and individuals with unique auction offerings which need design, promotion, bidder screening, logistic services, research, and consulting. Personally, I love historical items, rare books, and other paper pieces. We are always happy to assist a collector looking for a non traditional auction house alternative.

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So, there you have it. Schindler's Original List, yours for only $3,000,000, private sale pending upon negotiation. When you can sell a letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Limbaugh's boss, Mark P. Mays, CEO of Clear Channel Communications, excoriating Limbaugh for intemperate comments (read it here), and co-signed by forty-one Democratic senators for $2.1 million, all of a sudden $3 mil for an original of Schindler's List doesn't seem an insane price, nor eBay an inane place for rare books and historical paper from a respectable, high-end dealer..

Images courtesy of Gazin Auctions, with our thanks.

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