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Unclaimed property finds owners at a Morphy’s sale
By Susan Emerson Nutter

DENVER, Pa. — Unclaimed funds. Who hasn’t hoped to see their name listed in the paper stating they had money due to them because of a long-forgotten bank account; a lost insurance refund, an unknown relative’s generosity?

Unclaimed property owns the same allure. At one time these pieces were of great value to the owner who deemed a safety deposit box the best way to secure the possessions. Then some unforeseen circumstance makes it so this merchandise became ownerless. An auction ensues, and buyers eager for the opportunity to buy another’s forgotten possessions show up to bid.

Such merchandise made up a portion of the February event by Morphy Auctions. In collaboration with the Pennsylvania Treasury’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property, Morphy presented a sale of 200 lots of fine jewelry, watches, coins and other valuable items pulled directly from the Treasury’s vaults in Harrisburg, Pa.

When the dust settled, the sale totaled more than $1 million – including the 20 percent buyer’s premium – with 26 percent of this total attributed to prices realized for the Pennsylvania Treasury items.

“There was a lot of interest from the media in the run-up to this sale, especially because of the Treasury Department items,” said Dan Morphy. “It was the first time in 10 years that the Treasury had sanctioned a live auction of unclaimed goods from safe deposit boxes. The quality was there, all the way.”

Jewelry took center stage at the auction. A platinum engagement ring sporting a 4.25 carat, European-cut central diamond commanded $19,800. Not to be out-done, a 14K gold, heart-shaped pendant set with a 1.25 carat, pear-shaped center diamond was taken to $18,600.

Timepiece highlights included an 18K diamond-face Rolex Presidential watch, $10,800; and a sporty Swiss-made Breitling Chronograph with cobalt blue and gold face, $5,700.

A fully authenticated, 1787 hand-written land deed signed by Benjamin Franklin made $13,200.

A greater portion of the 1,146-lot sale included consignments of paintings, mechanical music, a collection of vintage violins and a broad selection of decorative art, including Part II of a highly refined Amphora pottery collection.

The desire to own these rare Amphora pieces from the Les Cohen collection brought out aggressive bidding by enthusiasts of this ware. A monumental 18 1/2 inch Daughter of the Rhine vase with applied jewels and enameled flowers rose to $18,000. Another crowd-pleaser was the 22 1/2 inch Amphora Saurian & Crab vase. Estimated at $7,000 to $9,000, it was taken to $13,800.

Making his debut as Morphy’s new fine art consultant, Patrick Orbe was pleased to represent a selection of paintings he curated for the Feb. 8-9 sale. The top lot at $37,200 was a Ferdinand Richardt (Danish 1819-1895) oil-on-canvas, View of Niagara Falls.

“I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way bidders responded to the fine jewelry and other articles from the Pennsylvania Treasury,” Morphy said.

“Even though all of their items were offered without reserve, nearly every piece met or exceeded expectations, with sales totaling $260,000. We’re very much looking forward to presenting the next Treasury selection, which we anticipate will be sometime in the fall.”

Contact: (717) 335-3435

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