This past month in collecting, two auctions in particular have stood out for me.
Twice I have reported on the sale of large parts of the Berlin Wall – the ultimate symbol of the Soviet grip over eastern Europe during the 20th century.
Having been covered with awe-inspiring murals and graffiti since its erection (at least on the west side), the pieces make for great collector’s items, as objects of beauty as well as of great historical interest.
First came the sale of a 4-tonne section of the wall, which was sold for $23,500 as an asset of a Ponzi-scheme operating company that swindled $7.3m from its clients.
The second auction was held in Paris, with a single bidder paying $1.1m for 48 fragments of the wall, each covered in recently completed work by internationally renowned artists.
But these two sales weren’t the only appearance the wall has made in the media recently…
Sadly, large sections of the famous East Side Gallery – one of the only sections of the wall still remaining and fantastic testament of its history – are being removed to make way for a new wave of luxury apartments, despite mass protests from those who believe in preserving history.
In my mind, all this raised two important questions:
Firstly, although the sections of the wall sold at auction were removed a long time ago and had likely been on the open market for some time, will sales such as this drive the market for more pieces of the wall, providing an increasingly attractive option for Germany’s cash-strapped government?
And second, at what point do we draw the line at selling items of the utmost historical importance to private collectors, and is it time to consider regulations to ensure that these items are shared with the public?