Forgotten Gems and Coins to Be Sold Off at Safe Deposit Box Auction

By Sybile Penhirin on August 4, 2014 5:16pm 

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 Unclaimed items including gold coins and a diamond brooch are up for auction on the Upper East Side.
Safe Deposit Boxes Auction
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UPPER EAST SIDE — Gold coins and a diamond brooch are just some of the treasures recently unearthed from abandoned safe deposit boxes across New York State. 

New Yorkers will get a chance to take home these items and hundreds more at a Doyle New York auction this Thursday, where prices will start at less than $100 for everything from costume jewelry to antique watches.

“Everyone is looking for that special piece and hopes no one else finds it,” said Joe Wieder, an antique jewelry dealer who runs a family business on West 47th Street, after spending an hour and a half perusing the offerings at a preview last week.

The 120 groupings of items that are up for auction come from Bank of America and Deutsche Bank’s abandoned safe deposit boxes. Safe deposit boxes are considered abandoned if they haven't been paid for on time and the bank hasn’t been able to contact the box’s owner.

Many of the items are not very valuable, like piles of old baseball cards, valued at $15 to $25, and jewelry fragments, valued to $1 to $5. But there are also gems like the platinum and diamond brooch, worth $3,000 to $4,000, and a set of 12 gold spoons from Tiffany & Co., worth $4,000 to $6,000.

Other abandoned items include a $4,000 to $6,000 gold, emerald, diamond and pearl necklace, a set of gold coins from the United States and Mexico, worth $5,000 to $6,000.

The starting bid for the items is half of the minimum estimated value, which would be $2,000 for the necklace and $2,500 for the coins.

Ann Harstead, 73, who drove in from New Jersey to preview the auction last week, said she was hoping to find items that would make good presents.

“We’re looking for stuff for ourselves and it’s also a good way to find things to offer for Christmas,” she said.

Revenues from the sale, minus outstanding fees owned to the banks, will go to the New York State Unclaimed Property office. The auction house also charges the banks a commission fee.

While Doyle New York usually auctions off fine art and jewelry that sells for tens of thousands of dollars, the company has held the safe deposit box auction twice a year for the past 30 years.

The boxes sometimes contain hidden treasures like a diamond and emerald necklace that sold for more than $1 million in the late 1980s, said Louis LeB. Webre, Doyle’s marketing and media senior vice president.

He added that the tradition of keeping valuables in safe deposit boxes may be waning.

“Bank safety deposit boxes are less common that they were a few decades ago," he said. "People have their own safety box now and they travel with their jewelry."

Those who want to get a sneak peek at the items can see them at Doyle Gallery, 175 E. 87th St., until 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The auction will take place at the gallery at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

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