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Madoff Auction: Most Garish Yard Sale Ever

Some buyers, it turned out, were after more than just history. Former rivals of Madoff, now serving his 150-year sentence in a North Carolina prison, appeared to be seeking trophies. Charlie Blumenkehl, for instance, a fund manager based in New Jersey, bought a set of Pings (the club maker owned by Calloway (ELY - Get Report)) whose shafts were inscribed with Madoff's name, for $3,600. The pre-sale estimate was $400. "I just wanted Bernie's name on the clubs," Blumenkehl told the Associated Press.

Another hedge fund manager at the Madoff auction bought a life preserver from Madoff's yacht, which he had named Bull, for $7,500. "It's like having something off the Titanic," the manager told the New York Times.

One item in particular fell short of estimates, however: A rare Rolex chronograph, known as the "Prisoner Watch," which was modeled after timepieces worn by Allied pilots in World War II, some of whom were shot down and captured by Nazis. Valued pre-auction at as much as $85,000, it sold for $20,000 less.

The auction was comprised of 200 lots. Though plenty of conspicuous consumption was on display -- Hermes handbags, Tiffany (TIF - Get Report) jewelry, a convertible Mercedes (DAI) -- many auction participants were struck by the mundanity of the cache. No great art hung on the Madoff walls, for instance. Nor were antiques a Madoff thing.

All told, the Madoff auction brought in about $1 million for victims of the Ponzi scheme, better than the $500,000 expected by Gaston & Sheehan, the auctioneers.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.
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