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Madoff Auction: $4,750 for a Decoy Duck?

Who would want Bernie Madoff’s old stuff?

U.S. Marshals auctioned off hundreds of Madoff’s things at a weekend auction in New York, raising about $1 million for Madoff victims.

Nearly 1,000 bidders showed up, vying for all kinds of items, from jewelry and watches to home and yacht décor.

Dave from Long Island (he wouldn’t give his last name) said he wanted the ring buoy from Madoff’s yacht that said “Bullship, N.Y.”to hang in his office. He works at a hedge fund.

“I think it’s funny,” Dave said of the buoy, “because Madoff is the biggest douchebag ever. It’s ironic.”

The buoy was among the items that generated the most interest.

One man said he was at the auction to do some Christmas shopping. He wanted a strand of Ruth Madoff’s pearls for his wife and that buoy for his son’s room, among other things.

Imagine that bedtime story: "Well, Timmy, once upon a time, there was a man named Bernie Madoff ..."

The buoy ultimately sold for $7,500 — 50 times the estimated sales price.

Michael Graham, a 17-year old aspiring Wall Streeter, was disappointed that he didn’t get it. He wanted to hang it in his room — and someday, his office.

“That’s OK,” Graham said. “I’ll just have to buy it back in 30 years.”

A businessman from St. Louis bought dozens of items, including a nautical-themed charm bracelet, and planned to distribute them to his daughters and grandchildren on an upcoming cruise to Mexico.

John Silvestry, an insurance salesman from College Point, Queens, was looking for one of Madoff’s watches.

“I’m just interested in the Rolexes he might have available,” Silvestry said.

The auction drew locals who just wanted to witness history — or get a good deal on a watch — as well as bankers, lawyers, record executives, estate dealers, collectors and many curious tourists.

Robert Cooper, a lawyer from Boca Raton, Fla., was in town for a conference when he found out about the auction. He decided to go out of curiosity.

“I just wanted to see what Madoff really owned … first hand,” Cooper said, but added he probably wouldn’t buy anything. “Bad karma,” he explained.

Cooper and a few fellow lawyers from Boca inspected the merchandise the day before the auction and weren’t impressed — a sentiment expressed by many people at the auction.

“The first part looked like junk — until you got to the jewelry,” said Melanie Maus, who works with Cooper at the law firm Johnson, Morgan & White in Boca.

Indeed, Ruth Madoff’s baubles were among the items that sold for the highest prices: Within the first few minutes of the auction, a pair of black onyx and diamond art deco earrings sold for $70,000, followed by an Edwardian-era diamond and emerald braceletthat sold for $65,700. Those famous three-tiered diamond earringsfrom the brochure also sold for $70,000.

Ruth’s handbags were all the buzz among the women at the auction — many were tourists who hoped to get a good deal on a Chanel or Hermes bag. But most of them went for over $1,000 — 10 times the expected price in most cases.

“A Louis Vitton sold for more than a new one would!” exclaimed Lori Cooper, Robert’s wife, who was hoping for one of those handbags. “At that price,” she said,” I’d rather go to Saks and buy a new one.”

That famous blue-satin Mets jacket that said “Madoff” in orange letters across the back sold for $14,500 to an unknown bidder online.

Even the items you might’ve thought you could get on the cheap sold for thousands. Remember the duck decoys? Yeah, the cheapest one went for $3,250, the most expensive —$4,750. The same bidder bought all three for a grand total of $11,500.

There was a lot of buzz among those flooding out of the auction about a small, wooden yard markerthat was painted white and had the initials “BLM” and “216” in black lettering. It used to be in front of the Madoffs’ Montauk, L.I., beach house.

“Did you hear about that sign?” one woman exclaimed. “A cheap, wooden sign. It went for $2,000! Crazy.”

Stationary with "Bernard Madoff" on the top — and it didn't even have the matching envelopes — sold for $2,500.

Everyone had their reasons for buying what they did at the auction. Some just wanted a piece of history. Others wanted to resell the items or display them in their office.

One financial adviser from Latin America, who wouldn’t give his name, flew 10,000 miles to New York with his wife for the auction. Several of his clients were victims of Madoff.

“I’m on a support mission,” said the man, who bought a set of Titleist golf clubs and a couple of fishing rods. “The more money goes into this, the more people recover,” he said.

So, does he plan to golf with the clubs?

“Of course!” he said. “I’m going to hit them as hard as I can!”


Questions? Comments? Write to ponyblog@cnbc.com.

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