Reports of the bidding frenzy descended into the ridiculous as it was reported that a 61-year-old piece of wedding cake sold for $26,000 (pounds 17,300). Though likely very stale by now, the cake, sealed in a 3in-square white box, had been valued at up to $1,000 (pounds 660) in a pre-sale estimate.
More than 40,000 lots are being sold from the Bois de Boulogne mansion in Paris where the royal couple lived in exile after the abdication crisis in 1936. The sale was arranged by Mohamed Al Fayed, the owner of Harrods who now owns the property.
The opening session of the sale, which will take place over nine days, attracted an audience of more than 1,000 potential buyers and telephone bids from across the world. Among the lots is the table on which the Duke, then Edward VIII, signed his abdication in 1936 so that he could marry "the woman I love" - Wallis Simpson.
"This is the biggest auction we've ever held in the United States, and as a royal collection, more or less unprecedented in history," said Sotheby's expert Joe Friedman. "One has to go back to the 17th century to find anything comparable - the sale of the possessions of Charles I."
An early highlight was the sale of a ceremonial sword given to Edward in July 1911 to mark his installation as a duke. Valued at up to pounds 36,000, the sword sold for pounds 28,000.
A portrait of the Duchess by the late British painter Cecil Beaton, valued before the sale at pounds 10,000 was purchased for pounds 80,000.Reuse content