Jackie 'O' auction sets price on fame

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What value hath fame? This week we glimpsed the answer, courtesy of the estate sale of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Sotheby's in New York and it is measured, of course, in millions - $40m to be precise.

As the auction came to a frenzied conclusion here last night, one thing was obvious. The $4.7m estimate on the thousand-odd mementoes of Jackie O and Camelot was set to be smashed almost ten-fold.

To be sure, the "suggested bids" listed in th auction catalogue were pitched low. Surpassing expectations was vital to generating the price- pumping hype in the media. But nobody expected sums such as these.

"Nuts", "madness", "insane" even "obscene" were the adjectives most used as, one by one, the fragments of Jackie O's life went for prices often twenty times - sometimes even two hundred times - what the catalogue was suggesting.

But the biggest cliche of the salesroom was this: "Buying a piece of history". This was how most who attended rationalised the apparent lunacy of bidders writing cheques for amounts far in excess of the intrinsic value of the items on offer. History, certainly. But also sentimentality and nostalgia for a women who is still considered the only queen America has ever had.

How else do you explain spending $387,500 for a antique set of golf irons in a tatty leather bag; $34,500 for a used horse saddle; or $211,500 on a three-string necklace of fake pearls. The cynics, with their snide snips about the Jackie's tat, have been silenced.

What Jackie would have made of the carnival is anyone's guess. Two happy people must be her children, John and Caroline, who will receive the bulk of the proceeds. And similarly ecstatic, of course, is Sotheby's.