Other great house clearance sales of our time

Sinatra's Palm Springs estate: 1995

On reaching 80 in 1995, Frank Sinatra decided to "simplify his life", and put his Palm Springs Estate up for sale. The property fetched $4.9m (pounds 3.2m), the contents more than $2m. The art collection was eclectic, featuring early 20th-century Impressionist pieces alongside less sought- after works such as Young Boy With Big Blue Eyes (estimate, $50).

Along with the paintings, the list of tat on offer was endless: a diamond- monogrammed golden shoehorn; a gold microphone; an E-Z-Go golf cart (complete with stereo system) inscribed "Ol' Blue Eyes" on one side and "Lady Blue Eyes" on the other ($20,700); three silver-plated goblets inscribed "Good Health King Sinatra".

The Duchess of Windsor's jewels: 1987

The jewellery was disposed of in a frenzied auction with 1,000 buyers in New York linked by satellite to the Geneva saleroom. Lots included the distinctive Cartier flamingo brooch (pounds 500,000) and the Mclean diamond ring (pounds 1.79m). The $50m sale would have appalled the Duke, who stipulated in his will that no woman other than his wife should ever wear the jewels.

Andy Warhol: 1988

A vast jumble of Warhol's possessions filled the Sotheby's New York premises, attracting 20,000 visitors before the 10-day sale of the spoils of a lifetime's obsessive shopping. The assembled cookie jars ($247,830 the lot, estimate $5,000 to $7,000),Mickey Mouse watches and American folk art paintings helped to raise more than $25m.

Rudolf Nureyev: 1995

Nureyev's personal effects were sold at two auctions, in New York and London. Christie's launched a line of merchandise for the sale, including carrier bags bearing the Nureyev legend, at pounds 2.50 each. Three days before the saleroom doors opened, Christie's New York sold 7,000 catalogues at $50 each. Hastily prepared photocopies realised $25 each. As usual, those who wanted something to put in their carrier bags ignored the saleroom's estimates. A pair of the dancer's ballet slippers fetched pounds 12,075 in London, and a costume for Don Quixote $36,800 in New York. When the dust finally settled after the show, $7.9m had been raised.

BEN SUMMERS

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