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The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 11, March 11, 2001, Article 9

CONSIGNOR ANONYMITY 

   As noted above by Karl Moulton, it can be difficult, if not 
   impossible, for numismatic researchers to learn the true 
   identity of auction consignors. Often, this is at the request 
   of consignors, many of whom prefer to remain anonymous. 

   A recent article about art auctions in The Wall Street Journal 
   (March 2, 2001, pW10), notes "In the past, sellers at auction 
   have always insisted on anonymity - for tax reasons, out of 
   decorum, and just in case an artwork turns out to be of 
   dubious provenance."   The article calls seller anonymity 
   "an auction-house sacred cow", and discusses a court case 
   that may force open the veil of anonymity. 

   "In January, Christie's International sold off an American 
   mahogany card table for $149,000.  The problem is 
   Livermore, Maine, dealer Peter Cushman.  He claims the 
   table was stolen from him and is suing the auctioneer in 
   New York State Supreme Court to get the table or his 
   money back. 

   "... To prove the desk is rightfully his, Mr. Cushman 
   wants Christie's to say who the seller was... If Mr. 
   Cushman can prove that his desk was stolen, and that 
   the person Christie's sold it for was in any way aware of, 
   or involved in, that theft, auctioneers may have to start 
   giving up clients' identities" 

   Question:  what's the big deal?  Sure, sellers have 
   always wanted anonymity, but what right do auctioneers 
   have to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement 
   officials?  Why should it take a court order? 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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