It was good fun reading in the Nov. 6 issue about the discovery of the Faberge figure of Empress Alexandra of Russia’s bodyguard being sold at auction for $5.2 million after sitting in the attic of a Rhinebeck family for many years. Stories like that warm the hearts of those who have a box of something in their attic that they have been meaning to open for … ever.
But the front-page headline, suggesting that we mere mortals might have such a staggeringly valuable item in our possession right now, is misleading, to say the least. The article said George Davis bought the figure in 1934. The value of $5.2 million in 1934 dollars would have been $298,953.40. Remember that 1934 was the depths of the Great Depression. So anybody back then who had almost $300,000 to spend on a figure like this one was already very wealthy. Moreover, collectors of such figures included the millionairess Barbara Hutton and the British royal family. Ordinary folks didn’t buy these items, and so they wouldn’t have passed them on to their families.
So, unless you are fabulously wealthy or you come from fabulous wealth, the answer to the question on the front page — “Is the figurine in your attic worth $5.2 million? — is almost certainly no.