After the Covid-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, it’s safe to say that 2020 was an unusual year. We all felt the effects of the virus through surreal lockdowns, travel restrictions and homeschooling demands. Fortunately, with our services offered 100% online and our team of specialists already accustomed to working remotely, Mearto did not have to make any major adjustments to the way we do business. In fact, it was a record-breaking year in terms of the number of items that we evaluated.
We took a look back through thousands of items that Mearto specialists appraised online in 2020 and picked out 12 that we thought were unusual (in keeping with the overall vibe of this year) or particularly interesting.
Click on the links below to see images and our valuation of each item.
Have you ever seen a 20 dollar bill that was worth 1,000 dollars? This one, which is missing most of the front face, including the iconic portrait of Andrew Jackson, was discovered by our customer’s mother while working at a bank in the 1980s. This particular kind of misprint is valued by people who collect currency, commonly known as numismatists, and we estimated the fair market (auction) value to be between $800 and $1,000.
This set of items makes the list because of its jaw-dropping value. At least two of the three stubs were in excellent condition and there is increased demand for sports memorabilia related to Michael Jordan’s early career, due to the popular ESPN docuseries, “The Last Dance,” so we estimated that the set would fetch up to $75,000 at a well-advertised auction. At this game, which took place at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Michael Jordan led a team of several other notable players, coached by Bobby Knight, to a 96-85 gold medal victory against Spain.
While we’re on the subject of basketball, this item was like nothing we’ve ever appraised before: a 20 x 20 foot section of the original basketball court from Michigan State University’s Breslin Center. The section includes the court key (free throw lane) and Spartan’s helmet logo. The previous owner purchased the section for installation in his private home after the floor of the Breslin Center was replaced in 2000. Based on just a handful of comparable sales and an estimated price per square foot, we provided a fair market valuation between $20,000 and $40,000.
Regardless of your political leanings, we can all agree that one of the many events that made 2020 an unusual year was the US presidential election. This item, a pair of ceremonial scissors, has a unique connection to former President Donald Trump. They were used by him in a 1990 ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the now infamous Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Shortly after opening, the casino made headlines. Many believed that the opening was rushed, gaming commission rules were violated, and the casino filed for bankruptcy just one year later. Because of their historical significance, we estimated the value of these scissors to be between $75 and $150.
Believed to date from 1200 AD, or around the time of the Crusades, this terracotta object is a kind of “fire bomb” or hand grenade, which would have been filled with oil, ignited, then thrown against wooden fortifications or a ship. According to a letter provided by the customer, this particular item was discovered by a diver in the wreck of an ancient ship near Haifa. The customer inherited the item from his stepfather, who received it as a gift from a German official. This official, in turn, had received it as a gift from Yitzhak Rabin, former Prime Minister of Israel. Our estimate was between $400 and $800.
Even if you know absolutely nothing about the world of boxing, the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” match should ring a bell. This match took place in Zaire in 1974 and is considered by many to be the greatest sporting event of the 20th Century. It is estimated that over 1 billion people watched the fight between previously undefeated George Foreman and underdog Muhammad Ali, who won with a KO in the eighth round. Though it hasn’t been authenticated and is not in top condition, our high estimate of a promotional poster from this match, signed and dated by Muhammad Ali, was over $1,000.
Another unique promotional item that we appraised this year was a lithographic handbill, or flyer, distributed by the Black Panthers on the campus of LA Trade Tech in November 1968 for a Freedom Rally to raise support and funds for the legal defense of political activists Leroy Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Percy Newton. Cleaver was involved in the Oakland riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and charged with attempted murder. He jumped bail and fled to Cuba. Newton, one of the co-founders of the Black Panther Party, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but the conviction was later overturned and he was released in 1970. We estimated the value of this historically-significant flyer to be between $50 and $200.
We couldn’t help thinking about Jurassic Park when we appraised this item: a fully-intact black scorpion, fossilized and trapped inside an amber stone. The piece measures approximately 3.5 x 1.5 inches. Such items are commonly manufactured in Asia and South America and are worth approximately $50. However, the customer says that he received this item as a gift from a geology professor, who claimed it to be an extremely rare fossil. If a physical inspection (necessary to judge the quality and originality of the piece) proved this to be true, the value would be closer to $1,000.
Margaret Mitchell’s epic tale of the Civil War, told from the perspective of Southern Belle, Scarlett O’Hara, and later adapted into the classic film, has come under scrutiny for its insensitive and inaccurate depictions of slavery. However, it remains a quintessential work of American literature and a first edition with dust cover in excellent condition and, having been originally purchased from a book dealer in 1981 for $650, is now valued between $1,200 and $1,800.
While we frequently appraise weapons and militaria related to the First and Second World Wars, this item was a first for us. Inherited from the customer’s father, who served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in the South Pacific during WWII, this “grass skirt” is made from the silk fibers of a parachute. It is believed that his father made it by hand in 1944 or 1945. This truly one-of-a-kind item would likely sell between $150 and $250 at auction.
“What’s up, doc?” This item evokes vivid memories of Saturday morning cartoons. Though the estimated value of this drawing is a modest $400 to $600, the fact that it was acquired by the customer’s father at an MGM convention in the 1940s and drawn by the hand of the “wascaly wabbit’s” creator, Leon Schlesinger, makes it interesting. Schlesinger produced Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies from 1930 to 1944, when his studio was acquired by the Warner Brothers.
When you think of Prada, elegant shoes, bags and other fashion items likely spring to mind. But what about board games? This backgammon set, which was purchased from the Prada flagship store on 5th Avenue, is a unique collector’s item. We estimated its value between $150 and $350, however, retail asking prices may vary. A set made of luxurious Saffiano leather is currently for sale on Prada’s website. It retails for close to $4,000. If backgammon isn’t your game, you could always go for this “Tic-Tac-Toe” set.