Doyle To Auction Safe-Deposit-Box Contents

What treasures are in your safe deposit box? Or, maybe more interestingly, what treasures are in somebody else’s?

Thursday, June 24, boutique auction house Doyle Galleries offers a glimpse into private bank vaults. The auctioneer will sell more than 500 items-engraved lockets, vintage watches, even engagement rings-from safe deposit boxes that have been seized and opened by order of the New York State Comptroller’s Office. Under state law, after three years of unpaid bills, the state can put the contents of a safe deposit box up for sale as unclaimed and abandoned property.

Doyle has been holding safe-deposit-box sales annually for more than 30 years, drawing mainly jewelers, collectors and the odd curious passerby. “The room is always full,” said Ann Lange, a jewelry specialist at Doyle. “It’s a very popular sale.” Prices range from $10 to a few thousand dollars apiece. (Once, though, a Tiffany emerald brooch sold for $632,500.) This year, Banco Popular is the only bank taking part in the sale, which will also include fine jewelry from private estates. The prices, relative to what similar items (with a less mysterious history) would normally go for, are low. They’re “priced to get people interested in bidding, much less than retail,” said Ms. Lange.

Two Hermes enamel bracelets, inscribed with patterns of feathers, bone and seashells, are estimated at $300 to $500 for the pair. A new bracelet of the same size and similar design is priced at $510 at the French luxury goods store. A diamond and white gold Patek Philippe watch is priced at $4,000 to $6,000.

Before such auctions are held, a bank must, by law, make attempts to contact the owners-by sending letters and placing ads in local papers. In the past, some box owners of their heirs have saved their possessions from the block, a happy ending. Unless you’re a bargain-hunter.

  Doyle To Auction Safe-Deposit-Box Contents