Following on from last week’s story about Edward VIII’s wisdom tooth (which failed to sell despite hopes of £10,000), I am reminded of some of the more talismanic items that have either appeared at auction or sold as collectables, but whose associations are so grim that they overcome any appeal.
It’s a bit like visiting the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s – always the most popular section of this rather overpriced London landmark: people love being thrilled by the chill of close contact with evil for a moment or two, but in the end they don’t want to take it home with them.
Talking to a well-known collector recently, I asked him if there was anything that he regretted acquiring over his 50-year career. Most chillingly, he replied, the doorknocker from 10 Rillington Place, home of the serial killer Christie, and where he concealed the bodies of his victims. A snip at a tenner, it spooked him so much that he had to keep it in the shed and soon got rid of it.
Another was Stalin’s death mask and cast of his hands, which he sent to a foundry for casting in bronze. The foundry workers found the items so creepy that they refused to keep them in the building.
The macabre is not many people’s cup of tea when it comes to collecting, but there will always be someone out there willing to take a punt on it.