Bernie Madoff's Books up for Auction

- by Michael Stillman

Madoff books

Some of the books from Bernie Madoff's Palm Beach home.

A large auction will be taking place at the Miami Beach Convention Center June 3 and 4, and while not primarily a book auction, there are six lots each consisting of numerous books from their once enormously wealthy owner. That owner would be Bernard Madoff, operator of the largest Ponzi scheme ever imagined. He bilked his investors, including some of the richest and most powerful individuals and institutions in the land, out of billions of dollars. When it all came tumbling down, a fortune was lost, and the lives of investors who had most of their savings entrusted to him came crashing down as well. Mr. Madoff was tried and convicted, and sentenced to 150 years in prison. He will be well over 200 years old before he can be freed.

 

This is not a great collection, though there are books of modest value within it. Nothing indicates he was a particularly knowledgeable book collector. They come from Madoff's Palm Beach residence, which was secondary to his New York home. Perhaps he had better in New York. Nonetheless, I am sure most of us would be quite pleased having Madoff's secondary residence as our first, or owning the various jewelry, furniture, art and other accoutrements of wealth Mr. Madoff possessed. They may also be purchased at this auction. It certainly must have been fun while it lasted.

 

The first book lot includes the Cambridge Shakespeare, a limited edition that might be worth a grand or two, a Longfellow compilation, and a nice set of Dickens' works from 1876. Most volumes are inscribed, but unfortunately by Bernard Gooch Smith, not Charles Dickens. Smith was apparently a descendant of John Smith, but not the John Smith, just a John Smith.

 

The next book lot has some poetry and other works by Walter Scott. Again, these are not the premier editions. There is George Bancroft's The History of the United States, but in a fourth edition.

 

The next lot includes A History of British Birds, probably worth a few hundred dollars, and some more Shakespeare about 400 years too late to be seriously valuable.

 

The fourth lot is described as "Twenty (20) hard back books; novels & fiction." This description is repeated 12 times without ever telling us what even one of those twenty (20) books is. I will guess they are not of great value.

 

The fifth lot includes a whole mess of books and catalogues, all of modern vintage. Six are inscribed to Mr. Madoff, an embarrassment to authors such as Herman Wouk, George Kennan, and Saul Bellow, that probably gives them an ironic sort of collecting value. Even more ironic is The New York Mets, A Photographic History. Mr. Madoff's bankruptcy trustee is threatening the owner of the New York Mets with a billion (yes, billion) dollar lawsuit for withdrawals and profits made with Madoff on the grounds he either knew or should have known that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. Other titles in this lot suggest Madoff liked fishing, boats, cigars, art, wine, and Rolex watches (the latter confirmed by watches available in this sale). Ruth Madoff, Mr. Madoff's wife, has signed three of these books.

 

The sixth book lot consists of a truckload of stuff too varied to describe. Suffice it to say it is sufficient to start a library, though not a very well defined one. Everything and everyone from John Denver to Ansel Adams, Gore Vidal, President Ford, the Soviet Union, sex, health, securities, Don Quixote, you name it, is here.

 

You may bid for these books, and everything else, online if you can't be in Miami. You have to put $1,000 to bid, but it is refundable. You can find the auction at this link, but time is almost up: click here. Click "View Pictures" to see the lots. Books are found in lots 616, 617, 618, 750, 751, and 752. These books may not be among the most valuable you will ever find, but the provenance is priceless.