Early 20th-Century Enrico Caruso Memorabilia

Value (2009) | $35,000 Auction$55,000 Auction

GUEST:
My grandfather is Enrico Caruso, the legendary Italian tenor who started singing at the Met in 1904 and became a worldwide sensation for many, many years.

APPRAISER:
Well, let's start at the top. This is the Mishkin photograph of Caruso in one of his preeminent roles as Pagliacci the clown. And Herbert Mishkin was the official photographer of the Metropolitan Opera House. And everyone knows Caruso by this photograph. He had a short career, was only 48 years old when he died. He had a legendary 17 years singing for the Metropolitan Opera Company.

GUEST:
That's incredible.

APPRAISER:
But what I love so much is how he became the household name. And that was because of his association with Victor Talking Machines. Victor Victrolas had made a deal with Enrico Caruso. If you got a Victor gramophone, you got free five complimentary Enrico Caruso albums. But you have such personal, wonderful things. This letter by Giacomo Puccini, who wrote some of the most beautiful operas.

GUEST:
My grandmother kept the most important objects of his life and passed them on to my mother and then to me. A couple of the things that he felt most important to him-- his friendship with Puccini and his friendship with Marconi, for instance, represent his character and his personality, since neither my mother nor I really knew him well, since he died when she was a couple of years old.

APPRAISER:
Well, I think what's so wonderful about the Puccini letter, it has so many references to Tosca, Bohème, Butterfly, all the major operas. Most Puccini letters sell for about $1,000, but for so many wonderful references to Caruso personally and the art form, we would value something like that at $3,000 to $5,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
A Marconi letter like this is very unusual, and that would have a value of about $1,000. What I see a lot on the market is caricatures. And in the marketplace, these sell for about $600 to $800. But what's so unusual is you brought us things that are his personal jewelry. This wonderful gold ring is inscribed, "To Enrico Caruso." It has about $300 or $400 worth of gold weight, but yet because it's a personal piece, it's worth about $5,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
Here is the thinnest pocket watch you've ever seen, by Cartier, very early. It is inscribed with his initials as well. Normally a Cartier watch from the turn of the century would be about $6,000 to $8,000, but because it's his watch, it's going to be over $10,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
But my favorite piece is this platinum watch. It is by a company called M. Gattle. It has about five carats of diamonds and about two carats of sapphires on the watch. It has his initials, Enrico Caruso, and if we turn it over, it has this wonderful dedication. This is something that was given to him by the Metropolitan Opera Company as a commemorative. And because of that, this watch alone is going to be worth about $20,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
So, just in the very few items, which is scratching the surface of what you brought me today, just these things would be worth between $35,000 and $55,000 at auction.

GUEST:
Wow.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Heritage Auctions
New York, NY
Appraised value (2009)
$35,000 Auction$55,000 Auction
Event
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)
Period
20th Century
February 22, 2010: In this segment, appraiser Kathleen Guzman refers to one of the guest's items as "the Mishkin photograph of Caruso in one of his preeminent roles as Pagliacci the clown." As one viewer wrote in to point out, however, what Guzman intended to say is that the photo depicts Enrico Caruso in one of his best-known roles, Canio the clown, from the opera entitled Pagliacci.

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