Ginsburg’s Tea Set, Coat and Other Items Raise $800K for Opera

All told, an online auction of 150 items owned by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg raised $803,650 for the Washington National Opera, one of the passions of the late justice.

Supreme_Court_Ginsburg_Auction_82628 FILE – In this image from the video, a black mink fur coat, right, and a signed opera poster by the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg are on display at Potomack Company Auctions in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday, April 11, 2022. An online auction of 150 owned items van Ginsburg, has raised $803,650 for the Washington National Opera. Opera was one of the passions of the late justice.

AP Photo/Nathan Ellgren, File

Supreme_Court_Ginsburg_Auction_87658 FILE – In this image from the video, Elizabeth Haynie Wainstein, right, hangs a piece of modern art by the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Potomack Company Auctions in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday, April 11, 2022. An online auction of 150 items from Ginsburg has $ 803,650 collected for the Washington National Opera. Opera was one of the passions of the late justice.

AP Photos/Nathan Ellgren, File

Supreme_Court_Ginsburg_Auction_57316 FILE – In this image from the video, a Picasso sketch of the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg is featured at Potomack Company Auctions in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday, April 11, 2022. An online auction of 150 items owned by Ginsburg has $803,650 raised for the Washington National Opera. Opera was one of the passions of the late justice.

AP Photo/Nathan Ellgren, File

Supreme_Court_Ginsburg_Auction_83128 FILE – This image from the video features modern art featuring Native Americans by the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, featured at Potomack Company Auctions in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday, April 11, 2022. An online auction of 150 items owned by Ginsburg raised $803,650 for Washington National Opera. Opera was one of the passions of the late justice.

AP Photo/Nathan Ellgren, File

Supreme_Court_Ginsburg_Auction_68119 FILE – In this image from the video, a silver coffee and tea set, left, and an autographed photograph of an opera singer, belonging to the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are on display at Potomack Company Auctions in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday, April 11, 2022 An online auction of 150 items from Ginsburg raised $803,650 for the Washington National Opera. Opera was one of the passions of the late justice.

AP Photo/Nathan Ellgren, File

WASHINGTON (AP) — Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s silver tea set goes to a family with a 5-year-old daughter who was once Ginsburg for Halloween. A medal Ginsburg received when he was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame goes to a family who recently demonstrated for reproductive rights. And a drawing of her hanging in her office was a Utah scientist’s Mother’s Day gift to his wife.

All told, an online auction of 150 items owned by the late prosecutors raised $803,650 for the Washington National Opera, one of the late Justice’s passions. The auction ended in late April and buyers are now collecting or arranging for items to be shipped to their homes in 38 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Germany. The winning bids ranged from $850 to $55,000.

Elizabeth Haynie Wainstein, the owner of the auction house The Potomack Company in Virginia, said they were “simply blown away by the interest.” A pre-sale estimate was that the auction could raise $50,000 to $80,000.

Ginsburg died of cancer in September 2020 at the age of 87. In her later years, the court’s second female judge and liberal icon also became a pop culture figure known as the “Notorious RBG.” In January, an online auction of her books brought in $2.3 million, nearly 30 times the presale estimate, according to Bonhams, the company that led the auction.

Francesca Zambello, artistic director of the Washington National Opera, a friend of Ginsburg’s, said the proceeds from this year’s auction “will be a huge help in cultivating our audience’s return” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The auction’s largest ticket item was Ginsburg’s drawing, which sold for $55,000. The image was accompanied by a 2015 article about her in The New York Times. Ginsburg liked it so much that she got a copy for her Supreme Court office signed by the artist, Eleanor Davis. The buyer requested that his name not be made public.

Other high-dollar sales included modern art that Ginsburg had collected. A Pablo Picasso terracotta pitcher she displayed in her living room sold for $25,000, while an earthen Picasso plate hanging in her dining room sold for $22,500. A print of Josef Albers’ “Red Orange Wall,” which hung in Ginsburg’s bedroom, sold for $27,500. Albers was one of Ginsburg’s favorite artists, and an original work of his on loan from the Smithsonian was prominently displayed in her court office.

Even much less valuable Ginsburg pieces went for large sums. A drawing that one of Ginsburg’s grandchildren, Paul Spera, made as a child depicting his grandmother’s Statue of Liberty sold for $12,000. At the top, Spera had written “Bubbie of Liberty,” with the Yiddish word for grandma.

Other sales include $5,000 for a glass souvenir vase given to attendees of a Capitol lunch after President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, $16,000 for a black mink coat with Ginsburg’s name sewn into a pocket, and $30,000 for her 2002 National Women’s Hall of Fame Medal. Buyers paid an additional 27% in auction fees on top of their winning bid.

Before her death, Ginsburg displayed a number of items being auctioned off in her apartment in the Watergate complex in Washington. The auction’s online catalog featured images of how Ginsburg had exhibited those items.

Jennifer DiBrienza, a California educator, was the winning bidder of the medal, spending nearly twice as much as she planned. When she bid towards the end of the auction, the price floated up, she thought to herself, “I’ve been winning this for days. I can’t give up now,” she said.

DiBrienza, who demonstrated with her three children last week after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn a nationwide right to abortion that the court recognized in 1973, said she hopes having Ginsburg’s medal “will be a reason to talk about her. †

Krishan Paramesvaran was the winning bidder for two items: a wooden sculpture for $3,500 and a silver tea set for $5,000. The technical director and father of three said his family plans to place the sculpture in their living room and the tea set alongside china in their dining room. The tea set will mainly be on display, he said, although he believes it will be used once or twice. Paramesvaran said his 5-year-old daughter, the one who dressed up as Ginsburg for Halloween, knows it’s coming and that they’ve talked to her in the past about “powerful women” and “the impact RBG has had.”

Right now, he said, the family is “super, super excited” as they wait for the items to be shipped to them in Washington state. Said Paramesvaran: “We have not been able to stop thinking about the fact that we are about to have something in our house that she owned.”

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