If you ask someone to name a gangster, the name most people are going to give you is Al Capone. He’s been portrayed numerous times on the big and small screens and is, to some degree, an icon for many people. He’s never really been portrayed as a nice guy, and yet some people seem to love the guy.
Others are just fascinated by a man who we know definitively broke so many laws that existed in our nation at the time, yet only got convicted of tax fraud. It’s kind of hard not to be a little impressed.
While I have no interest in the man myself–he was a brutal criminal, after all–not everyone shares my opinions apparently.
Some of notorious gangster Al Capone’s belongings — including his favorite pistol and a monogrammed pocket watch — sold for more than $3 million at a live auction Friday in Sacramento.
Nearly 1,000 bidders registered for the auction and a chance to buy about 200 items of Capone family memorabilia, including pistols, jewelry, hand-tinted photographs with family and “associates,” and a letter sent from Alcatraz to Capone’s only child, his son Sonny.
The top-priced item was a Colt .45 semiautomatic pistol, described as Capone’s favorite. It drew a high bid of $860,000, much more than auction director Brian Witherell anticipated.
“We expected that Al Capone’s personal gun would be the top-selling item because we immediately received multiple six-figure bids when we announced the auction back in August,” said Witherell, co-founder of Witherell’s, a family-run auction house in Sacramento, and a guest appraisal expert on PBS’s popular series, Antiques Roadshow.
“The final selling price, along with the record number of registered bidders, completely exceeded our expectations. It really speaks to the notoriety and allure of Al Capone, who is more widely known today than he was 100 years ago.”
While sales are still being finalized, Witherell’s expects the auction of Capone’s estate will end up totaling slightly more than $3 million — far in excess of the original estimate of $400,000 to $700,000.
Not too shabby.
Of course, in fairness, the original estimate might have been right if not for the inflation we’re seeing these days.
Seriously, though, I can’t say that I’m overly surprised.
People have a fascination with famous people, both alive and dead. It’s the reason why biographies do well in bookstores while other non-fiction works might not. It’s why biographical films are often so popular as well. We love learning about famous people. Maybe even especially if they’re dead.
Capone isn’t just historical, he’s part of popular culture. Even people with no real interest in history know the name and that he was a gangster. They might not know about prohibition or Elliot Ness or anything else about the era, but they know Capone.
For folks with the money, owning a bit of history is something they might feel compelled to do. Especially if we’re talking about something like the personal firearms of someone as notorious as Al Capone.
As for me, if I had that kind of money, I’d save it for the personal firearm collection of Doc Holliday, myself, but to each their own.