Thanks for reading the Attic Update, a weekly look at the exciting world of collecting and investing in alternative assets.
The Attic Update is broken down into three sections. Past, Present, and Future. Each week, I will deliver:
- PAST – Interesting ideas about the history of collecting, investing, and markets.
- PRESENT – Ten of the most relevant stories over the last week in collecting and investing in alternative assets.
- FUTURE – Where are we headed? We will look at what’s next for alternative assets and the people working hard to make visions into reality.
Auctioning an Empire –
Almost anything can be sold at an auction these days. There are over 1.6 billion items listed live on eBay this very moment, waiting to be purchased. The number of Craigslist postings right now? Who knows, maybe a trillion?
Auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Bonhams sell billions worth of merchandise every year.
But did you realize that the entire Roman Empire was sold at auction on March 28th, 193 AD?
That’s right. The entire Roman Empire was auctioned by the Praetorian guards and purchased by the highest bidder, who just happened to be a wealthy senator, Didius Julianus.
Needless to say, 193 AD was a tumultuous year for the Roman empire. The Praetorian guards had just murdered the emperor Pertinax. And after some discussion with Sulpicianus, who offered 5,000 drachmas to each officer to be made emperor, the guards decided to sell the Roman empire to the highest bidder by public auction.
Didius Julianus caught word of the auction and proceeded to outbid Sulpicianus, paying 6,250 drachmas per soldier at the auction. Julianus was named emperor and received an oath of allegiance from the Roman Imperial guards.
In his book first published in 1776, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” author Edward Gibbon described the hours following the purchase of the empire by Julianus,
“A magnificent feast was prepared by his order, and he amused himself until a very late hour, with dice, and the performances of Pylades, a celebrated dancer. Yet it was observed that after the crowd of flatterers dispersed, and left him to darkness, solitude, and terrible reflection, he passed a sleepless night; revolving most probably in his mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous predecessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an empire, which had not been acquired by merit, but purchased by money.”
The Praetorian Imperial guards soon deserted Didius Julianus after civil war broke out. Just nine weeks after purchasing the Roman empire at auction, Julianus was condemned and executed by the Roman Senate on June 2nd.
It’s difficult to estimate how much in today’s dollars the Roman empire was auctioned for back in 193 AD, but this armchair historian from Quora takes a “stab” at it with the following math. Julianus paid 6,250 Drachmas per soldier, times 4,500 soldiers, equals 28,125,000 Drachmas total. Not knowing the exact value of one Drachma, the estimated price paid for the Roman empire at auction was somewhere between $50 million and $1 billion in today’s dollars.
Oil Tycoon’s Art Gems and Gary V. Getting Down –
Here’s the ‘Attic Top 10’ – a list of ideas across alternative assets to provoke deeper thought, investigation, curiosity, and fun!
- Fractional Ownership – Rob Petrozzo from Rally discusses fractional ownership and investing on the Outliers podcast. Rob is the man. Always insightful.
- Memorabilia & Collectibles – Apollo 11 moon landing Guidance Computer sells at Sotheby’s auction for $746,000. More than triple the estimates of $200,000 to $300,000
- Sports Cards – Beckett brings the weekly ‘hot and cold’ of the sports card world. Joey Votto hot, Acuna Jr. cold. Did they get it right this week?
- Rare Books – Trying to value the Voynich Manuscript? Good luck. Here’s a primer on the Voynich mystery, history, and intrigue
- Crypto & NFTs – Gary V. throws down $3.7 million for CryptoPunk NFT
- Watches – Jacob & Co. collaborates with graffiti artist Alec Monopoly for a crazy $600,000 watch, the Astronomia Alec Monopoly.
- Wine & Whiskey – Ancient Roman ship discovered near Sicily packed with wine jars from the second century BC
- Markets & Investing – Ray Dalio, “I have some Bitcoin.” Talks inflation and markets with Coindesk. Read more about how Dalio created one of the largest hedge funds on earth
- Collector Cars – Barrett-Jackson buys the Collector Car Network, ClassicCars.com, AutoHunter, to expand their online presence
- Art – Oil tycoon’s impressionist art collection heading to Christie’s this November, including Van Gogh’s ‘Cabanes.’ Many of the works haven’t been seen in public since the 1930s
Featured Pod – Collector’s Quest podcast examines multi-million dollar graded video game sales; check it out!
eBay Announces Built-In Price Guide for Sports Cards
This week, eBay announced their new real-time price guide feature allowing users to monitor changes in sports cards values. Using the massive amount of data from sports card transactions, eBay connects users with a new platform for easier access to updated valuations and market pricing.
Just add your collection to the eBay platform, up to 1,000 cards, and the platform will display estimated values in real-time based on the most recent sales data.
Old school sports card collectors, say it together with me – it’s about time!
Quote from the legends –
“I like to say, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” – Howard Marks
Tweet of the Week –
This was my favorite Twitter thread of the week. Patrick O’Shaughnessy asked about great artists producing amazing wall-worthy artwork, and the replies were awesome. Click the Tweet to read the entire thread.
There are so many great artists out there producing amazing art. Support them if you’re able!
A Question for You –
What new categories would you like to see more discussion about each week? Fractional real estate investment? Antique furniture? Sporting event ticket stubs?? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading!