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The stuff that bids are made of

Richard Kimble

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>NEW YORK (AP) ? A statuette of a bird featured in the classic 1941 detective thriller "The Maltese Falcon" sold for more than $4 million at auction Monday.


The final price on the 45-pound, 12-inch-tall prop was $4,085,000, according to Bonhams auction house. That includes Bonham's premium.


The black figurine is one of two known cast lead statuettes made for John Huston's screen version of the film but the only one confirmed by Warner Bros. archives as having appeared in it, said Bonhams, which declined to provide a pre-sale estimate. The winning bid came over the phone.


The statuette has a Warner Bros. inventory number etched into the base and bears the name of the movie, which starred Humphrey Bogart as private eye Sam Spade.


The figure has a bent right tail feather, damage incurred during filming, Bonhams said. Actress Lee Patrick, who played Spade's secretary, Effie, dropped it while handing it to Bogart.


The statuette's unidentified owner bought it privately in the 1980s. It has been exhibited at the Warner Bros. Studio Museum, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


It was offered in a sale of other classic movie memorabilia.<

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Several websites say that the the Kniphausen Hawk was the inspiration for the original Maltese Falcon in the novel. And it also looks like the model of the Falcon in the original 1931 movie:








The 1941 Falcon looks more like a model of an ancient Egyptian hawk.


I've never been able to find out anything about the whereabouts of the original 1931 Falcon prop.

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Wow Fred, thanks for that photo & link-that bird is magnificent!


I read the article from the link you posted and my attention was caught by: "The resin falcon was lost for years before being rediscovered in 1991"


This raised all sorts of red flags in my mind.


I have been brought *many* incomplete art pieces by clients that want them restored "to original" condition for their "own collection". A few years later, I see them show up in the big auction houses calling them "newly discovered & professionally restored to their original glory".


For example, an antique carousel horse head & neck brought to me in a basket where we carved an ENTIRELY NEW BODY. To me, if less than 50% of the carving is original, this becomes an artist's interpretation, not an authentic antique and should be disclosed to buyers. Instead, this is passed off as an original antique. (I suppose a testament to our shop's design & carving skills, right?)


The poor schmo who paid $150,000 for that $1000 piece would most likely sue the seller and auction house for misrepresentation if they ever had the figure stripped and saw all new wood underneath. But it's worded in such a way the seller/auction house would probably win the suit.

I've seen lots of what I consider fakes (and stolen pieces!) pass through auction houses where they simply claim to be the vehicle for the seller.


When you're speaking of big money like this, caveat emptor.

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