NEW YORK – They're the spoils of a feast that's over forever: Bernard Madoff's stuff on a government auction block.
Almost 200 items seized from the fallen financier's homes are being sold Saturday in Manhattan, ranging from dishes, pens and stationery to decoy ducks, furs and a Rolex dubbed the "prisoner watch."
There's even a partly used pad of adhesive notes, personalized with "Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities" — a reminder that Madoff's twisted financial activities were interrupted in action.
The Swiss chronograph watch was modeled on those made for World War II Allied airmen imprisoned in Germany, who used them to time prison patrols and plan a possible escape. This one graced the wrist of a 71-year-old inmate in a North Carolina prison, serving a 150-year sentence for defrauding investors for decades.
The goods to be auctioned were shown Friday at a preview at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers.
Madoff's personal effects were guarded by the U.S. marshals who seized his properties — a penthouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side and houses in Montauk, N.Y., and Palm Beach, Fla.
Scanning the items, auction observer Lark Mason said that despite Madoff's riches, he owned things "that you'd find at a fancy suburban garage sale" — though perhaps with a higher price tag.
Mason, who once worked for Sotheby's, said the artworks collected by Madoff and his wife, Ruth, were mostly reproductions and posters.
The Madoffs "were people without discernment, buying things for their superficial appeal but no real value — except for the gold and diamonds," said Mason, adding, "But that's so obvious. Just greed."
And that was just Saturday's sale.
Next week, Madoff's yachts will hit the block, sold in Florida by an auctioneer billing itself as "The World's Largest Boat and Yacht Liquidation Company."
The price of Madoff's apartment on East 64th Street in Manhattan was reduced by $1 million to $8.9 million this week, and the Florida home is on the market for $7.9 million. The Hamptons house sold last month for $9.4 million.
When he was sentenced in June, the punishment included the forfeiture of almost all of his wealth.
Even if the goods displayed Friday weren't grand enough, the path leading to them was.
Red velvet ropes cordoned off the staircase to the hotel's grand ballroom, where the Madoff belongings shared space under a crystal chandelier with about 400 lots of other people's belongings also seized by the government.
Texas-based auctioneer Gaston & Sheehan is running the Manhattan sale for the Marshals Service, hoping to raise at least a half-million dollars to be divided among Madoff's victims. That's only a small dent in the tens of billions his Ponzi scheme cost them, wiping out many financially.
Bidders with a photo ID and $250 refundable cash deposit didn't have to be rich to participate in the auction, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday; online bidders must submit a $1,000 refundable deposit.
Some spoils of Madoff's lavish lifestyles came cheap.
The auctioneers estimate that $80 to $90 could probably buy three used boogie boards marked with "Madoff," or a set of wooden duck decoys.
In a glass case were his-and-hers monogrammed stationery and envelopes, going for $90 to $100, along with the pad of adhesive notes.
Across the ballroom hung a blue satin New York Mets jacket with "Madoff" stitched on the back, valued at up to $720.
Ruth Madoff's Brooks Brothers brown pea coat with a raccoon fur collar, at a $300-to-$460 estimate, had an online high bid of $65 on Friday afternoon. And someone offered $180 for three of Bernard Madoff's Polo golf shirts — valued at up to $210 and bearing the word "Bull," the name Madoff gave to one yacht.
Madoff's Rolex — with an estimate of up to $87,000 — was part of his 40-plus watch collection that also included 16 other Rolexes. All were made in Switzerland, where the swindling financier created billions of dollars in losses.
Madoff wanted his watches in impeccable condition, so he had them restored — thereby devaluing them for collectors, experts say.
Still, prospective buyers apparently are bullish on his personal trove. Inquiries are coming from around the world, from as far as Pakistan, said Bob Sheehan, who was to wield the auctioneer's hammer on Saturday.
"There's huge interest," confirmed Marshals Service spokesman Roland Ubaldo. "I've been getting calls from duck-decoy aficionados. People are interested in his fishing rods and his sports memorabilia."
Madoff, sitting behind bars in Butner, N.C., will never enjoy them again.