Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s silver tea set will go to a family with a 5-year-old daughter who was once Ginsburg on Halloween. Awarded the Ginsburg Medal when inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, it goes to a family who recently bid for reproductive rights. A drawing of her hung in her office was a Mother’s Day gift that a Utah scientist gave his wife.
Finally, an online auction of 150 items owned by the late judge 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 selecting the items or arranging to have them shipped to their homes in 38 states, in the District of Columbia, Canada and Germany. Winning bids ranged from $850 to $55,000.
Elizabeth Heaney Weinstein, owner of auction house The Potomack Company in Virginia, said she was “really stunned by the interest.” A pre-sale estimate was that the auction could raise $50 to $80,000.
Ginsburg died of cancer at the age of 87 in September 2020. In her later years, a second court 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 pre-sale estimates, according to Bonhams, the company that conducted the auction.
Francesca Zampello, artistic director of the Washington National Opera, who is a friend of Ginsburg, said the auction proceeds will be “a huge help this year as we try to appeal to our audience” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest ticket item at the auction was the Ginsburg drawing, which sold for $55,000. The photo was attached to a 2015 article about it in the New York Times. Ginsburg loved it so much that she got a copy for her Supreme Court office signed by artist Eleanor Davis. Buyer asked not to be named.
Other high dollar sales included Art Nouveau collected by Ginsburg. The Pablo Picasso terracotta jug she displayed in her living room sold for $25,000, while the Picasso pottery hanging in her dining room sold for $22,500. A copy of Joseph Albers’ “Red Orange Wall,” which hung in Ginsburg’s bedroom, sold for $27,500. Albers was among Ginsburg’s favorite artists, and the original work of him on loan from the Smithsonian was prominently displayed in her courtroom.
Even the least valuable Ginsburg pieces went for big sums. A drawing by one of Ginsburg’s great-grandchildren, Paul Spira, a child showing his grandmother as the Statue of Liberty has sold for $12,000. At the top, Spera wrote “Bubbie of Liberty” using the Yiddish word for grandmother.
Other sales included $5,000 for a commemorative glass vase given to attendees at a luncheon in the Capitol after President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, $16,000 for a black mink coat with Ginsburg’s name in the pocket, and $30,000 for the 2002 National Women’s Hall of Fame Medal. Buyers paid another 27% in auction fees in addition to the winning bid.
Before her death, Ginsburg had a number of items that were auctioned off in her apartment at the Watergate complex in Washington. The online auction catalog included photos of how Ginsburg offered those items.
Jennifer DePrienza, a California-based teacher, was the medal winner, spending nearly twice as much as she had planned. When bidding near the end of the auction drove the price up, she thought to herself: “I’ve been winning at that price for days. I can’t compromise on it now,” she said.
Debrenza, who demonstrated with her three children last week after a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked that would overturn the nationwide abortion right recognized by the court in 1973, said she hoped the Ginsburg Medal would be “a reason to talk about it.”
Krishan Paramesvaran was the winning bidder on two items: a wooden statue for $3,500 and a silver tea for $5,000. The tech executive and father of three said his family plans to put the statue in their living room and the tea set next to the china in their dining room. He said the tea set would be mostly for display, though he imagined it would be used once or twice. Paramesvaran said his 5-year-old daughter, who dressed up as Ginsburg for Halloween, knows it’s coming and they’ve talked to her in the past about “strong women” and “the impact RBG has had.”
For now, he said, the family is “very excited” as they are waiting for the items to be shipped to them in Washington state. “We couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that we’re about to have something she has in our house,” Paramesvaran said.