Al Capone’s Possessions Sell for More Than $3 Million at Auction
More than 170 items once belonging to the infamous mob boss were sold at an auction in California last week, including his “favorite” pistol. It went for more than $1 million.,
Some of the items sold at an auction of Al Capone’s possessions showed a tender side — like a color photo of his wife, Mae Capone, in a blue dress, holding a terrier. Others were a stark reminder of the violence he incited — like his “favorite” Colt .45 pistol.
All together, those two items and more than 170 others sold for $3,143,759 on Friday at an auction hosted by Witherell’s Auction House in Sacramento, Calif. The final sum demonstrated a continuing interest in a mob boss who died more than seven decades ago.
Capone’s “favorite” pistol was the event’s highest-priced item of the night, according to the auction house. The winning bid was $860,000, and the purchaser, whose name was not released, will pay $1,040,600 for it, including a 21 percent buyer’s premium.
Brian Witherell, a co-founder of Witherell’s, said the auction house had anticipated that the gun would be the top-selling item because it had received several six-figure bids after the auction was announced in August.
“The final selling price, along with the record number of registered bidders, completely exceeded our expectations,” Mr. Witherell said in a statement. “It really speaks to the notoriety and allure of Al Capone, who is more widely known today than he was 100 years ago.”
Another gun, Mr. Capone’s 1908 hammerless .380 caliber semiautomatic pistol, with a blue finish and wood grips, was the next most expensive item. The winning bid was $200,000, and the buyer’s premium made the purchase price $242,000.
Not all of the items were pricey weapons. Two photographs of Mr. Capone’s son, Albert Francis Capone, who was known as Sonny, sold together for a mere $100. In one small photo, which is 2.25 inches by 1.75 inches, Sonny kneels with the family dog. In another that is 9 by 7 inches, Sonny poses in a white suit with his hair neatly slicked to the side. On the back are the words “twelve confirmation.”
Although other guns and knives brought hefty sums, one item of personal value was a three-page letter that Mr. Capone wrote to his son while he was an inmate in Alcatraz.
“To My Dear Son, Well Son of my heart, here is dear father, who loves you with all my heart and proud to have a son, as smart as you are,” Mr. Capone wrote in the letter, dated Oct. 5, 1939. “Give Mother a nice big kiss for me and God bless you both. Your dear Father Alphonse Capone.”
It sold for $56,700, including the buyer’s premium.
Fifty-six people attended the auction in person, which was accessible only by lottery or invitation. Nearly 1,500 bidders registered, and more than 200 bidders followed the auction online or over the phone.
A surviving granddaughter of Mr. Capone, Diane Capone, said in August that she and her two surviving sisters, who all live in and around Auburn, Calif., had decided to sell the possessions because they were growing older and worried what might happen to the items if Northern California wildfires forced them to flee quickly.
“We decided that it was time to part with these family heirlooms and to reveal a very different side of Al Capone that most people would never imagine,” she said in a statement. “To us, he was Papa. He was a very loving and doting husband, father and grandfather who would run around the house playing with us as small children. He was clearly a complex man, and that’s evident if you examine the years after his imprisonment at Alcatraz.”
Mr. Capone is believed to have been behind the deaths of more than 200 people, including a prosecutor. Although he was never convicted of murder, he was sentenced in 1931 for tax evasion and served seven and a half years in federal prison. He was released from prison in 1939 as his health deteriorated because of paresis, a partial paralysis resulting from syphilis.
He died at 48 of complications from a stroke and pneumonia in January 1947 in his villa in Palm Island, Fla.
Separate from the California auction, the Palm Island property was also recently put up for sale. The mobster’s mansion in the exclusive neighborhood on Palm Island, in Biscayne Bay just west of Miami Beach, sold for $10.75 million in August to Todd Glaser, a real estate developer, and Nelson Gonzalez, an investor, who had planned to raze the residence and build a modern one.
But facing pressure from a preservationist community in Miami Beach, Mr. Glaser and Mr. Gonzalez flipped the home, selling it within weeks for $15.5 million, according to The Miami Herald.