24 years ago, May 29, 1993
Record £7m bid for calculator at Christie’s
Christie’s were as astonished as any in King Street when this brass calculating machine made by Johann Christoph Schuster in 1820-22 realised a hammer price of £7m. The buyer was Zurich dealer Edgar Mannheimer. It established a new record for a scientific instrument and possibly broke another record in that it exceeded its printed estimate by 350 times.
It’s not just the 21st century Chinese art market that experiences spectacular cases of multi-estimate bidding – or non-payment. The calculator, the first of its type to appear on the market in 70 years, appeared to break all records.
However, Mannheimer failed to pay – his precise motivations in this affair still unclear when he died in December 1993.