Elton John Fans Pay US$8 Million for His Treasures at Auction - Kanebridge News
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Elton John Fans Pay US$8 Million for His Treasures at Auction

Fri, Feb 23, 2024 11:21amGrey Clock 3 min

The aptly named “opening night” at Christie’s for the eclectic mix of art, photography, costumes, and objects that filled Elton John’s Atlanta home drew a crowd of bidding fans who snapped up everything on offer for a total of US$8 million.

Among items the lucky winners snagged was a collector’s edition of a pinball machine signed by John that plays 16 full-length studio master tracks of his hit songs and features interactive LED lights and LCD displays; a 1990 Bentley Continental two-door convertible; a pair of silver leather platform boots; and silver rocket-shaped cocktail shakers.

Many of the collectible treasures in the 49-lot sale sold above estimates, in total achieving 155% of the low-end of anticipated prices. According to Christie’s, 40% of bidders and buyers were new to Christie’s.

Before the sale, the auction house shared that a heart-shaped collage by Damien Hirst that was made for John and his husband, David Furnish—expected to fetch up to US$450,000—would be withdrawn as the family decided to retain the piece.

The biggest sale of the evening was a painting by Banksy that John acquired directly from the elusive British graffiti artist. Flower Thrower Triptych , 2017, sold for US$1.55 million, US$1.925 million with fees.

Wednesday’s evening auction was the first of two live and six online sales that are filled with a total of nearly 900 items that spoke to John’s passions, style, and vision.

Elton John had acquired Flower Thrower Triptych, 2017, directly from Banksy. It sold for US$1.925 million at Christie’s.
Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2024

Many lots sparked brisk back-and-forth bidding between collectors in the packed saleroom, on the phone with specialists, and online. The auction house generated excitement from the get-go with a pair of 1975 prescription Sir Winston Eyeware sunglasses that sold for a hammer price of US$18,000, six times a presale high estimate. With fees, the sunglasses sold for US$22,680.

That opening lot was followed by the sale of a pair of Elizabeth II silver cocktail shakers shaped like rockets, made by Mark of Theo Fennell in London in 1993, that fetched US$40,000, four times the high estimate, after vigorous bidding. With fees, the shakers cost US$50,400.

Then came a pair of silver leather tall platform boots, circa 1971, that sold for US$70,000—seven times the high estimate, and US$94,500 with fees.

Glittery watches and jewellery also stole the show. An “exuberant and rare” 18K gold, diamond, and yellow sapphire-set automatic chronograph Rolex with a leopard-print dial sold for US$140,000, more than double a high estimate. The total with fees was US$176,500.

A Cartier “crash” model watch from 1991, sold for US$220,000, above a US$100,000 high estimate, or US$227,200 with fees.

Elton John’s gold Daytona Chronograph reference 116598 SACO with a leopard-print dial sold for US$176,400 at Christie’s.
Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2024

The sale also featured photography from Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Andy Warhol, and Cindy Sherman, among others. There was also art by Keith Haring, Sol Lewitt, and Julian Schnabel.

John’s conservatory grand piano, a Yamaha Model C6F, circa 1992, that had taken center stage in his home sold for US$160,000, more than three times a high estimate; with fees, it fetched US$201,600.

The evening auction ended with the sale of John’s 1990 Bentley continental two-door convertible for US$350,000 (10 times the high estimate), or US$441,00 with fees, and the sale of the pinball machine, which fetched US$55,000, or US$69,300 with fees.

Elton John fans have plenty of opportunities to bid again on the singer’s collectibles, including more costumes, watches, fine and decorative arts, and jewellery. Another 281 items will be sold at a live sale at Christie’s on Thursday, and there are six online auctions continuing through next week.

One online sale features John’s friendship with Versace, and including couture, decorative arts, photographs, and jewellery; another titled “Honky Château” celebrates the singer’s aesthetic with brightly coloured art glass, painting, and sculpture.


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Some chocolatiers and coffee makers say they will have to pass on the extra cost to consumers

Sun, Apr 14, 2024 4 min

Global prices for cocoa and coffee are surging as severe weather events hamper production in key regions, raising questions from farm to table over the long-term damage climate change could have on soft commodities.

Cultivating cocoa and coffee requires very specific temperature, water and soil conditions. Now, more frequent heat waves, heavy rainfalls and droughts are damaging harvests and crippling supplies amid ever growing demand from customers worldwide.

“Adverse weather conditions, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, have played an important role in sending several food commodities sharply higher,” said Ole Hansen , head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

The spikes in prices are a threat to coffee and chocolate makers across the globe.

Swiss consumer-goods giant Nestlé was able to pass only a fraction of the cocoa price increase to customers last year, and it may need to adjust pricing in the future due to persistently high prices, a spokesperson said.

Italian coffee maker Lavazza reported revenue of more than $3 billion for last year, but said profitability was hit by soaring coffee bean prices, particularly for green and Robusta coffee, and its decision to limit price increases.

Likewise, chocolatier Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli said in its 2023 results that weather and climate conditions played a major role in the global shortage of cocoa beans that led to historically high prices. The company had to lift the sales prices of its products and said it would need to further raise them this year and next if cocoa prices remain at current levels.

Hershey ’s chief executive, Michele Buck , said in February that historic cocoa prices are expected to limit earnings growth this year, and that the company plans to use “every tool in its toolbox,” including price hikes, to manage the impact on business.

In West Africa, where about 70% of global cocoa is produced, powerhouses Ivory Coast and Ghana are facing catastrophic harvests this season as El Niño—the pattern of above-average sea surface temperatures—led to unseasonal heavy rainfalls followed by strong heat waves.

Extreme heat has weakened cocoa trees already damaged from heavy rainfall at the end of last year, according to Morningstar DBRS’s Aarti Magan and Moritz Steinbauer. The rain also worsened road conditions, disrupting cocoa bean deliveries to export ports.

The International Cocoa Organization—a global body composed of cocoa producing and consuming member countries—said in its latest monthly report that it expects the global supply deficit to widen to 374,000 metric tons in the 2023-24 season, from 74,000 tons last season. Global cocoa supply is anticipated to decline by almost 11% to 4.449 million tons when compared with 2022-23.

“Significant declines in production are expected from the top producing countries as they are envisaged to feel the detrimental effect of unfavourable weather conditions and diseases,” the organisation said.

While the effects of climate change are severe, other serious structural issues are also hitting West African cocoa production in the short- to medium-term. Illegal mining poses a significant threat to cocoa farms in Ghana, destroying arable land and poisoning water supplies, and the problem is becoming increasingly relevant in the Ivory Coast, according to BMI.

The issues are being magnified by deforestation carried out to increase cocoa production. Since 1950, Ivory Coast has lost around 90% of its forests, while Ghana has lost around 65% over the same period. This has driven farmers to areas less suited to cocoa cultivation like grasslands, increasing the amount of labor required and bringing further downside risks to the harvest, the research firm said.

The Ivory Coast’s cocoa mid-crop harvest—which officially starts in April and runs until September—is expected to fall to 400,000-500,000 tons from 600,000-620,000 tons last year, with weather expected to play a crucial role in shaping the market balance for the season, ING analysts said, citing estimates from the country’s cocoa regulator. Ghana’s cocoa board also forecasts a slump in the harvest for this season to as low as 422,500 tons, the poorest in more than 20 years, according to BMI.

Neither regulator responded to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, extreme droughts in Southeast Asia—particularly in Vietnam and Indonesia—are resulting in lower coffee bean harvests, hurting producers’ output and global exports. Coffee inventories have recovered somewhat in recent weeks but remain low in recent historical terms. Robusta coffee has seen a severe deterioration in export expectations, while Arabica coffee is expected to return to a relatively narrow surplus this year, said Charles Hart, senior commodities analyst at BMI.

The global coffee benchmark prices, London Robusta futures, are up by 15% on-month to $3,825 a ton. Arabica coffee prices have also surged 17% over the last month to $2.16 a pound in lockstep with Robusta—its highest level since October 2022. Cocoa prices have more than tripled on-year over these supply crunch fears, and risen 49% in the last month alone to $10,050 a ton.

“Cocoa trees are particularly sensitive to weather and require very specific conditions to grow, this means that cocoa prices are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as drought and periods of intense heat, as well as the longer-term impact of climate change,” said Lucrezia Cogliati, associate commodities analyst at BMI.

Cogliati said global cocoa consumption is expected to outpace production for the third consecutive season, with intense seasonal West African winds and plant diseases contributing to significant declines.

Consumers hoping for a return to cheaper prices for life’s little luxuries in the midterm may also be in for a bitter surprise.

“There is no sugarcoating it—consumers will ultimately be faced with higher chocolate prices, products that contain less chocolate, and/or shrinking product sizes,” Morningstar’s Magan and Steinbauer said in a report.

“We anticipate consumers could respond by searching widely for promotional discounts, trading down to value-based chocolate and confectionary products from premium products, switching to private-label from branded products and/or reducing volumes altogether.”

The record-breaking rally for cocoa and coffee is likely more than just a flash in the pan, according to Citi analysts, as adverse weather conditions and strong demand trends are likely to support prices in the months ahead. The U.S. bank estimates Arabica coffee futures in a range of $1.88-$2.15 a pound for the current year, but said projections could be lifted if the outlook for 2024-25 tightens further.

At the heart of it all, climate change is set to play a major role, as the impact of extreme weather events could exacerbate the pressure on cocoa and coffee supplies, according to market watchers.

“I don’t expect prices to remain at these levels, but if we continue to see more unusual weather as a result of global warming then we certainly could see more volatility in terms of cocoa yields going forward, which could impact pricing,” said Paul Joules, commodities analyst at Rabobank.