An unusual collection of Nelson Mandela memorabilia went up for auction in South Africa on Thursday, a day ahead of what would have been his 96th birthday.
South African auction house Stephan Welz & Co. has put up a variety of more than 200 lots for sale, which includes statues, photographs, refrigerator magnets, ostrich eggs, medals, books and even a batch of 850 Chinese telephone calling cards with Mandela’s image printed on them.
The most unique of these objects include a chess set that features figurines of characters from both sides of the apartheid struggle, pepper shakers in the shape of Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, and a signed photograph of the late antiapartheid leader with King of Pop Michael Jackson.
“Nelson Mandela signed many, many, many things. And that’s what I like about it,” Savo Tufegdzic, a memorabilia specialist at Stephan Welz, said. “People always look for autographs but there are only a handful of items signed by those celebrities. In the case of Nelson Mandela, every person can own a piece of him.”
The chess set is made up of figurines that depict Mandela, his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu squaring off against apartheid leaders and the South African police. The unique set, which is missing some pieces, is thought to be valued between $950 and $1,400, the South African Press Association news agency reported.
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“Our estimates are not high,” Tufegdzic said. “It is not about making money on this auction. It is actually to encourage collecting. I don’t want to go and encourage people to sell Mandela items. I want to encourage them to keep them.”
Paintings of Mandela’s handprints are also part of the auction. The handprints were fought over in a failed legal battle led by family members seeking control of two companies in charge of the proceeds from the artwork's sale.
Stephan Welz estimated that the auction would raise about $450,000 for charity, a part of which will go to the Foundation for Rural Development run by Mandela’s granddaughter Ndileka Mandela, Sapa reported.
Mandela, who died in December at the age of 95, is revered around the world. As the price of fighting racism and apartheid, Mandela spent 27 years in prison until de Klerk released him in 1990. The civil rights activist succeeded de Klerk to become South Africa’s first black president in 1994 before stepping down in 1999.