Paris, Nov. 16: The nose had it. Concorde’s famous beak sold for £287,490, fetching the highest price at an auction of memorabilia of the supersonic airliner in Paris yesterday.
The nose of the great white bird, which made its final flight last month, had been expected to sell for just £10,000. The next best prices were paid for two engines: £106,000 and £82,250. Most other items went for well above their list price as bids went up faster than the speed of sound at Christie’s in Paris. The first 10 lots alone fetched £52,000.
Lot 1, a machmeter (speedometer) from the flight control panel, valued at under £300 in the catalogue, went for more than £7,500. Passenger doors went for up to £34,000 and even green plastic rubbish sacks from the plane’s galley fetched £2,400.
“It was amazing,” said Capucine Milliot, from Christie’s. “Absolutely astonishing.”
More than 1,300 people packed into three auction rooms for the sale, while 45 buyers in 35 countries made bids by telephone.
From the moment the auction began it was clear that this was going to be Concorde madness. Ordinary Concorde fans hoping to pick up a cheap souvenir were quickly disappointed as bidding leapt into the thousands.
The auction was conducted by Francois Curiel, the head of Christie’s in France, who seemed as surprised as everyone else as bids soared.
The buyers were the sort of people who looked as though they had been regular Concorde passengers — women of a certain age in designer suits and businessmen wearing their weekend cravats.
Queues of Concorde fans had formed outside the auction house an hour before the sale started. When it finally began, it was a supersonic souvenir hunter’s dream.
Everything you wished you had taken from the world’s favourite aircraft — but were too afraid the stewardess would catch you — was up for auction: crockery, napkins, knives, forks and much more.
Those looking for something to impress went for the tyres, sections of wing panels, crew seats, the 14ft-high nose, or a four-ton Rolls-Royce engine, though quite what the proud owners of the last two will do with them, or how they even got them home, is anyone’s guess.
Staff at the auction house, more used to handling precious jewels, priceless paintings, antique furniture and clients with the money to pay for them, seemed frankly bemused by hoi polloi, including some in giveaway planespotting anoraks, milling around the elegant sales rooms just off the Champs- Elysees in central Paris.
Many had turned up out of curiosity and for a last sentimental glimpse — and touch — of what was left of the much-loved plane. Others, like David Savile, had travelled from his home in West Sussex, with his son Tolly, 14, to pick up a souvenir. Before the auction Savile, who runs his own aircraft charter company, admitted he was “seriously tempted” by an engine, listed at £42,000-£83,000. “I’d very much like it but I’m not sure I could justify the cost and I don’t think my wife would be very ha ppy ifI arrived home with four tons of Concorde engine,” he said.
The auction house had found it difficult to put a price on the Concorde parts and did not know how much money would be made from the sale, Mlle Milliot said. Proceeds are to go to the Air France fund for needy children.