Stories like this validate to me that behind the walls of the old money Robber Barrons of years gone by are some astounding pieces of history that are waiting to be discovered and shared.
A guy named Alex Clausen – a map dealer – was parusing a virtual estate sale for Gordon and Ann Getty (as one does) where a unique map called a portolan chart caught his eye. What was unique to him was that the item description stated that the map was from 1500 – 1525, while the drawings and details on the map itself said to him that it was from an earlier time, which in turn would make the map that much more unique and valuable. And boy was he right.
The first known reference to the chart came from Italian scholar Pietro Amat di San Filippo, who saw the map in the library of a Corsini family palace in Florence in 1888 and included mention of it in an article he wrote for the Italian Geographic Society. The scholar tentatively dated it from 1347 to 1354. It changed hands several times before Ann and Gordon Getty purchased it in 1993.
The couple had the map restored and for years it hung in the library of their San Francisco townhouse. They paid roughly 56,500 British pounds for the map, then the equivalent of about $85,000. Nearly 30 years later, Clausen and the team from Barry Lawrence Ruderman purchased it for just over $239,000.Los Angeles Times
After the purchase, Clausen and his team did more research and determined that the map dated to 1360 (!!), which turned that $239,000 purchase into an artifact worth a cool $7.5 Million.
Making the discovery “was really rewarding from an intellectual perspective,” Clausen said, surveying the chart, which measures roughly 2.2 feet by 3.7 feet and is framed in a heavy case at his office in La Jolla.
“And, of course, it’s also rewarding from a commercial perspective, because it takes something that I think was a reasonable buy from what it was listed as and moves it into an absolutely different category.”Los Angeles Times
So if you have an extra $7.5 Mil hanging around, the Rex Tholomeus Portolan Chart of 1360 is here for the taking.