Last Tsar's letters fetch record price, auction house says

Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:46am EST
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GENEVA (Reuters) - A Russian collector living in Monaco paid a record 120,000 Swiss francs ($128,700) for four letters written by the last Tsar, Nicholas II, during World War One, a Swiss auction house said this week.

The letters, which had been estimated to fetch 9,000-14,000 francs, were sold on Monday night by Nicolas Romanov, the tsar's 90-year-old second cousin, a member of the former Russian imperial family living in Switzerland.

"It gives me great pleasure to know that these documents have been purchased by a single bidder who is keen on history. The fact that he is Russian makes it doubly satisfying," he said in a statement.

Romanov, in an interview with Reuters Television two weeks ago in his home in the Swiss Alps near the resort of Gstaad, said: "Of course I am sorry to part with them, but I am 90. I have taken a decision which means that before the festivities of next year for the centenary of the family, perhaps these letters will get in the hands of a historian or biographer or somebody who's writing something.

"I am not capable of doing that nor have I the time and I should have started doing it much before," he said.

The unpublished signed letters reflect the tsar's involvement in the brutal war and his deep concern for the well-being of his army, according to the Hotel des Ventes Geneve, the auction house that conducted the sale in the Swiss city.

"Each of these letters established a world record for letters by Tsar Nicolas II," it said.

"The buyer of these letters, of a large number of imperial photographs and of Grand Duke Nicholas' helmet is a Russian collector based in Monaco who is keen on history," it said.

The campaign helmet, which netted 26,700 francs, was the object of a fierce competition by bidders in the auction room and Russians bidding by telephone, it said.   Continued...

Prince Nicolas Romanov of Russia holds a letter signed "Nicki" written by his ancestor Tsar Nicholas II during an auction preview in his apartment in Rougemont, 150 km (93.2 miles) east of Geneva, November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse