An Old Calculator For $11 Million

Has the information-processing revolution invaded the auction business? Sort of. On May 19, Christie's officials were stunned when a rare, early 19th century mechanical calculator fetched $11.7 million in London, overwhelming its $23,000 to $30,000 presale estimate. That's a distinct contrast from this spring's major art sales in New York. While a Cezanne still life set a record at $28.6 million, contemporary and Latin American art remain in the doldrums. The calculator, of gilt and laquered brass, was the first of its kind to appear on the market in 70 years. (Four similar pieces are in German museums.) The buyer: Swiss collector Edgar Mannheimer.

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