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Items from The Estate of Former Coca-Cola Head Robert W. Woodruff are Sold at Auction February 26th

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Elizabeth Rickenbaker
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Atlanta, GA, USA, March 11, 2022 — A vintage platinum and diamond anniversary ring given by the late Coca-Cola president Robert W. Woodruff (1889-1985) to his wife Nell, and Mrs. Woodruff’s custom Art Deco platinum and diamond bracelet, combined to bring $231,750 in an online-only sale of items from the Woodruff estate held Saturday, February 26th, by Ahlers & Ogletree, based in Atlanta.

The gorgeous anniversary ring boasted a 4.61-carat marquise brilliant center cut center diamond with F-color and SI1-2 clarity, plus two 0.30-carat trapezoid shape side diamonds. It was the auction’s top lot, bringing $118,750. The circa 1920s Tiffany & Company custom Art Deco platinum and diamond bracelet comprised 20 ctw old European cut, modern cut and various cut diamonds with H-I color and VS-clarity. It also topped six figures, selling for a robust $112,500.

Mr. Woodruff was a world-renowned American businessman and philanthropist who served as president of The Coca-Cola Company from 1923 to 1955. Nell had been a Red Cross nurse. The auction featured over 400 lots and included a portrait of Mr. Woodruff by Norman Rockwell and a portrait of George Washington by Dwight D. Eisenhower, a longtime friend of the Woodruffs.

Also offered were items pertaining to Woodruff’s longtime friendship with legendary golfer Bobby Jones (including a birthday letter from Bobby Jones and Eisenhower to Woodruff, plus golfing books written by Jones and inscribed “to Bob”); items relating to cigars and pipes, two of Woodruff’s passions; and many rarities, including Coca-Cola items belonging to Mr. Woodruff.

Following are additional highlights from the auction, which grossed about $1.1 million and attracted over 1,700 registered online bidders, who participated through LiveAuctioneers.com, Bidsquare.com and Invaluable.com. There were also 437 phone bidders. All prices quoted include a 25 percent buyer’s premium.

The oil on canvas Portrait of George Washington after Gilbert Stuart (Mass./ 1755-1828) by former President Eisenhower (with whom Mr. Woodruff often played golf) was housed in a giltwood frame measuring 35 ½ inches by 29 ½ inches. It was signed lower right with a plaque reading, “To Nell and Bob from their friend Ike.” The portrait found a new owner for $50,000.

The charcoal portrait on tinted paper by Norman Rockwell (N.Y., 1894-1978), titled Portrait of Robert Winship Woodruff, was artist signed and contained in a 26 ½ inch by 21 ½ inch frame. It depicted Mr. Woodruff as a young man and sold for $43,750. A portrait of Woodruff as an older gentleman, with cigar, by Thomas E. Stephens (British/N.Y., 1885-1966) fetched $12,500.

The Woodruffs led a full, exciting life, and the items in the auction reflected that zest for living. They were pulled from the couple’s four homes: Windcrofte, their opulent primary residence on 16 acres of prime real estate in Atlanta; the TE Ranch in Wyoming, the 8,000-acre onetime home of the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917); a two-story River House complex on 52nd Street in Manhattan; and Ichauway, a vast, 29,000-acre working-hunting plantation in South Georgia.

A set of eleven Lenox (American, 20th century) porcelain plates, custom-made for the Woodruffs and depicting various figural and landscape images at the Ichauway plantation, each plate marked and with different dedications on verso, fetched $53,125. Also, a complete set of 44 Christmas cards produced from 1941-1984 for the Woodruffs by Athos Menaboni (Italian/Ga., 1895-1990), depicting birds and flora from the TE Ranch and Ichauway, gaveled for $25,000.

A first half 20th century Tiffany & Company 18kt yellow gold traveling spoon with two bowls and a folding body, inscribed “1885-1935 From Nell” and monogrammed “EWW”, in a leather case and with a maker’s mark, changed hands for $4,062. Mr. Woodruff’s Coke collectibles included two advertising lighters, consisting of a Hadson “Blue Bird” musical lighter (with Woodruff’s initials), and a Scripto Vu-Lighter with his name, sold as a single lot for $3,438.

A late 18th century seven-piece George III neoclassical Adams sterling silver oval epergne centerpiece, with the marks of William Pitts and Joseph Preedy (London, active 1791-1799), inscribed to Mr. Woodruff, topped out at $12,500. Also, a Thomas C. Molesworth (Wyo., 1890-1977) “Jack Rabbit” sculpture from 1938, unmarked, made of painted wrought iron, 36 ½ inches tall and accompanied by a typed poem by Mrs. Molesworth, found a new owner for $21,250.

Other noteworthy lots included an early 20th century Black, Starr and Frost Art Deco vanity case (or compact), made from 14kt yellow and white gold, rose cut diamonds, jadeite jade, enamel and Bakelite, with a mirror ($13,750); and an oil on canvas painting in the original giltwood 64 inch by 53 ½ inch frame by John Gifford (British, died 1900), titled Hunting Dogs ($18,750).

Ahlers & Ogletree’s next major event will be a Spring Estates & Collections Auction on April 9th and 10th. To learn more about Ahlers & Ogletree, or to join their email list for info on upcoming sales, please visit www.aandoauctions.com. Updates are posted often. You can also follow Ahlers & Ogletree through social media on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

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