The New York Times features Paul Dean and his entire collection of deaccessioned museum works that often come at a surprising bargain:
For Mr. Dean and other collectors, however, a museum’s decision to sell off an item is an opportunity to acquire a stamp of quality as well as a certain aura. “By buying stuff that’s deaccessioned,” he said, “at least you get a feeling for what has been deemed acceptable by curators over the years.” Noting that there was only so much storage space in museums, he said, “I bought one painting by a very well-known New Haven painter just because it was too big for the museum.” […]
While some of the items being sold may go for a (relative) song — like the Eames chairs or a 16th-century Turkish embroidered silk wall hanging that sold for $600 at Whitaker’s not long ago — others fetch high prices. A 1921 Paul Poiret dress with black and white print wrap over a beige silk slip dress, just the thing to wear to an important opening, went for $13,000 in Philadelphia; a black Christian Dior cocktail costume from 1948 broke $40,000.
Important silver, once spotlighted in a museum’s burglar-proof glass case, is also deaccessioned and sold at auction, ready to grace the middle of your dining room table.
But what do you do with the antique Japanese chain mail helmet and matching gauntlets — woven metal basted to blue material — scheduled for sale on March 8 at Winter Associates? The items come from a Connecticut museum, said Ms. Stamm, whose arrangement with this particular museum precludes mention of its name in advertising. The chain mail has an accession number, which means the museum had formally accepted it into its collection; Ms. Stamm does not know if it has ever been exhibited.
Garage Sales, So to Speak, but With Cachet (New York Times)