Advice from the Wicked Smart Investor
By Chris Hanson
It was a simple headband but it caused such a stir. Long ago, at the opening of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Isabella Stewart Gardner notoriously wore a headband that read “Oh you Red Sox.” The fuddy-duddies had a fit, such a bunch of hoity-toity wet blankets! If the headband still exists today, I bet it is a valuable piece of someone’s sports memorabilia. Let’s hope the owner is doing a better job protecting this artifact than the Gardner Museum did protecting its creator’s art collection.
If you were a stick in the mud, Mrs. Gardner was easy to dislike. Descending from early Scottish royalty, she was born to a wealthy New York family. After years of studying art, music and dance she married a wealthy Bostonian, John Lowell Gardner, the offspring of old money, and a true Boston blue blood. The clannish upper crust did not instantly warm to the woman they called “Mrs. Jack.” Some of her antics, like walking her pet lion down the street on a leash, caused her to be branded cuckoo for cocoa puffs. She took it all in stride and gave her adopted city a wonderful gift. She created the museum from her Italian Palazzo home and huge collection of priceless art. It’s open to everyone including pimply faced teenagers doing projects for Mrs. Parz’s art class. The Wicked Smart Investor was one of the students, acne and all.
By sending us to the museum, Mrs. Parz was simply doing what great teachers do. She opened up our world. Our assignment was to write a 5 page paper about our visit. At a security guard’s suggestion, I wrote a paper on the painting “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” It’s the only seascape of Dutch artist Rembrandt. The painting depicts Christ and his apostles crossing the sea in a sailboat during a violent storm. You can see the panic on some faces, determination on others, and one face getting ready to vomit. The brush strokes in the painting were incredible. I almost felt sea spray on my face from the life like seascape. Sadly, this was the last time I would see this painting.
In the early morning of March 18, 1990 thieves dressed as policemen infiltrated the museum, tied up the guards and stole 13 works of art including Rembrandt’s seascape. A lax security system and improper training of the security guards contributed to this travesty. While it is hard to believe, the museum only had a couple of locked doors and one silent alarm securing the collection. Since the artwork was priceless, it was uninsurable.
Let’s be clear; the thieves did not just steal the paintings from the museum, they stole them from humankind.
I hope such a travesty does not happen to your sport memorabilia collection. It is up to you to take preventative measures. You should certainly buy insurance coverage, but it is prudent to physically safeguard the items as well. Helmet, baseballs, hockey pucks, baseball bats etc. should be displayed in a case with UV protection. Jerseys should be framed. If you have paper items, protective sleeves are a good idea. Overall, keep your collection away from sun, water, food, and small children. While you’re at it, keep an eye on the pimply-faced teenagers too. With proper protections, your memorabilia can be enjoyed for years to come.
Mrs. Jack’s missing artwork is represented by empty frames on the museum walls. I say those empty frames represent an open wound on the soul of the great City of Boston. If you have any information on the missing art, please contact the FBI immediately.
About the Author: Chris Hanson is the author of the Wicked Smart Investor blog and a CPA who specializes financial planning at Lindner Capital Adivisors in Hanover. He earned his BBA at the Isenberg School of Management University of Massachusetts and an MBA at Babson College’s F. W. Olin Graduate School of Business. He may be reached at (978) 888 – 5395 and you can read his blog at wickedsmartinvestor.blogspot.com. ∞
Reprinted from the February 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News.