Legendary baggy greens up for grabs as COVID-19 transforms art auctions


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Savvy investors aren't just tipping more money into sharemarkets during COVID-19, they're seeking bargains on art, memorabilia and jewellery too.

Lloyds Auctions normally runs 10 online certified art auctions per month in Australia, but this has increased to 50 since the onset of COVID-19.

Their latest offerings, to be auctioned on Sunday, are set to top $10 million. These include two baggy greens worn by cricketers Arthur Morris and Sam Loxton - key players in Donald Bradman's Invincibles side, which were undefeated in their tour of England in 1948.

arthur morris baggy green
The baggy green worn by Arthur Morris, a key players in Sir Donald Bradman's Invincibles side, which made an undefeated tour of England in 1948. Photo: Supplied.

Regarded as the best left-handed batsman to ever represent Australia, Morris' baggy green is on offer in a public auction for the first time in almost 20 years.

"Two legendary Australian Baggy Green caps on offer, worn by Invincibles Arthur Morris and Sam Loxton, are expected to fetch over half a million alone," says Amanda Benson from Lloyds Auctions.

While physical auction houses and galleries have taken down big ticket items due to fears they won't fetch usual prices, Lloyds has gone the other way - listing once in a lifetime pieces that are expected to fetch big money.

Sydney art dealer Serafin Martinez says online auction houses such as Lloyds are having a positive impact on Aboriginal art and works up to $50,000. He says "well -heeled" bidders are turning to online platforms to bid on pieces never expected to resurface on the market.

Online auction houses are benefitting from COVID-19 as they have the potential for larger captive audiences and have the ability to deposit money to the seller's bank within days.

While the move online gives credence to the adage that necessity is the mother of invention, digitisation is not a new thing to the world of collectibles.

UK-based start-up A R T C E L S provides subscribers with the opportunity to invest in art via blockchain. It does this by parcelling blue-chip contemporary art into shares worth a minimum of US$500, which is determined through proven quantitative strategies for art asset acquisitions.

Prospective investors can choose between sole acquisitions or investments in wider, diversified art portfolios offering fractional ownership.

Citing The Economist, Gijs de Viet says that "fine art has been the single best performing asset class over the last 100 years, so it's about time this opportunity be opened up to a much wider group of investors:.

Benson says "the sheer scale of this arts and memorabilia auction" means Lloyds will "definitely break Australian records with over 200 one-of-a-kind and extremely rare pieces of fine art and luxury items, featuring original artworks by Brett Whitely, Tommy Watson, Charles Blackman, Rosalie Gascoigne, Tim Storrier, Grace Cossington Smith, and Gabriella Possum".

Other items include jewellery pieces such pink Argyle diamonds, Rolex watches, and high-end estate jewellery including five carat plus diamonds that Benson expects to sell for six-figure amounts.

"The most important thing for people to note about this special high-end auction is that these items are so rare you may not get another opportunity to own them again. All items are certified and original with online bidding starting at just $1," she says.

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David Thornton was a journalist at Money from September 2019 to November 2021. He previously worked at Your Money, covering market news as producer of Trading Day Live. Before that, he covered business and finance news at The Constant Investor. David holds a Masters of International Relations from the University of Melbourne.