Trader Vic's Tikis Go For Big Bucks At Auction

By Rob Christopher in Food on Aug 23, 2012 3:30PM

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Photo via Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.
We were at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers yesterday afternoon as dozens of tiki artifacts from the shuttered Chicago Trader Vic's went to the highest bidder. Our optimistic, if perhaps unrealistic, dreams of walking away the proud owner of a bit of tiki history were quickly doused when we spotted several fellow tikiphiles in attendance; perhaps our previous post about the auction was responsible?

Bidding was lively, and lot after lot moved out of our price range. Way out of our price range. A carved wood tiki with "a bulbous head having stylized features, bared teeth and an exaggerated phallus," went for a staggering $3200. It fetched the highest price of anything at the auction. By comparison, the lifesized tiki statue which stood outside the Palmer House Trader Vic's for so many years went for $1700—a very fair price in our estimation. One of the burlwood low tables was sold for only $170.

Paul McGee, nattily dressed in a suit with a striped knit tie, snagged four lots for his new tiki bar. Among the items he bid for successfully: a beautiful group of three tiki totems, three Pacific giant clam shells, and a carved wood tiki lectern. He told us that he'd try to find a spot behind the bar for the last item, or perhaps use it as a host's stand. We may have missed out on taking anything home, but it's comforting to know that at least some of those Trader Vic's artifacts will soon be back where they belong: namely, a Chicago tiki bar.