A Costly Taste Of Windsor Cake

If you had a spare US$30,000, how would you spend it? On a new car? A boat? A down payment on your dream house?

Not if you're Benjamin or Amanda Yim.

The San Francisco couple spent US$29,900 Thursday for a piece of cake left over from the 1937 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

In explaining why he was willing to pay such a price, Yim referred to the decision by the Duke, then King Edward VIII, to abdicate the British throne in 1936 so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson.

"[The cake is] the epitome of a true romance...a great romance, truly romantic and elegant, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers," said Yim, 31, a self-described entrepreneur and collector.

The piece of cake, which is sealed in a three-inch-square white box, went on sale in the opening session of a nine-day Sotheby's auction of the Windsors' Paris estate. Edward, the only English monarch ever to abdicate, died in 1972. His widow died 14 years later and left the estate to charity.

The first session raised US$1.9 million, three times the original estimate for the Dodi Fayed International Charitable Foundation, headed by Egyptian-born millionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of the Hotel Ritz in Paris and Harrod's department store in London. He also owns the 40,000 items in the Windsor estate, which he purchased in 1986.

His son, Dodi Fayed, was killed with Princess Diana and their driver in an August car crash in Paris. The sale was postponed from September because of the deaths.

More about Thursday's session:

  • Yim's main competitor in the bidding for the wedding cake was Ed Meyers, vice president of Ripley's Believe It Or Not. Meyers said he will bid on other items for the Ripley's museums but confessed that the cake bidding (which began at US$500) made him "a little gun-shy" for future sessions.

  • About 1,000 guests were in attendance at Sotheby's Manhattan showroom. Other bidders in Chicago and Los Angeles made offers by telephone.

  • A portrait of the Duchess by the late British painter Cecil Beaton, valued before the sale at up to US$15,000, was purchased for US$134,500.

  • Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger bought US$400,000 worth of merchandise, The New York Times reported Thursday.

  • Up for auction Thursday were flags, medals, and probably the highlight: letters of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1861, with an estimated value of at least US$6,000.

    ©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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