It was Christmas Day in 1946 when the notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone took his wife and four granddaughters out for a walk on to the dock of their sprawling mansion on Palm Island, Florida.
A picture shows “Papa”, as he was known to them, relishing his freedom after being released from Alcatraz where he served over seven years for tax evasion.
That picture is among 174 items belonging to the Capone family that will go up for auction in Sacramento, California, on Friday.
The items range from personal photographs to firearms to pocket watches and jewelry as well as furniture and kitchenware.
Al Capone’s platinum and diamond Patek Philippe pocket watch is listed for $25,000 to $50,000, while his favorite Colt .45 pistol is expected to fetch $100,000 to $150,000. A vintage hand-colored silver print of Al and his son, Sonny Capone, is expected to go for $10,000 to $15,000.
Diane Capone, 77, the second of Al Capone’s four granddaughters, said the decision to sell the items was based on her and her sisters getting older, as well as the increasing threat of wildfires to their homes in northern California.
Brian Witherell, consignment director at Witherell’s Auction House, said nearly 1,000 bidders had registered for the auction from every US state and 11 countries.
“The items that generate the most interest are the ones that you think of as synonymous with a gangster figure like Al Capone, his guns and his fancy flamboyant jewelry,” he said.
Diane Capone said she hoped these items will emphasize the human side of her grandfather, instead of the ruthless violence that plagued Chicago in the 1920s for which he has become infamous.
The item that most exemplified this, she said, was a personal letter Al Capone wrote to his son, Sonny Capone, from Alcatraz estimated between $25,000 and $50,000.
“It’s such a lovely letter, and it is a letter that conveys a side of this man that the vast majority of people have no idea of,” she said. “These are not the words or the ideas of a man who is a ruthless gangster. These are the words of a loving father.”