Culture

Personal Artifacts From Al Capone's Miami Beach Mansion up for Auction

All of the items featured in the auction were at one point or another in Al Capone's Palm Island mansion that is slated for demolition.
All of the items featured in the auction were at one point or another in Al Capone's Palm Island mansion that is slated for demolition. Photos by Hulton Archive, Joe Raedle/Getty
A plethora of never-before-seen artifacts and family photos that promise to illustrate the behind-the-scenes life and times of Al Capone — one of the 20th Century's most renowned gangsters as well as Miami Beach's most infamous former resident — will be auctioned off next month in California.

Fine jewelry, including a gold, diamond-adorned pendant necklace in the shape of his initials "AC,"  Al Capone's prized Colt .45 and .38 semi-automatic pistols, as well as family photos and home videos are among just some of the items that will be part of the auction, according to the auction catalog. The starting bid on four vintage photographs of Capone's Palm Island home is just $100. All of the items featured in the auction were at one point or another in Capone's Palm Island mansion that is slated for demolition.

The event itself — billed as "A Century of Notoriety: The Estate of Al Capone" — is being staged by Witherell's, a family-owned auction house in Sacramento that boasts an experienced team and whose chief operating officer, Brian Witherell, is featured on the PBS series Antiques Roadshow as a guest appraiser.

The auction will take place October 8 at the Sutter Club, also in Sacramento, and may be attended in person by invite. Others wishing to participate virtually can do so by registering online to bid on certain items. Witherell says anyone who procures an item from the auction will receive a certificate of authenticity hand-signed by Al Capone's granddaughter, Diane Capone, who was born in Miami Beach before moving to California as a teenager.


"Our job is to preserve history, it's not to judge people," Witherell tells New Times. "It gives us a different glimpse into this man that we didn't know before."

Witherell admits he didn't know much about the Capone family legacy beyond what history tells us about the sordid past of the FBI's first-ever Public Enemy No. 1. But when it came time to meet with the Capones, the auction-house clan and the Capone clan bonded.

"We take family very seriously, so when we met with [the Capones] it was my dad, myself, my son — three generations of Witherells meeting with them," he says. "And they take family very seriously, too, so I think we just had mutual respect for each other, and how we viewed the world, and how we viewed our reputations, our integrity, and our families. So it was a quick bond between us all."

In a video interview produced by Witherell's, Diane Capone reflects on her upbringing with her grandfather. sharing her feeling that the collection is an opportunity to introduce a side of "Papa" (as she called him) the world has never known. 

"What I found lacking, as an adult looking back, is there was very little information about his private life, his personal family life. And so that's what I wanted to show. He's Papa," Diane Capone says in the interview. "He's a very loving grandfatherly figure. He was someone who played with us in the garden, he's someone who would throw us up in the air and was very affectionate to all of us and very loving, and thought we were just the most wonderful little people in the world."
click to enlarge An undated family photo of Al Capone (center) and associates. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELDON CARPENTER/WITHERELL'S INC
An undated family photo of Al Capone (center) and associates.
Photo courtesy of Sheldon Carpenter/Witherell's Inc
In Organized Crime in Miami, author Avi Bash writes that Miami was first recognized as a "gangster's paradise" when Al Capone moved to South Florida, opening the door to other representatives from other crime syndicates across the nation. Capone rented a penthouse suite at the Ponce de Leon Hotel on Flagler Street, before buying a two-story, white stucco home on Palm Island, off the MacArthur Causeway.

The Palm Island property was built in 1922 and purchased six years later by Capone for $40,000, reports the South Florida Business Journal. Capone was incarcerated between 1931 and 1939 after being convicted of tax evasion. In 1947, he died of a heart attack at the residence, which is believed to have stemmed from complications of a years-long syphilis infection.

The 30,000-square-foot property includes a guest house, pool house, and a mansion with nine bedrooms, six bathrooms, and two half-bathrooms, and according to various listings of the home.

Developer Todd Michael Glaser and partner Nelson Gonzalez, an investor and senior vice president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM, told the Miami Herald last week that they plan to demolish the residence and build a two-story modern home with eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a Jacuzzi, spa, and sauna.

As for the family artifacts, Diane Capone says the goal of the auction is to preserve their meaning.

"My sisters and I are getting older, we didn't want these things to be left, and people who wouldn't know what they were, what the story behind each of them is," she says in the Witherell's video. "We didn't want to leave them for someone else to have to deal with."
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Michael Majchrowicz is a staff writer at Miami New Times. He studied journalism at Indiana University and has reported for PolitiFact, The New York Times, Washington Post and Tampa Bay Times.