A bankrupt Detroit may have to turn to museum artifacts to make financial ends meet, and financial managers are looking first to hit up the Institute of Arts — and sell off an original Howdy Doody puppet that could fetch half a million dollars at auction.
“It is estimated that the marionette could sell at auction at $400,000 to $500,000,” said Gary Busk, a puppet collector who’s been featured on the television hit, “Antiques Road Show,” in a CNN report.
The Detroit Institute of Arts is home to about 60,000 items. The Howdy Doody puppet is among its most famous. And while the $500,000 would only put a dent in the city’s $18 billion debt, legal experts say times are tough enough to call for its sale.
The state’s attorney general, meanwhile, has been for weeks trying to assure city residents that Howdy isn’t going anywhere, CNN reported.
“It is my opinion … that the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts is held by the City of Detroit in charitable trust for the people of Michigan, and no piece in the collection may thus be sold, conveyed, or transferred to satisfy city debts or obligations,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said, in a statement to CNN.
Still, his statement is only opinion.
“It’s certainly better than nothing, but a state attorney general’s opinion is certainly not going to be definitive in federal bankruptcy court,” said Eric Scorsone of Michigan State University, in the CNN report. “I don’t think that is going to carry a huge amount of weight.”
Detroit declared bankruptcy on Thursday, facing an estimated $18 billion deficit.