In April 1996, Sotheby's Auction House hosted the sale of the century—an auction of items from the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Public interest in the auction was huge, and the media covered it with the intensity of a sporting event.

The entire sale brought in a reported $34.5 million—more than 10 times what organizers had anticipated. John says the overwhelming interest of the public surprised him. "We didn't really know what to expect," he says.

Many observers expressed shock that Jackie's children could part with the nearly 1,300 items up for sale, including personal letters, furniture, artwork, jewelry, trinkets and a set of President Kennedy's golf clubs. John says he and his sister, Caroline, decided the auction was needed after their mother died in 1994 and they realized all that was left behind. "My mother kept every single thing that she ever got in her life. Either we were going to open up a museum or we were going to have more normal lives," John says. "We have the things that really matter and we really valued and [were] really evocative of our mother. And that's what important."


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