The Market: The Solid-Gold Hammer

Investors prefer the tangible gilt edges that frame art works to paper ones on stock exchanges these days. As a result, the world's auction houses started off the new season this month with a bang, despite a credit squeeze in the U.S., an economic freeze in Great Britain and a sagging Paris Bourse.

In London, Sotheby's sold a set of seven Chinese Chippendale mahogany dining chairs for $4,480, up 50% since last February. Porcelain prices zoomed as an early Chelsea scolopendrium tea pot sold for $10,640, an increase of 230% in four years....

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