EGYPT: The Fond Collector

The singsong chant of an auctioneer rang through the gilded, tapestried halls of Cairo's Kubbeh Palace last week, sounding the end of one of the most expensive and generally useless collections of gimcrackery ever assembled. Like a royal pack rat, ex-King Farouk had cached everything he could beg, buy and demand—tiny telescopes with diamond sprays, priceless relics of Pharaonic culture, a 100blade knife, an outstanding coin collection, a Nazi marshal's gaudy baton. Egypt's revolutionary regime was putting all of it—treasure and trash—on the block in a six-week sale. It was the...