Several of Nelson Mandela‘s personal items were nearly auctioned off in New York City earlier this month, but protesters from around the world halted the sale.
“Important Artifacts from the Life of Nelson Mandela” was scheduled to take place on January 28 at the Guernsey auction house in NYC. Among the items were gifts the late South African president received from former President Barack Obama and George W. Bush, clothing, a signed copy of the South African Constitution and more.
The auction house was also set to sell off the key to the Robben Island prison cell Mandela was held in for 27 years before one of the nation’s cabinet ministers stepped in last month, protesting the sale, and adding that the items “belong to the people of South Africa.”
At the time, Guernsey’s President Arlan Ettinger told PageSix the auction would go on with or without the key, but as of last week, the whole sale has been officially canceled.
“We had a major controversy come up,” Ettinger said Tuesday (January 18). The auction house received a call from the South African Heritage Resources Agency who told him the items were “potential national treasures.”
“When something is designated [as such], it requires permits to leave South Africa,” Ettinger said, adding that many of the items were being sold by Mandela’s family to raise funds for a memorial garden and museum in his honor.