The Worst Swap Ever?

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Bad trades are nagging things.  They are, as it were, the gifts that keep on draining…and reminding.  Perhaps you’ve made a bad trade here and there, maybe swapped a summer’s worth of yard work for a neighbor’s GTO that “just needed a little work.”  That sort of thing usually works out to a couple of gallons of sweat, sore muscles, and a money pit that has the salespeople at Pep Boys doubled over in laughter whenever you walk into the store, the cloud of black exhaust fumes still hanging over the parking lot. 

Baseball fans all know of some horrible trades.  In Bull Durham, Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), the Durham Bulls’ team groupie, cites the Reds’ trade of Frank Robinson to the Orioles for Milt Pappas in a voiceover.  (Robinson, of course, went on to win an MVP and a World Series ring with the O’s; Pappas went 30-29 for the Reds and was shipped to Atlanta.  The two bums Baltimore sent to Cincinnati with Pappas were last seen in 1978, hitch-hiking along Route 66.)  Here in Philadelphia, we like to point to old  “5 for 1” Von Hayes, the “can’t miss prospect” for whom the Fightin’s shipped Jay Baller, Julio Franco, Manny Trillo, George Vukovich, and Jerry Willard to the Native Americans.  (Defensive wizard Trillo had been a part of the 1980 World Series championship club, and Franco, of course, played until he was 48, retiring – finally – with the same overall batting average as Mickey Mantle, .298.  Hayes, on the other hand, never quite became “the next Ted Williams” and retired at 33 with a .267 lifetime average.) 

Bad trades…but not as bad as turning over your father’s entire nineteenth century coin collection to Lester Wilkins for a ragged Don Maynard card, huh? 

All right then, consider this trade – pointed out by an internet friend from Australia who goes by “Phocks”:  Back in the 60s, we should recall, the Rembrandt of McKeesport, PA, Andy Warhol, was working on screen prints of Elvis Presley, the silver version of which he gave to Bob Dylan.  (You can see a photo of Warhol, Dylan and the artwork in question at  Then came the trade – at a semi-indeterminate date, but before 1978 when Warhol documented the matter in his diary.  Dylan also verified the trade for the record. 

Apparently, Little Bobby Zimmerman was more interested in furniture than art and decided to trade the silk screen to his manager, Albert Grossman, for a “little sofa” [Warhol]. 

What-ever, right?  Maybe those Warhols are a bit overrated.  (Also, why do so many insist on referring to his screen prints as “paintings”?  The difference might be inferred by someone who’s blind and has never even heard of art.) 

In 2007, a court battle over ownership of the red print from the Elvis series yielded a value for it of twelve million dollars.  The little sofa – alas – is likely long gone, and may well have cost Dylan money to have it hauled away.

Source:  Christoffersen, John.  “Swedish Heiress Loses Fight for Warhol Painting of Elvis.” Artinfo.  10 July 2009.  < swedish-heiress-loses-fight-for-warhol-painting-of-elvis.


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