ALVR & Forty Years of FORBES and FABERGE


Winter 2004

The sale of a portion of the Forbes Magazine Collection of Fabergé has been of particular interest to A La Vieille Russie, whose long association with Malcolm Forbes began in 1964. At Easter of that year, he made his first purchase, a miniature Easter egg for $250., which, with his son Tim, now president of the magazine, he bought as a present for his wife, Roberta. Soon afterwards, he acquired the Duchess of Marlborough Egg by outbidding us at auction, leading Forbes into our gallery to purchase the Imperial Renaissance egg of 1894. Then, in 1965, when Landsdell Christie died, Malcolm, by that time hooked, bought all his eggs (Spring Flowers Egg, Chanticleer Egg, Kelch Hen Egg), which we had been entrusted to sell.

A La Vieille Russie’s partnership in building the Forbes Collection continued for 40 years. Close to 80 percent of the collection was purchased from, or with the advice of, the Schaffers of A La Vieille Russie, including two-thirds of the Imperial Easter Eggs. In all, A La Vieille Russie has handled 23 of Fabergé’s Imperial Easter Eggs.

In the words of Malcolm Forbes: The purchase of the 1902 Duchess of Marlborough egg, “is what got us rolling on what’s become the FORBES Fabergé collection. The under-bidder turned out to be Mr. Alexander Schaffer, owner of A La Vieille Russie. After that sale, he introduced himself … and took me to his shop on Fifth Avenue, opened his vault, and showed me four stunning Imperial Easter Eggs.” [More than I Dreamed, 1989] Alexander Schaffer “was a perceptive, twinkling, wise guide in helping to build the FORBES magazine collection of this great artist.” [Forbes, 1972] “Mr. Schaffer and I had come to know each other well during those many times I haunted his fabulous premises, as well as on the many occasions he had acted as agent and counsellor to FORBES in our frequently successful bidding at auctions.” [Fabergé, 1973, Hermione Waterfield]

Described by Malcolm Forbes as “the prime house of Fabergé in this country,” A LA VIEILLE RUSSIE (ALVR), was established in 1851 and specializes in antique jewelry, Fabergé, and works of art. Considered one of the world’s leading antiques dealers, A La Vieille Russie continues to advise clients and help build major collections, as achieved for Forbes, and provides the world’s largest choice of works by Fabergé. Founded in Kiev as a family firm, it remains a multigenerational family business, operated by brothers Peter and Paul Schaffer, and Paul’s son, Mark Schaffer. Among the first tenants of New York’s Rockefeller Center, ALVR moved to 785 Fifth Avenue in 1941, and, in 1961, to its present location, at 781 Fifth Avenue (corner of 59th Street), where it recently added significant new exhibition and storage space. A La Vieille Russie exhibits at the world’s major antiques shows, including London’s Grosvenor House, Maastricht’s TEFAF, New York’s International Show, and as a long-time exhibitor at the now 50 year-old Winter Antiques Show in New York, where ALVR in January proudly showed an important Fabergé Easter Egg, the Rocaille Egg of 1902.

Phone number: 212.752.1727
Address: 781 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10022