At Santo Trafficante auction, a chance to buy a piece of Tampa's mob history

Many possessions of Santo Trafficante Jr. are up for auction.
Published January 27 2016
Updated January 28 2016

Is The Godfather one of your favorite movies? If so, what better way to watch it than while relaxing on the sofa of a real-life mobster?

An ornate Louis XV style couch is among dozens of items from the home of the late Tampa mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr. that will be auctioned off Feb. 6.

"It's a mixed bag, to be truthful,'' said Joseph Magnani of Joseph's Auction Gallery in St. Petersburg. "Put it this way: There's some unusual stuff.''

Among the "stuff'' up for bid will be crystal chandeliers, several Oriental rugs, an unopened 1975 bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, a pair of still lifes purchased at a Gasparilla art show and Trafficante's favorite mantel clock.

Magnani's own favorites, though, are two Trafficante jackets, one a silver sharkskin with matching vest, the other a belted camel hair coat.

"He was a small guy, 36 or 38,'' Magnani said, "but hey, this (coat) was made in France, for God's sake, all wool.'' (It has a few tell-tale moth holes.)

When Trafficante died in 1987 at 72, his widow, Josephine, framed a front-page newspaper story about his passing, now one of the items to be auctioned. After her death last year at 95, the couple's two daughters inherited the house on a large lot in South Tampa's popular Parkland Estates. They recently sold it for $950,000 to Devonshire Custom Homes, which is razing dozens of older houses throughout the Tampa Bay area and replacing them with much larger ones.

Magnani described the Trafficante home, built in 1970, as a "time capsule'' that reflected the family's taste for the sort of dark, heavy furniture that went out of vogue decades ago. Or, as Magnani put it, it looked like "a typical Italian house.''

In addition to the monumental sofa and matching armchairs, upholstered in a floral brocade, there's a complete Drexel dining set with massive table, six chairs and china cabinet.

"That's mahogany,'' Magnani said. "Not like . . . stuff that falls apart.''

Many of the smaller items show a softer side to Trafficante, who was linked to several gangland slayings and a plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Up for bid will be a dainty tea set, numerous Capodimonte porcelain figurines and four vintage dolls in Victorian dress.

"He gave them to his daughters 60 years ago,'' Magnani said. "They said he was a great father and family man.''

The auction also features items from Trafficante's Miami home, including an oil painting of a seductive-looking blond and a lamp with a leopard-skin shade. None of the 100 or so items in the estate has a reserve price, meaning any bid will be accepted regardless of how low it is.

"Whatever they bring, they bring,'' Magnani said.

That's apt to be a lot less than the amounts fetched by personal items of America's most notorious mobster, Al Capone. A handgun he once owned went for $110,000 in 2011, and his armored Cadillac sold a year later for $341,000.

Magnani never met Trafficante but said he knew some of what he calls the mobster's "associates.'' Is that why he landed the estate auction?

"I'm a nice Italian boy. It didn't hurt.''

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate