Bidding for the 12 1/2-foot-tall sculpture of the 1945 flag-raising reached as high as $950,000, below the undisclosed minimum sales price, Bonhams auction house said.
"We're a little disappointed with what happened with the sculpture," Bonhams Maritime Art Department sales specialist Gregg Dietrich said.
Three potential buyers placed competing bids for four or five minutes, Dietrich said.
The sculpture's owner is military historian and collector Rodney Hilton Brown.
History buffs have fawned over the sculpture, a miniature of the familiar 32-foot-tall bronze Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. That sculpture, designed by Felix de Weldon, was patterned after a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press image of the Feb. 23, 1945, flag-raising by Marines and a Navy Corpsman on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi.
The smaller sculpture was largely forgotten about for more than four decades after de Walden placed it in the back of his studio, covering it with a tarp. That's where Brown found it in 1990 while researching a book on de Weldon. It was in desperate need of restoration.
Brown bought the 5-ton monument, paying for it with cash and two peculiar collectors' items: a Stradivarius violin and a silver Newport yachting trophy from the 1920s.
Brown said earlier this month he wanted to sell the sculpture because "it doesn't fit in my living room."
"I want to find it a good home," he said, "so we can pass the flag onto somebody else."
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