Ileana Sonnabend was collector and seller of art created after 1945. She died in 2007 leaving her collection to her family. Among these items is Robert Raushenberg's "Canyon," a work which incorporates the body of a bald eagle. While presumably legal at the time it was created, it is now illegal to buy or sell the work because the bald eagle, dead or alive, is under federal protection.
So, when several appraisers were asked to put a value on the work, they placed a value of $0.00 on it. Value is not inherent, after all, but a function of the market. Since, in this case, there is no legal market, there can be no legal value. QED.
Enter the all-beneficent, all-caring US Government. Specifically enter the IRS, ready to assess the "Inheritance Tax," on the late collector's estate. Despite three separate appraisals for $0, and despite the fact it would be a Federal Crime to either purchase or sell the work, the IRS decided that it was worth $65,000,000.00.
There are those who claim that the inheritance tax is supposed to prevent institutional wealth. That is, it's supposed to prevent any one family from amassing so much money they have undue political power. I would like to direct them to the Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Bushs. What the inheritance tax really does is confiscate wealth at an absurd rate, and prevents those who might break into the "fabulously wealthy" category from ever doing so. Case in point: the estate was assessed an inheritance tax of $417 million initially- requiring the largest private art auction ever- and then assessed (including a penalty) a further $29.2 million just on that piece of art which cannot be bought or sold.
Just one more piece of evidence that the Death Tax is ineffectual at the goal its apologists proclaim, and should be completely and permanently eliminated.