Artifact seekers raid Taj Mahal before Hard Rock rolls in

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The new owners of the Trump Taj Mahal started selling off the hulking casino’s contents Thursday ahead of the scheduled opening of the Hard Rock there next year.

On offer at the Taj Mahal liquidation sale were between 20,000 and 30,000 items — mostly furniture — that sat on the casino floor, in hotel rooms, and by the pool.

“We have beds. We have lamps. We have pictures. We have restaurant tables and chairs. We have $300 chandeliers. We have $35,000 chandeliers. We have poker tables. We have a baby grand piano,” said Donald Hayes of National Content Liquidators, which is running the 60-day sale.

Hundreds of artifact hunters and amateur decorators lined up outside the opulent facade to await their chance to go inside and browse the wares.

“They’re memories,” said Marc Maahs, a South Philly resident and Taj Mahal fan, who walked away with a Trump-branded ice bucket and four gilded bedside lamps. “I just remember stumbling up to the bedroom at 3 o’clock in the morning, turning on the light, trying to find the bed, shutting it off,” he said of his stays at the hotel. “Now I can do that every day at home.”

Donald Trump opened the Taj Mahal in 1990, calling it the Eighth Wonder of the World.

It went into bankruptcy one year later.

Eventually billionaire investor Carl Icahn took control of the Taj Mahal, but he closed it in October during a workers’ strike.

In March, Hard Rock Cafe Inc. bought the building for $50 million, a fraction of what Trump spent to open it up.

Longtime Atlantic City resident Jerry Krumaker remembered the Trump era in Atlantic City fondly, praising the former casino owner for attracting big-name celebrities such as “Wayne Newton, Tom Jones, George Foreman, Frankie Valli, Joe Pesci” to the town.

But these days, said Krumaker, a menswear salesman, few entertainers are interested in Atlantic City. “Guy Fieri is the only kid that came in later and put a restaurant in Atlantic City.”

During the sale Thursday, buyers could peruse open hotel rooms on five floors — including a two-story suite with a private elevator — to look for the items of their choice.

A red horse statue was selling for $425. Ante up $65 for a leopard-print clawfoot bench. One room contained dozens of clothing irons going for $8 apiece.

For Cheryl Alberts, a former cocktail waitress at the Taj Mahal, the sale was overshadowed by a feeling of sadness at the casino’s last year. A bitter strike ended with the sale of the casino, causing 3,000 people to lose jobs.

“I think it’s wonderful and then it’s sad,” Alberts said of the sale, “because a lot of people lost their jobs. It’s sad, in one way. If you’re looking for a deal, it’s great.”

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