Friday, April 11, 2014

Recent Auction Sales

Singin' in the Rain suit
The grey wool suit that Gene Kelly wore in the 1952 classic, Singin' in the Rain, was kept in a closet (hopefully with mothballs) for more than 40 years by a retired U.S. Post Office employee, with a hobby of collecting Hollywood memorabilia. Gerald Sola in California was at the famed MGM Studio auction in 1970 and recalled paying five dollars for a catalog listing all the items up for auction. During the auction, thousands of costumes were sold in the range of $200 to $400, many purchased by Debbie Reynolds (she herself has been auctioning off her collectibles recently). According to Sola, the company responsible for running the auction decided to liquidate the inventory with a good old fashioned rack sale. It was during this end-period of the event that Sola, digging through those racks, came across a single-breasted suit of grey wool with multi-colored flecks, with a four-button front closure and a self-belt with a two-button closure. Inside, the label read: “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Gene Kelly/No. 1546-8565.”

“I took it off the rack and looked at it,” said Sola. “I noticed right away that there were water stains in the jacket. I knew right away what it was from so I bought it.”

The price? Ten dollars.

Sola is wise enough to know that you cannot take anything with you when you pass away. Collecting for the sake of collecting, bragging rights or displaying in the home has been a bug most people cannot shake off. But there comes a time to let go and Sola realized this was the time. At age 72, he knows that an auction will not only generate a large sum when the gavel comes down, but anyone paying that kind of price will no doubt give the suite a good home. 

The violin that played on the Titanic.
The Violin from the Titanic
More artifacts from the Titanic continue to be sold on public auction. Most notably of recent was a violin that survived the April 1912 sinking. The price was $1.7 million. Not sure if there was a buyer's premium, but that is a large chunk of money and a world record for the most money paid for an item that was once on board the Titanic. Wallace Hartley was the bandmaster on the vessel, and the German made musical instrument was probably used during the rendition of "Nearer My God, to Thee" while the ship was slowly sinking and passengers needed something in the background to remain calm. The instrument is not playable was was supposedly found strapped to Hartley's body after the disaster. The names of the previous owner and the new owner are both kept anonymous from the public. The violin was subjected to numerous tests before it was declared authentic.

The Case of the Missing Moon Rocks
In 1969, after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins returned to Earth after the legendary moon walk, President Nixon gave the astronauts tiny specimens from their exploration. Four small moon rocks no bigger than specks, embedded in an acrylic button and mounted to a desktop wooden podium -- to each of the fifty states, as well as the nation's territories and 135 foreign nations. A grand gesture that now provides a mystery: nearly 100 of the displays are unaccounted for. Space enthusiasts have been conducting an ongoing search for the past decade. NASA has no responsibility or need to track them down. Do you know where they might be?

BATMAN Number One
The highest graded Batman #1 comic book ever certified (9.2, by CGC) sold for $567,625 at a Comic and Comic Art Auction held by Heritage Auctions. As a friend of mine once said, if you have any first issues of vintage comics, have them certified and graded. It may just add value to your comic.

H.G. Wells book
H.G. Wells First Edition
True story. I once had a first edition of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, signed by Bradbury himself with the date and inscription of the first day the book was ever published. Last year I picked it up while cleaning the loft and the cover fell right off. There went the value. And I cannot recall how I acquired it. Emotional tears flowing...  A first edition copy of H.G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon recently sold for $26,400 at a sale of 19th and 20th Century Literature by Swann Auction Galleries in New York City. A first edition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World sold at the same auction for $22,800. A first edition of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon reached $26,400. These auctions also included a 20 percent buyer's premium. Amazing what books you might find at antique shows and flea markets that just might have some value.

The stuff that dreams are made of.
The Maltese Falcon
Speaking of the Dashiell Hammett novel... considered one of the most iconic and valuable Hollywood merchandise sought by film buffs (which includes the Ruby Red Slippers from The Wizard of Oz and the Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane) is the Maltese Falcon from the 1941 Humphrey Bogart picture. Supposedly this one went up for auction, classified as "prop #6" which means there were at least five other statues made. A replica goes for about $40 if you want one in your living room. This one, an original, weighing 45 pounds and standing 12 inches tall, went for a little more than $4 million! Madison Avenue auction house Bohnams was responsible for the sale. If another bird goes up for auction in the future, it may surpass the $4 million mark. This one was the one damaged by actress Lee Patrick -- she dropped it on the set and damaged the tail feathers. And in case you are curious, the statue was made of lead.

The Sound of Music
The fascination of The Sound of Music (1964) has grown over the past years. It is considered by 20th Century Fox as one of their great cash cows and has been reissued on the home video market perhaps more than any other movie in the Fox library. A recent "live" television production with Miss Underwood generated huge ratings on NBC, reviving interest with families who haven't seen the movie in years. A group of costumes from the classic movie, including the drapery outfits worn by the Von Trapp family and the brown dress worn by Julie Andrews during the "Do-Re-Mi" sequence, sold for $1.56 million at an auction by the Profiles in History auction house in Calabasas, California. The same auction sold the cane from the Charlie Chaplin movie, Modern Times, brought $420,000 and one of Judy Garland's dresses from The Wizard of Oz raised $360,000. These prices include the buyer's premium.

Babe Ruth's Jersey
A baseball jersey worn by Babe Ruth around 1920 changed hands twice. Recently purchased by the New York Yankees by the Boston Red Sox for $100,000, the Yankees auctioned off the jersey for a total of $4.4 million at SCP Auctions, based in California. This holds the world record for the most money paid for sports memorabilia. The jersey was on display for years at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, where the big guy was born.

Screen capture of the auction described below.
Queen Elizabeth's underwear
Don't ask me how this happened but a pair of royal underwear supposedly owned and worn by Queen Elizabeth was sold on eBay for $18,000. According to the item description on eBay, the undergarment had the letter "E" embroidered on it, along with four small pearl-like buttons and a monogram of the Royal crown, along with flowers on a stem with leaves. (My underwear has "Fruit of the Loom" printed on the inside of the elastic strap, and that did not cost extra.) There were a total of 18 bids on the auction and the buyer has not been made public. The underwear has an interesting story behind it: The pair of panties came in to the possession of a famous Miami playboy named "Baron" Joseph de Bicske Dobronyi -- or Sepy, as he was known. As the story goes, Sepy got them from a friend after they were left on a private plane when the Queen visited Chile in 1968. This just goes to show that you really can find anything on eBay.

1 comment:

Grey Wool Suit said...

The grey wool suit that Gene Kelly wore in the 1952 classic, Singin' in the Rain, was kept in a closet (hopefully with mothballs) for more than 40 ...

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