Fans and collectors of entertainment memorabilia vied for desirable film, rock and television treasures Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008, in Los Angeles, spending more than $635,000 at Bonhams & Butterfields’ Sunset Blvd. salesroom for Marilyn Monroe collectibles, classic animation art, props and costumes.
Marilyn Monroe’s U.S. Department of Defense I.D. card, issued in 1954 and bearing her black and white image, her signature as Norma Jean DiMaggio, as well as her fingerprints on a laminated government card, took top billing during the sale, bringing $57,000. A desirable collectible to any fan, it detailed her personal stats — height: 5’5 1/2"; weight: 118lbs; hair: blonde; eyes: blue and birth: 1June26. The card was estimated at $3,000-$5,000.
According to Margaret Barrett, Bonhams & Butterfields’ Director of Entertainment Memorabilia sales, "This ID card turned out to be a very desirable item and Bonhams & Butterfields is thrilled that we were able to offer such a special piece to our valued Marilyn Monroe collectors."
Another exciting lot was an unfinished handwritten letter from Monroe, written around 1964 to DiMaggio, which fuels speculation among Monroe scholars that she may have had intentions to reconcile with the baseball great. The letter sold for three times its estimate, bringing $36,000.
Other Monroe lots attracting strong bids within the crowded salesroom and from bidders participating via telephone included black and white photos — some never before seen, some studio publicity photos, and others featuring 1950s-‘60s wardrobe and make-up photos.
An enormous collection of black and white stills from early television, from 1949-‘59, which featured as many as 1,300 glossy vintage prints of Desi and Lucy, George and Gracie, the Marx Brothers, Elvis Presley and Jack Benny, among many others, sold for $12,000. Phil Silver’s Emmy Award®, presented in 1956 for "Best Series – Half Hour or Less," sold for $6,000.
A desirable collection of original material from the Hollywood celebrity haunt The Brown Derby was offered on the auctioneer’s menu Sunday. Top lots included a 1920s wooden wall decoration in the form of a derby hat (sold for $1,300), a Brown Derby brass wall sconce (sold for $2,040) and an original red brick laid during the building of the Wilshire Blvd location in 1926. The brick bears a brass plaque and was retrieved during the 1980 destruction of the site; estimated at $50-$75, it sold for $780. A 3-foot tall circa 1950s carved maple Brown Derby mirror brought $6,600.
Vintage film posters, lobby cards and production stills found buyers, as did two costume pieces from Gone With the Wind. A Vivien Leigh fitted blouse brought $9,000 and the same price was paid for a Cammie King costume from the 1939 classic. King portrayed the character Bonnie Blue Butler, Scarlett’s daughter.
A Touchstone Pictures prop of the Mayor’s hearse from the spooky and spectacular 1993 hit Nightmare Before Christmas sold for $30,000. The 14-inch high and 33-inch long wooden hearse is decorated with rubber textured curtains and a black cat hood ornament.
The auction closed with familiar and desirable animation art, with highlights including favorite Disney films. A celluloid depicting the beloved dwarfs of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937, doubled its estimate to sell for $7,200. A group of drawings detailing Geppetto’s workshop in 1940’s Pinocchio brought $10,800, while a Walt Disney-signed celluloid depicting Jiminy Cricket introducing himself to the puppet brought to life by the Blue Fairy sold for $15,600.
Several lots comprising cels and drawings from 1940’s Fantasia sold strong: six Fantasia preliminary thumbnails brought $6,000; a pencil on paper storyboard brought more than five times its estimate, selling for $5,100; and a set of eight thumbnail sketches from the ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ sequence sold for $6,600.
A pair of 1950s pen and ink Peanuts comic strips sold above estimate. An early example of the popular Charles Shultz characters was dated October 1954, signed by Shultz and depicting Charlie Brown and Lucy (sold for $19,200). From March of 1959, a four-panel strip depicts Linus challenging his sister Lucy to a boxing match. The lot sold after Bonhams’ bidders sparred, at the final bell, the lot brought $24,000 (estimate $7,000-$9,000).
Entertainment Memorabilia and Animation Art are offered twice each year by Bonhams & Butterfields. The illustrated auction catalog from this sale will remain online at www.bonhams.com/us. For more information on the specialty department, visit: www.bonhams.com/entertainment.
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